Many uses for witch hazel in your garden

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Witch hazel is a small tree or deciduous shrub that usually stands between 3 and 8 meters high and can sometimes reach 12 meters.  The witch hazel’s oval leaves are arranged alternately and have a wavy or smooth margin.  The leaves are 3 to 11 cm wide and 4 to 16 cm long.  The scientific name for witch hazel translates to “together with fruit,” due to the fact that its flowers, leaf buds, and fruit can all be found on the branches simultaneously, something which is rare among tree species.

Hamamelis virginiana flowers during the fall season.  Some species of witch hazel produce flowers during winter on leafless stems, hence an alternative name of the plant, “Winterbloom.”  The flowers are comprised of four strap-shaped, slender petals measuring 1 to 2 cm in length that appear in red, orange, dark yellow, and pale.  The 1 cm fruit capsule is split into two parts, each housing a single 5 mm black, glossy seed.  When maturity is reached in the autumn after flowering for eight months, the capsule splits, ejecting the seeds so forcefully that they fly as far as 10 meters.  This is the origin of another name for witch hazel: “Snapping Hazel.”

Landscaping Use

Witch hazel plants can reach heights of 12 feet, but can be kept much shorter by pruning. Its fall foliage is yellow and the flowers have a warm, spicy fragrance that bloom in late winter or early spring. It’s ideal to plant witch hazel in full-sun to partial shade areas with acidic soil amended with humus.

These plants are unique because their flowers bloom in March, which add color to normally dull yards and gardens during this time.

Witch hazel is known as a deer repellent though organic deer repellent sprays are much more effective at preventing deer damage to landscapes and gardens.

Preventing Deer Damage

For areas with a concentrated deer population, witch hazel is ideal for landscaping because of its natural resistance to deer. However, it is not a fool-proof method of deterring deer. Some deer will eat witch hazel, even though the taste isn’t appealing. As with other deer-resistant plants, a hungry deer will eat anything.

A more effective way to prevent deer from damaging your landscape or garden is by using deer repellent. These easy-to-apply sprays are available at most lawn and garden stores.

The most effective deer repellents work by targeting both the scent and taste senses, which are highly sensitive in deer. The ingredients of these dual-targeting deer repellents include a capsaicin and putrescent egg combination. The capsaicin provides an immediate irritation to the deer when tasted. The putrescent egg mimics the smell of decaying animals, which alerts the deer into thinking a predator is nearby. Once dried, the solution is not detectable by the human nose.

There is an organic deer repellent spray available. With the OMRI logo on the label, consumers know they are using a truly organic product. This spray is highly effective at keeping deer away from treated areas, and it also protects against rabbit damage. Unlike other deer repellents, this type of spray is long-lasting, requiring reapplication as little as every 3 months.

Medicinal Use

Witch hazel’s astringent properties are due to the high level of tannins in the twigs, leaves, and bark of the plant.  Astringents can harden, tighten, and dry tissues, which
is why they’re frequently used on the skin to remove oil and tighten pores.

Astringents are also useful for stopping discharges when using a styptic pencil.  The tannins found in witch hazel soothe and tighten painful varicose veins temporarily, or decrease discomfort associated with phlebitis, the inflammation of one or more veins.  Also contained in witch hazel are flavonoids, resin, and procyanadins which increase its anti-inflammatory, soothing properties. Applying a cloth soaked in witch hazel tea can help reduce swelling and relieve pain associated with bruises or hemorrhoids. 

Various witch hazel forms, such as suppositories, hemorrhoidal pads, or lotions, can be found in almost any pharmacy.  Besides topically treating veins and hemorrhoids, witch hazel lotions can also be useful on swollen, rough carpenter’s or gardener’s hands.  When taken internally, witch hazel can be used to treat a prolapsed uterus, hemorrhoids, or varicose veins, although this treatment differs from what is commonly found in pharmacies.

Those suffering from laryngitis can find relief with witch hazel as well, given its effectiveness in shrinking swollen tissue.  Gargling with cloves, myrrh, and witch hazel reduces the uncomfortable pain of a sore throat.  Using tincture or fresh tea is preferable to store-bought witch hazel, which often contains isopropyl alcohol.  For case of infected or swollen gums, rinse with myrrh and witch hazel, placing a dropper’s worth of each herb into a quarter cup of water to rinse the mouth.  When combined with a drop of both clove oil and myrrh, a teaspoon of witch hazel tea makes for an inflammation and pain relieving rub for teething gums.

For treating swimmer’s ear, use a calendula, goldenseal, and witch hazel tea applied to a cotton swab on the outer ear.  Moisture and pus typically accompany swimmer’s ear, usually in the outer canal of the ear.  Calendula and goldenseal fight infection while witch hazel dries the secretions. 

Combined with arnica, witch hazel makes for an effective topical remedy in treating traumatic sprains, bruises, and bumps by promoting a quick recovery and relieving pain.  In most store-bought witch hazel, isopropyl alcohol has been added to treat external lesions.

If you’re experiencing a stomach flu or intestinal illness that causes diarrhea, a tea composed of thyme, mint, chamomile, and witch hazel can be highly effective. 

Bleeding ulcers or gums can be treated with witch hazel, either topically on a wound or when taken internally.  Witch hazel is very important for controlling bleeding.  Medical attention is still required for serious wounds, but in the interim, witch hazel can help stop bleeding. (Jennifer Brett)

Works Cited

Jennifer Brett, N.D. Witch Hazel: Herbal Remedies. 29 March 2010

witch hazel. 20 March 2010. 29 March 2010

Guest Post Provided By Havahart®

How to keep deer out of your garden


Photo from Alberta Home Gardening

Ever-Increasing Deer Damage

Deer are one of the most widely distributed mammals, inhabiting every continent throughout the world, except Antarctica and Australia. As the human population increases, the natural habitats of deer continue to decline causing deer to have no where to go, but developments and suburban areas. The result is a continual increase in property damage caused by deer. Not only is property damage an issue, deer harbor diseases that can be passed to humans, pets and livestock. Finding an effective deer repellent is crucial to protecting your family, pets and yard.

There are many ways to control deer from entering your land and destroying your property. Some are effective and others are not. One method that is not very effective is planting “deer proof” plants. The label “deer proof” is in fact a misnomer because a hungry deer will eat any plant when preferred food sources are scarce.

Another option is installing a fence around your property. This method is also not the best deer repellent as deer can jump over fences, even as high as 8 feet. Installing a fence is not only ineffective, it is also costly and detracts from the look of your landscape.

There are more effective and cost-efficient methods to stop deer from entering an area. They include motion detector sprinklers, liquid deer repellents and electronic deer repellents. These methods harmlessly condition deer and other wildlife to stay away. (Preventing Deer Damage)

A Motion Detector Sprinkler – An Innovative Deer Repellent

An effective, cost-efficient, and safe deer repellent is the innovative motion detector sprinkler. This type of deer repellent utilizes water spray and noise to create a humane and highly effective solution to property damage caused by deer. Not only is it effective on deer, it can protect areas from all types of destructive animals, including cats, dogs, raccoons, groundhogs, opossums, skunks, squirrels and geese. The motion detector sprinkler keeps cats from using gardens as their litter box, prevents dogs from digging up recently seeded lawns, and keeps rabbits from feasting on gardens. Moreover, it is the perfect way to prevent cats, raccoons and birds from eating fish out of a decorative pond. A safe, effective alternative to chemical repellents, the motion detector sprinkler is also a highly economical solution in place of fences, perfect in those areas where fencing is not an option due to aesthetics or local land ordinances.

How The Motion Detector Sprinkler Works

This humane animal and deer repellent offers 24-hour protection for yards, gardens and landscaping. When the infrared motion sensor detects movement, a startling burst of water ejects from the sprinkler. The “tic tic tic” noise of the sprinkler, combined with the sudden jet of water, causes a negative experience for the trespassing animals and wildlife. This negative experience conditions them to avoid the area in the future. Motion detector sprinklers will guard up to 35 feet in every direction for a total of 1000 square feet of coverage. To protect a greater area, link multiple sprinklers together. Thanks to the random spray pattern and adjustable sensitivity detector these innovative sprinklers use, animals won’t become accustomed to the water sprayer.

Setting Up A Motion Detector Sprinkler

A motion detector sprinkler installs quickly and easily. First, determine proper placement to increase its effectiveness. Place the system where you see animal or deer paths. Look for tracks or droppings and intercept the animals on their way to food, such as vegetable plants, flowers, shrubs or ponds. The simple set up consists of installing a standard battery, connecting the sprinkler to a hose, and using the step in stake to push the unit into the ground. High-tech systems include an infrared proximity and pivoting sensor, which automatically turns the unit on when deer are in sensing range. Eco-friendly models use only 2-3 cups of water per spray. Mid-range models offer remote functionality, timer options and a sprinkler mode. Premium models can be placed in any location since they are solar-powered and hose-less, as water is supplied by a refillable basin (Havahart Spray Away).

Liquid Deer Repellent

The most effective liquid deer repellents target both the highly developed sense of smell and taste of deer. Putrescent egg and garlic target the deer’s sense of smell. To a deer, these scents mimic the smell of a decaying animal, fooling the deer into thinking a predator is nearby. This activates the deer’s flight response, causing the deer to flee the area out of fear. Capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, targets the deer’s sense of taste. A deer will immediately stop feeding on plants treated with capsaicin due to the burning sensation upon contact, making capsaicin an excellent deer deterrent. Liquid deer repellents are applied directly to plants and come in convenient, ready-to-use formulas. Higher end liquid deer repellents are undetectable to humans after drying and only need to be reapplied every few months. If using in vegetable gardens, be sure the liquid deer repellent has the OMRI logo, which means it is approved for use in organic gardening (Capsaicin).

Electronic Deer Repellents

Electronic deer repellents work very similar to an electric fence. They are battery-powered and installation is easy. Simply apply a scent lure to the deer repellent posts and stake them along paths that deer frequent. The deer that wander on a homeowner’s property won’t be able to resist temptation of the scented lure and will touch the posts and receive a static shock. This gentle, yet unpleasant, shock will condition the deer to stay clear of your yard, providing effortless 24-hour protection (Havahart Electronic Deer Repellent).

Works Cited

Preventing Deer Damage. 12 May 2010

Capsaicin. 19 April 2010. 22 April 2010

Havahart Spray Away. 12 January 2011

Havahart Electronic Deer Repellent. 12 January 2011

Guest Post Written By Havahart®

Protecting Your Plants and the Planet: Eco-Friendly Large Pest Control


Photo from Alberta Home Gardening

You’re not the only one who enjoys your garden–deer, rabbits and even household pets may find your flowers or vegetables to be tasty treats. And, of course, dogs and cats may mistake your garden beds for a great place to do their business.

While organic or eco-friendly pest control is a good idea for combating any type of pest, it is especially important to use non-harmful deterrents when dealing with larger animals, particularly household pets. Fences, lighting, noisemakers and a variety of biological sprays and spreads can help make your garden less appealing and less accessible to unwanted guests.

Physical Pest Control Methods

Perhaps the easiest way to keep animals out of your garden is to fence it in. Dogs, rabbits and even deer will dig, so a good garden fence should extend at least a foot underground, and the spaces should be too small for little heads to poke through. Deer can also jump, so a good deer fence will be 8 feet high. Depending on the size of your yard or garden, a fence can quickly become an expensive means of pest control, but it can also be a beautiful landscape element itself, and well-built fencing will last many years.

If a fence is not an option, then floodlights, noisemakers or motion-activated sprinklers are also effective, but less intrusive, pest deterrents. Neither cats nor rabbits like water, and dogs’ ears are sensitive to certain pitches that can’t be heard by humans. Deer tend to shy away from brightly lit areas and may also be startled by sprinklers or noisemakers, causing them to retreat and avoid the area in the future.

Unique Pest Control Methods

If physical pest control methods don’t work or aren’t enough, there are also many natural chemical options. Diluted hot-pepper sauce sprayed over plants will make them unappetizing. A sprinkle of coyote urine, available at many hunting and outdoor supply shops, around the border of your garden will deter rabbits and deer from coming near, and may also keep dogs and cats at bay.

Biological Pest Control Methods

Of course, like people, animals like certain plants and dislike others. Rabbits, for example, prefer clover to vegetables and hate onions, so planting clover will keep them away from your vegetable garden, and planting rows of onions along the outside of your garden will deter them from going after the tastier vegetables in the middle.

Deer, too, prefer certain plants–namely, clematis, roses, tulips, lettuce, peas, broccoli, azaleas and fruit trees (among others). Avoid these plants, or locate them in a less accessible area of the yard or garden. Disguising these plants among less desirable offerings–such as mint, onions, chives, daffodils, boxwood and butterfly bush–may also protect them.

Author of this guest post is Marco who is an editor over at Luma Gardening.

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