Tips on deer, composting & more for Western New York

plastic bottle protecting sprout
You can use a plastic bottle like this to protect a sprout. To make the bottle easier to remove, cut a vertical slit in the bottle. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


by Connie Oswald Stofko

I am fortunate that so many Western New Yorkers share gardening tips with me.

People often share tips with me after I give a talk. Unfortunately, I am so busy scribbling down notes about the tips themselves that I don’t always get the name of the person who shared the tip. My apologies.

Today I’ll share a few of the tips I’ve accumulated. If you have a tip that worked for you, you can share it by leaving a comment at the end of this article, or you can email me at

Plastic bottle over a sprout– split the bottle

Put a plastic bottle over a sprout to protect the plant. Cut the bottom off the bottle, but also cut a vertical split in the bottle. It will protect your sprout, and when the plant gets big, you will be able to open the bottle at the split to remove it without hurting your plant. The bottle also acts as a greenhouse and helps keep the plant warmer.

Scare away squirrels and deer

One gardener told me that silver pinwheels that you get at dollar stores will scare away squirrels and deer. See more tips on deer here.

Fake snakes to scare away birds

Ree (Ruth) Maciejewski said she used fake snakes to keep birds from pooping on her deck.

The birds had built a nest in the crook of the railing supports and made a mess all over the deck. When the babies had left the nest, Maciejewski got some fake snakes and placed them on the railing of the deck, a chair and the table.

“I didn’t think it would work, but it worked amazingly,” Maciejewski said. “The snakes look fake, but apparently the birds aren’t willing to take a chance. They never came back.”

Here are tips on how to keep birds away from your berries and how to keep birds from nesting in your planters.

Hold moisture in pots of annuals

Diapers in the bottom of pots of annuals help hold in moisture. The gardener who shared this tip said it worked well during the drought in 2016.

Lazy composting with great results

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County sent me this information from Master Gardener Mary Lu Wells about an easy method of composting that doesn’t require a fancy compost bin, “proper proportions” of plant material or turning the plant material.

“If you have the space and can wait two years, you might want to give my easygoing method a try,” Wells said. “You will need a space at least 4 feet by 8 feet.

“In year 1: Pile all your organic waste onto half of the area (4 feet by 4 feet). Pile it about 4 feet high. If the summer is dry, water the pile once in a while. Come October, cover the area with 6-12 inches of leaves.

“Year 2: In the center of the pile, hollow out a space for a half-bucket of good soil. Sow a seed for one pumpkin and one winter squash (or transplant 4-week-old plants). This is done in late May or early June. If frost threatens, cover the plants.

“At the same time, repeat the first year’s process in the second half of your compost space (4 feet by 4 feet).

“In September, harvest pumpkin and squash from the year-one area, rake off any debris and pull the vines of the pumpkin and squash. Spread the remaining black gold compost (about 4 feet by 4 feet by 2 feet) where needed in the regular part of your garden, flower beds or even your lawn!”

Get more tips about composting here.

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