Are opossums dangerous or nature’s helpers?

Listen 00:53:28

Is there anything weirder than America’s native marsupial? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss whether danger or benefit lurks behind the beady eyes of opossums! Plus: Mike speaks with Howard Garrett, AKA The Dirt Doctor, about fighting fire ants with a plant you would never suspect; and answers to all your growing questions.

Question of the Week:

“We’re attaching photos of some holes that we’ve just noticed the past couple of days. We have a fenced-in yard and the holes are on the outside of the fence; several holes all along the fence line. Do you know what could be doing this? I know we’ve had some opossums in the yard lately as our dog chases them away frequently. Could they be the culprit? Thanks for any help you can offer.”

— Bob & Peg in Locust Grove, Virginia


Are the opossums helpful or hurtful? »

Highlights from show for February 1, 2014:

Hot tub gardening

After hearing Mike sing the praises of raised-bed gardens, Tom from Cedar Hill, Tennessee wants to start his own to grow salad greens. But Tom wants to plant his garden in his old hot tub! Mike thinks the hot tub will make an excellent giant container garden. He advises to Tom drill holes for drainage and then fill the hot tub with lightweight stone and a mix of professional mix, compost, and perlite. Mike also gives Tom a tip about growing salad greens: “Line it up so that you can run some row covers down the center for your salad greens. You can grow salad greens all winter long, so you’ll grow your summertime plants on the outskirts, run salad greens down the center, you should go to town!”

Making the dream of growing your own tea a reality

Debra from Wagon Town, Pennsylvania calls to ask Mike about her amaryllis. The amaryllis has thrived for many years, but after a recent proliferation of small bulbs around the two central bulbs the plant did not bloom this year. Mike explains the basics of amaryllis care: cutting off the seed-head, feeding the bulbs, taking the plant outdoors in the summertime, and allowing the plant three months of total dormancy. He advises Debra to remove the small bulbs and cultivate them separately: “I would just be brave, just snap one off. Take it in your hands, think of somebody from back in the old prom days and snap that sucker right off. Be fearless! And I don’t think that you’re going to hurt those two main bulbs.”

Special guest Howard Garrett

Mike spoke with Howard Garrett, AKA The Dirt Doctor who has a surprising way to fight fire ants. Many people think of fire ants as a Southern problem, but Mike notes that they have been seen as far north as Virginia and Howard agrees that they are creeping in that direction. The mystery ingredient is Mistletoe, which Howard advises chopping up and putting in and around the fire ant mound in several ways that Howard details in his interview. This will drive the ants away. But always be safe with your practices as fire ants can be very dangerous! Similar to a yellow jackets nest, you want to approach a fire ant mount with care as their bites can really pack a wallop.

— This week’s post was written by Marissa Nicosia, You Bet Your Garden intern

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal