We’re well into winter, but gardening questions never end. Get answers from Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?

Q: I have a skunk that has set up housekeeping under my house. I hear it digging in different areas in my walls (under the shower, around lines of heat pump, etc.). It has been here about two months. How do I get it out from under my house and go somewhere else? – Lane County

A: This is a good time to be working on this project because pregnant female skunks will be delivering their young May through June – at which point a denning skunk problem becomes much more complex. You first need to identify where the skunk is getting under the house. There’s a good tip in the skunk removal section of the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, which recommends using flour to identify active entrances. Skunks are strong diggers, so you’ll need to use durable materials to keep them out such as welded wire mesh (hardware cloth) buried beneath the surface and extending to block any surface-level entrance you’ve identified. Leaving the last and most active entrance open until your final evening of work, you can assure the skunk is out and then block that last entrance.

An alternative approach would be to live-trap the skunk in combination with blocking the entrances. You might consider contracting with a licensed wildlife control operator who already owns live traps built specifically for skunks (solid walls to contain the spray).
There are no deterrents that will make the skunks “want to go elsewhere” so blocking entrances to the spaces they’ve discovered is going to be your best and most effective short- and long-term option. – Dana Sanchez, OSU Extension wildlife specialist

Q: I want to plant flowers and vegetables this year. We have a nice area for a garden. When should we plant? – Marion County

A: Step one is to determine exactly what you would like to plant, as your planting date will vary from crop to crop. You won’t plant your spring onions at the same time as your winter squash, for example. In determining this, you will want to be mindful of what can actually be grown in your area. Salem is in USDA Hardiness Zone 8b, meaning our average minimum temperature is between 15 and 20 degrees. Seed packets will indicate the hardiness of the plant. Other things to consider are days to maturity and planting date after last frost.

Many plants have soil temperature preferences for germination. For example, carrots will often wait until the soil reaches 80 degrees before they germinate; in that case, you just have to wait until the soil temperature has reached the right level. Other crops can be germinated inside, like in a greenhouse, or window in your home, to get a jumpstart on the growing season and transplanted outside when weather conditions are more favorable. It is a great time to get things started indoors in anticipation of the summer season.

Once you’ve decided what you want to plant, you can determine when to plant it. I find Oregon Tilth’s planting calendar particularly handy in getting a general sense of what to plant when. I would also recommend OSU Extension’s Garden Calendar for ideas about what garden maintenance to do each month. Growing Your Own is a great introduction to gardening in Oregon. – Victoria Binning, OSU Extension Master Gardener

The OSU Extension Service provides a variety of gardening information on its website at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/community/gardening. Resources include gardening tips, videos, podcasts, monthly calendars of outdoor chores, how-to publications, and information about the Master Gardener program.

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