Celebrating and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest is one of the world's oldest customs.

The majority of people this Thanksgiving day will sit down to a feast second to none thanks to the farmers throughout this country who provide consumers with more and better quality food than ever before. In fact, one farmer now supplies food for about 144 people in the U.S. compared with just 25.8 people in 1960. On a national basis, less than 2 percent of our population is involved in the production of food and fiber for the remaining 98 percent - and today's farmers do it more efficiently and at less cost to the consumer than any other industrialized country in the world.

The efficiency of American farmers pays off in the price American consumers pay for food as well. U.S. consumers spend roughly 9 percent of their income on food compared with 11 percent in the United Kingdom, 17 percent in Japan, 27 percent in South Africa and 53 percent in India. Locally, the scenic farms that exist throughout the rural countryside from Ilwaco to Grayland, are testimony to the hard work and dedication of those who till the soil.

QUESTION: We can't believe the number of molehills that have appeared in our garden in the past several weeks. We didn't see any activity for most of the summer and now it looks as though they are holding a convention in our lawn! What's the best way to get rid of them?

ANSWER: You are certainly not alone in noticing increased mole activity. As most gardeners can attest, moles do not hibernate but are active throughout the year. Surface activity slows during periods of extreme drought or cold. Once the fall rains arrived, earthworm populations, which are one of the mole's primary food sources, increased near the soil surface. Increased moisture levels also make the soil easier to tunnel through. While most gardeners detest the beginning of the fall rains, moles are overjoyed!

Those interested in the most current information regarding moles and attempts to get rid of them may want to check out The Mole Hill Gazette. This publication, written by WSU Extension Wildlife Specialist Dave Pehling, provides a wealth of information on current research being conducted to evaluate mole control remedies and their effectiveness. You can access the publication online at: http://snohomish.wsu.edu/newsletters/moles/molegazette.htm

QUESTION: Even though we have had several frosts, our roses are still blooming! Should we prune them now or wait until they stop blooming?

ANSWER: Fall pruning is normally done around Thanksgiving. Bushes should be cut back to about half their original height and the leaves should be removed. This will prevent winter winds from whipping the bushes and loosening the root systems. Removing the leaves is done for hygienic reasons because insect eggs and fungal spores over-winter on leaves. In addition, it's a good idea to mound the soil or preferably a mulch material six to eight inches deep around the plant to protect it from winter damage.

Remember that rose bushes are always improved and seldom, if ever, killed by pruning. Un-pruned roses bloom on small cane tips, go to seed and become dormant. According to rosarians of the Olympia Rose Society, poor or "incorrect" pruning is better than no pruning at all.

QUESTION: We continue to battle horsetail in our landscape. Is there any weed killer that is really effective in getting rid of it?

ANSWER: Lasting control of horsetail is difficult to achieve because of the high level of food reserves stored in the rhizome. The shoots are without leaves, so the plants cannot tolerate much shading. For established patches, efforts should be directed at depleting the food reserves in the rhizomes. Complete removal of the tops about 2 weeks after each emergence for three or four years should give control. Horsetail stems are neither strong nor sharp. Thus they are effectively blocked by most of the porous fabrics (geotextiles) used in landscape sites. Layers of bark mulch, sawdust or other plant material will not control horsetails.

Home gardeners may find their easiest method of suppressing this weed is by using the herbicide Casoron. Used according to labeled directions, this herbicide has proven to be effective in controlling the weed around woody established ornamental plants like junipers, azaleas and lilacs. Casoron is not registered for use around herbaceous plant material like peonies, bearded iris or lupines. Applications of Casoron are most effective starting in November when there is sufficient soil moisture to dissolve the granules and the temperatures are cool enough to prevent the herbicide vapor from leaving the soil.

QUESTION: We would like to have more fall color in our landscape. We already have several plantings of the burning bush - Euonymus alata compacta. Can you suggest any other plants?

ANSWER: Redvein Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus) has good red fall color on plants that can get six to 12 feet high, and a bit less wide, giving it an upright appearance. The yellowish-pink, hanging bell-shaped flowers have red veins, and are attractive in spring. The bright red young stems during the summer usually persist through the winter, giving it year-round appeal. It combines well with rhododendrons which like similar conditions. Another feature is that this shrub is somewhat deer resistant.

Fothergilla has species that can be used both for foundation plantings (F.gardenii) and for naturalistic settings (F. major), reaching three to four feet high, or six to 10 feet high, respectively. Their habit is dense and rounded. Both have fall leaves mixed in colors of red, yellow, and orange for an attractive effect. The lightly fragrant flowers (like honey) in spring are shaped like bottlebrushes. Other options for fall color include highbush blueberries, and the American Cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum, often seen as V. trilobum). This native species, and its more brightly fall colored cultivars such as 'Alfredo' and 'Redwing' are drought tolerant.

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