Garden club explores ways to deal with pests

Prepare for spring with Feb. 8 lecture at nature center

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 5, 2018

 A representative from the DNR will discuss basic the biology of garden pests and methods to  deter them at the lecture. The event is free and open to the  public. You don’t have to be a garden club member to attend.

A representative from the DNR will discuss basic the biology of garden pests and methods to deter them at the lecture. The event is free and open to the public. You don’t have to be a garden club member to attend.

Photo provided by Holly Vaughn, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Gardeners Club can help you prepare for pesky garden thieves with its “Critters in the Garden” community lecture at 1 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center.  

Holly Vaughn, a wildlife communications coordinator from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will discuss the basic biology of pests who terrorize gardens and the methods to deter them for a beautiful and bountiful garden.

The event is free and open to the public for anyone interested in gardening, or for those who struggle to keep those pests away from their homes. You don’t have to be a member to attend.

“Part of my job is to answer people’s questions about wildlife over the phone or over email. In the spring and summer, the majority of the calls that I field are about ‘nuisance animals’ and how to keep those animals out of gardens and homes, and also how to deter animals that people may not want on or near their property,” Vaughn stated in an email. “I’ve learned a lot over the years about techniques that can work to keep those critters at bay. I like to garden myself — I am lucky that I live in an area where very few pests bother my plants — although the squirrels did devour my sunflowers last year! I probably won’t plant such tasty flowers this year.”

If you want a flourishing garden this season, you will want to attend this meeting. A lot of planning can go into keeping your garden growing — and the good critters in, and the bad critters out.

“The meeting broadens the concept of gardening and the ways to get rid of pests. It reveals the extension of gardening and the whole ecosystem it brings along with it,” said Shelby Gardeners Club representative Ivy Schwartz. “There’s more to gardening than just planting plants and flowers. It opens your eyes to the positive and negative animals that come along with it. If you are trying to prevent deer, for example, you would choose certain plants that deer don’t like.”

The club hosts the event in the winter, right before spring, to help prepare gardeners for the gardening season and the negative and positive critters it brings.

“We’ll talk about those garden pests like rabbits, deer, chipmunks and woodchucks that might be causing trouble in people’s yards or gardens, and then ways people can keep those pests away from their homes,” Vaughn said. “We’ll also cover a lot of mammalian and even some avian species that can be garden pests — for example, rabbits, deer, chipmunks, raccoons, turkeys and geese.

“All of the animals we’ll talk about are animals that are present and that can be pests in Shelby Township,” Vaughn continued. “Several different methods will be covered, such as habitat modifications like removing brush piles, for example, to deter rabbits and chipmunks that like to hide in the brush. Some exclusion methods will also be discussed, like fencing, scare tactics and hazing strategies.”

The event will provide the opportunity to learn how to attract the right animals to your garden and prevent the negative ones, which can determine whether your garden will live up to its full potential this season.

“Every community that borders wild areas like parks, river corridors, woodlots, agricultural fields and power line corridors will have wildlife, and plenty of it. That’s to say that every community has wildlife! Shelby Township has plenty of very rich wildlife habitat, so it’s only natural that homeowners will encounter these animals in their yards,” Vaughn said.

“Maybe plant a few sunflowers for the squirrels, but plant the other sunflowers further away from the fence where the squirrels can’t reach them. That’s the lesson I learned this summer! Generally, you can see bite marks, or entire leaves missing, or the fruit/vegetable may have been completely consumed by an animal,” Vaughn continued. “You might also find animal tracks or scat in your garden, which may give clues as to which animal was bothering your plants.”

This is the first time that Vaughn will present for the Shelby Gardeners Club, which holds a business meeting on the second Thursday of each month.

“I hope people will come away with a better understanding of the biology and behavior of some of these creatures, and some novel ideas about how to keep these critters away from prized plants,” Vaughn said. “I also hope they’ll come to understand that sometimes we have to change our expectations, and sometimes learning to tolerate some damage is much easier than getting heartburn over it.”

All events hosted by the club are one hour long, and club members are constantly reaching out to other organizations and clubs to find interesting opportunities and presenters to come speak at their events to inform and help their gardeners.

“I got Holly’s name from another garden club member, did some research about her and sent her an email asking her to present for the club, and the community is welcome to attend,” said Linda Pelloni, the club’s president.

The club is always looking for people to join. Founded in 1973, the Shelby Gardeners Club is a working club as well as a community service organization. The club does charity work, like making crafts for Regency Manor in Utica. Every two years, the club hosts its garden walk fundraiser in July, which is its biggest fundraiser of the year. The brick walkways, planted beds, gazebo, statuary and fairy garden in Heritage Gardens are supported by the club’s fundraisers, ranging from the garden walk to craft and plant sales.

They also host many other free community lectures throughout the year at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center to educate and share garden joy. Donations for ongoing public service of the Shelby Gardeners Club are always welcome. To join, email at

For more information about the club, visit For information about the DNR, visit