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Garden Q&A: Getting rid of buzzards and establishing a native garden

Black vultures, commonly known as buzzards, can be destructive, but they are protected by law. You can, however, harass them to chase them off. - Original Credit: For The Baltimore Sun
Black vultures, commonly known as buzzards, can be destructive, but they are protected by law. You can, however, harass them to chase them off. - Original Credit: For The Baltimore Sun(Ellen Nibali / HANDOUT)

How do we get rid of buzzards? There are many on my cul de sac and I hadn’t worried about them, but now they are being destructive. They tore out the rubber sealant around my sunroof and tore up the bedding in the doghouse.

Black vultures have become more common in Maryland the past few years. They have gray heads, unlike the bald-headed turkey buzzards. (The terms vulture and buzzard are used interchangeably in North America.)

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Turkey buzzards are fairly gentle and eat plants as well as the typical carrion. You may see two or three at a carcass and they roost together at night but do not flock like black vultures. Black vultures are great carrion eaters but also known to be destructive, going after caulking, shingles, rubber roof liners and more. More aggressive than turkey buzzards, they can kill or maim young or small animals, including skunks and opossums.

Though protected by law, you do not need a permit to harass them, which is the recommended approach. Bang pots and pans, clap hands, sound a bull horn, a whistle or anything else loud. Yell, throw tennis balls, shine red laser pointers or spray with water. A vulture effigy is gruesome but very effective and instructions can be found online.

Where can I buy native plants for a new garden? Planting information for wildflowers would be appreciated. The space is currently occupied by grass and weeds. Do I rototill first?

The Maryland Native Plant Society has native plant resources in the Native Gardens section of their website. Also inquire at your local nursery and encourage them to stock natives. We have a ton of information about native plants, as well as planting perennials, on the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center’s website. Go to Topics or use the search box.

To start a new planting bed, you do not have to rototill or turn over all the soil, which is harmful to soil in many ways. You will need to kill weeds. Search ‘lawn removal methods’ on our website. The easiest method is to cover the space with cardboard or newspaper layers, then top with compost. Shredded leaves can go over that. Fall is the best time to do this, as in spring it will take six to eight weeks. Warmth and moisture speed the process. Start right away.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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