Woodchucks in the Garden

Woodchucks and squirrels can be worse for a garden than the bugs are. Add rabbits into the group and your vegetable garden can disappear seemingly overnight.

Charlie has been busy…

Charlie, as my niece calls him, is my arch enemy, my nemesis, and a relentless vegetable destroying woodchuck. I have been in this battle for quite a few years. My gardens are all fenced in, but he still finds a way. I made the mistake of planting my peas to grow up the fence by one of my raised beds. I thought about Charlie as I planted them, but thought I would give it a try anyway. Things went well for a while…

I came out one morning a couple weeks ago to find half of my peas quite a bit shorter than the day before. I wasn’t going to give up, so I tried hanging some frost cloth on the outside of the fence as a deterrent, with minimum hope of its success. Well, evidently he didn’t like the feel of it, because it worked! Note the initial chomping and the growth today. You can see how I left the material loose, as most critters don’t like getting tangled in things.

Pea plants after munching by a woodchuck.   Pea plant growth after hanging cloth on the outside of the fence.   Fabric on outside of fence.

Now it appears he is craving my pole beans. Just when they were starting to look good, they have been mowed down. At first I thought it was insects, but they are all chewed off at the same height. Evidently his little arms and head can fit inside the fence. So, today I will be replanting and then hanging more material on the outside of that fence, too. I will also dust the area with cayenne powder for extra protection.

Photo of long-legged fly on bean seedling.   Photo of chewed off bean seedlings.

It’s not just Charlie who’s been busy…

Not just woodchucks, but squirrels. Too many to give names to, and they like to eat seeds. To be more precise, they like sunflower, corn and squash seeds. Well, cloth will probably not keep them out, as they have no problem raiding my various bird feeders no matter where or how they are hung. I even have fancy squirrel feeders that are supposed to keep them occupied. They clean these out in a matter of hours and return to the bird feeders.

So, after replanting the beans I will be replanting the corn, sunflowers and a few squash. I will place some frost cloth over those areas to protect the seeds until they sprout and then I will sprinkle the areas heavily with crushed red pepper and cayenne powder. I will have to reapply after rains or watering until the plants are big enough that they leave them alone. Below you can see the holes in the soil and empty sunflower seed hulls. You can also see one of the areas where the corn was just starting to sprout before being obliterated by squirrels.

Holes in the soil where sunflower seeds were planted.   Blank spot in garden after squirrels ate the corn seed.

Rabbits have not been an issue for me, knock on wood… Other than possibly burrowing under a fence, they can’t climb it the way woodchucks and squirrels do. If you have a rabbit problem, use rabbit fencing. It has smaller openings in the lower sections, and you can bury the bottom of it to prevent burrowing.

New cats in the neighborhood…

I probably wouldn’t even notice a squirrel turd, but cats’ are a different poop altogether. Not only do they really stink, but they attract others and are definitely NOT fertilizer! I won’t even start talking about the spraying… Now, I love cats. I have had many over my lifetime, and would never do anything to harm one (or the squirrels for that matter, Charlie on the other hand…) but I don’t want them in my vegetable garden! Yesterday I opened the back door and caught one walking in one of my raised beds, obviously looking for a good spot to do his “business”. I yelled and he exited quickly. Thank you, new neighbor, for letting your cats roam all day and night. So what do you do to keep cats out when you aren’t there to yell?

A fence will not help very much as cats are great climbers. You need to repel them. Mothballs sometimes work, but don’t use them around vegetable plants! They are toxic! Cats also generally hate citrus. Save your orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime rinds. Tear them up and scatter them throughout your garden, adding more whenever you have them to keep the scent active. They will eventually break down and add nutrients to your soil. Also, try inserting a lot of plastic forks between your plants, tines up, anywhere there is a gap of bare soil. Would you want to step on those? If you have pine trees nearby, try using some pinecones as a mulch…ever step on one barefoot? You can also buy motion activated sprinklers. Most cats don’t particularly like getting wet, and you get the added benefit of your garden getting watered!

Not many bugs…yet.

Maybe the cool weather and rain has helped with the insect situation, but I haven’t been “bugged” yet. I’ve had a bit of munching on the bottom leaves of the broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower from pill bugs. Their official name is Armadillidum (they do look like little armadillos), and also called rolly-pollies. They feed on dead or decaying matter and these older yellowing leaves were laying on the ground.  I removed the damaged leaves, actually removed all leaves within 5 or 6 inches above the soil and added these to the compost bin. This should help with the bugs and with plant development, too. I’m keeping an eye out for the good bugs, and hoping they will help with the bad ones when they show up. You can read about the good vs the bad here.

If you have any questions about critters in your garden, just leave a comment below!


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