Monday, October 1, 2012

Nature vs. Nurture, or "Back off, bunny. Get your own garden."

When I first moved out to the 'burbs, I was so excited to finally have some green space! I was even more excited to discover a little baby bunny living underneath our deck – I fed it carrots and lettuce. And then there were these adorable squirrels and chipmunks! Such delightful creatures – I fed them cashews and sunflower seeds. One night, I looked out my dining room window to see a fat raccoon sauntering down the sidewalk without a care in the world. “Keep on keeping on, little scrounger,” I thought with a smile.

How naive I was.

I see these woodland creatures differently now. They are mini mongrels, set to eat my Orach and steal my squashes while I sleep.

At first, I noticed dig marks in my freshly seeded beds. Then I noticed that my turnip greens looked nibbled on. But the final straw came when I noticed deep gashes in the skin of my baby Delicata squash. That's too far. You do not get in the way of a woman and her winter squashes.

The first thing I tried was to put up barriers. I collected sticks and branches and laid them over top of my containers to try to deter the dirty little culprits. Surprisingly, this was somewhat successful. It kept the raccoons at bay long enough for the little seeds to germinate and stand on their own. For the starter plants I had (pepper and ground cherry), I put tomato cages over the small plants.

But the dig marks in the raised beds were more tricky. I had heard that bone meal was a good deterrent, because it made the ground smell like death to the animal nose and, naturally, that's not very appetizing. I generously tossed the bone meal into my gardens. I was happy to discover that it did not smell like death to the human nose. It seemed effective for about a week. But once my squashes in particular started to bear fruit, it was too tempting to the raccoons and bunnies and other little nibblers. They braved the stench of death and carried forth to scratch up my squashes.

Finally, I acquired some row cover – a thin, breathable, opaque covering that basically acts is a blanket for my gardens. Bonus points: it raises the temperature of my raised beds by a couple of degree, says Dad, so my late season plantings have a bit more time to cook.

So far, using the row cover has been the most effective way for dealing with my hungry late-night visitors. It's my own fault, to a degree. I encouraged these little beasts, with my sweet voice and delicious vegetable choices (because as we all know, heirlooms taste a gazillion times better than any of the hybrid, grocery-store veggie fare).

Hopefully the woodland creatures and I can share this green space peacefully... as long as they leave my squashes alone.




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