Attack of the Squirrels!

Up until very recently, my only experience with garden pests has been one nasty outbreak of spider mites on a trio of sweet pepper plants and the occasional interaction with fruit flies. I’d read about the woes of outdoor gardeners, lamenting about losing half their crop to deer or squirrels, aphids and other four-legged marauders and creepy crawlies. But I didn’t really get it; in fact, I often wondered what all the fuss was about. I mean, I live in a giant city. We certainly don’t have deer. And how much damage can one little squirrel do?

A lot, evidently! We’ve been in our new apartment for just over a month now, and the plants just love being outdoors. The bay tree and rosemary were the only permanent plants to made the transition from the old apartment and being outdoors has just made them flourish. I was worried about them since they hadn’t been “hardened” to outdoor living, but you’d never know it by looking at them. They become even more lush, more green and more robust. And more tasty apparently.

I thought I was losing my mind when I noticed bite marks on the bay leaves. But then I knew it was a squirrel when it started digging little holes in the dirt and would sit on the power lines chirping at us whenever we were outside, as though we were invading it’s territory. But that was okay; it was just a few nibbles, and just a few holes in the dirt.

But then The Gourd Incident occurred. Sunday afternoon after the family came by to visit Gethsemane Garden Center, we spent a few hours getting everything planted. We filled a window box on the deck railing and tucked in a few gourds. After the family departed for the day, we spent some time sitting at the bistro table and enjoying our handiwork. Then we went inside for the evening to make dinner. After we had dinner in the oven (honey-chardonnay turkey drumsticks with bread stuffing and mashed potatoes), husband looked out the bedroom window and noticed something wrong. There was dirt all over the railing and one of the gourds was out of it’s spot in the window box, sitting on the rail. So we went outside and what did we discover? Not two hours after getting everything planted, that little bugger of a squirrel had a little snack of one of the gourds! It either didn’t care for lettuce, beets and bok choi, or else it got full on half the gourd it decided to taste. Husband sprinkled cayenne pepper in the planter, while letting out a few choice curses, so hopefully that’s the end of the squirrel buffet.

But now I’m scheming on the scheming squirrels. They are not cuddly, cute little creatures at all! I will no longer be defending their honor amongst the vermin-hating crowd. Squirrels are now Garden Enemy Number One. If they’re enthusiastic about bay leaves and gourds, they’re going to go nuts about my spring planting. I intend to be ready. I’m dreaming of full net-cages, chicken wire surrounds and repellent sprays. I’ve got big plans for fruits and veggies next season and my goal is to best the squirrels so I can actually eat what I plant, so I’m taking suggestions and advice!


5 thoughts on “Attack of the Squirrels!

  1. This past spring I planted four large pots out by my front stoop. Although the squirrels didn’t touch any of the plants (hot peppers, marigolds, rosemary, thyme, and lavender) they did dig in the dirt and unearth the plants every opportunity they got. I sprinkled cayenne on the dirt every other day and never had a problem after that. I’m guessing you will have to break out the chicken wire cages for more tasty vegetables though. My sister plants her vegetable garden in planters on her deck and has to keep them covered at all times.

  2. Cute squirrel story (no guarantees, mind you, but still a cute story!):
    My mother does her patio planting in whiskey barrels that have been cut in half and the plants thrive–except for the squirrels getting into the planters and digging up her bulbs and ruining the roots of other things. My mother got the idea that a large predator might do the trick, but not wanting to have an actual animal around to take care of, she purchased some plastic snakes at the dollar store. They did the trick! No more pesky squirrels digging in her whiskey barrel planters. So she shares the story with any who have garden squirrel worries and tells me. However when I try it, I’m not so lucky. One night, after having placed a dollar store plastic snake in each container, we hear this desperate scratching at our deck door. When I peek behind the curtain to see what’s going on, I see a full-grown raccoon with one of my snakes in it’s teeth, visciously shaking it and growling. Well of course I call the family to come see and everyone is pretty amazed at the creature’s appearance on our suburban deck in the first place, but also why it felt like it had to do battle with the plastic snake. My (then) 5 year old son didn’t loose a beat, but seriously comments like an old timer farmer “Maybe we should have put plastic LIONS in there!”

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