They’re Gone. All Gone.

The squirrels. The tomatoes. I’ll let you guess what happened.


The Strawberry Thief

I came home from work to a crime scene the other day. Our two ripe strawberries were missing. Surrounding the pot was the awful evidence of what happened – tiny bits of strawberry flesh and torn foilage. My husband informed me that the inevitable had happened – the squirrel discovered the strawberries and helped himself. Grrrr. So much for leaving them just a day or two longer to ripen.

I’m making myself feel better  by trying to figure out a solution to the problem. The main deterrant we’ve tried is chili powder, but our stupid squirrel actually seems to like the stuff. Since we’re growing plants to eat, we don’t want to try much else in the way of chemicals and the like, and the only “fool proof” squirrel deterrant I’ve come across is caging all your vegetables. Forunately, there are a lot of cool options out there, that don’t look all that bad.

This is probably the set up we’ll go with since we’ve got containers and this is likely easy to put together. The dollar store is selling tomato cages this season, so those coupled with some bird netting from the garden supply store will hopefully do the trick.

The two above cages are pretty cool repurposed options. The top one is a large birdcage and the bottom is a wire-wrapped metal shelf. Easy to use/assemble if you happen to have those items around.

The two above options are DIY board and wire cages. I especially like that the bottom one was spruced up with paint – makes it attractive as well as utilitarian.

This is a pre-fab metal pipe and wire cage that you can buy as a kit.

This is a pre-fab kit of metal poles and plastic fruit netting you can purchase.

And the above model is the ultimate in pest control – if you’ve got a large garden with marauding squirrels, chipmunks and maybe even a herd of aggressive deer – just build a cage room around your whole garden!

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!