Squirrels sure are cute, aren't they? With their bushy, swishy tails and their little leaps. Until they denude your persimmon tree or eat all the tomatoes ... before they are even ripe!!!
Likewise, deer are awesome. Spotting them while hiking is always a special treat. Ditto for rabbits, raccoons and so on. They are not, however, as welcome in the edible garden. There, wildlife can become pests.
Just because an animal is a pest in your garden does not mean you need to phone the exterminator or bring out the traps. A little patience and forethought can go along way to preserving (most of) your harvest while allowing you to continue enjoying the antics of wildlife in your garden.
|Bird netting on my new peach tree.|
Beware that birds and other small mammals can occasionally be caught in bird netting. I have never had this happen but have heard about it from friends. It is best to check your netting regularly to free anyone who gets caught in it.
Barriers: When none of my fava beans or peas came up last fall, I could not figure out what the problem was. I replanted them a few times but still, nothing happened. I figured out that some small mammal - squirrel, mouse or rat (less excited about that last one) - was eating the legumes as soon as they sprouted. I covered the planting area with bird netting or other barriers and, viola, I have beans and peas. In all instances, I have been able to remove the netting once the beans are a couple of inches tall.
|A plastic net over my scarlet runner beans.|
|These scarlet runner beans had netting over them until they were a couple of inches tall. No casualties!|
Plant Extra: The less you have, the more you notice it missing. When my fruit trees have a banner year or I have a bumper crop of tomatoes, I hardly notice those nabbed by squirrels. When things are not going so well, I cherish every cherry tomato and panic over every pecked plums. As a result, I try to plant just a little more. An extra pepper plant (because, yes, those little buggers will eat hot peppers!!) or additional cucumbers can help. In addition, I try to worry less over new trees which are only producing a few fruits. I net them and know that I may lose some this year but next year, the tree will be older, more mature and more bountiful.
Appetizing Distractors: Line the perimeter of your edible garden with things animals like to eat but about which you are not too concerned. Sunflowers will keep the birds and squirrels occupied. Existing fruit trees of less preferred fruit (Sorry, figs, but I cannot stand you!) can be left for wildlife. Letting flowers go to seed also distracts wildlife from your bounty. In the worst case scenario, you can put out peanuts at harvest time to keep squirrels out of your raised beds.
|Who knew borage was such a wildlife attractor? I have always used it for pollinators but turns out that|
squirrels love to eat the small blue flowers and seeds.
For more ideas, check out the book, The Wildlife Friendly Vegetable Garden: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature, a beautifully illustrated tale of growing food alongside wildlife. Likewise, Can Vegetable Gardens Be Wildlife Friendly is a valuable article focusing on pests of the insect variety.
I hope that I have convinced you to not give up your garden and also to give native wildlife a pass. S plant your edibles and enjoy them too.
This post is part of the Tuesday Garden Party, Maple Hill Hop and Green Thumb Thursday.