What's Eating You?
Or more accurately, what's eating your garden?
I had my coffee this morning in the middle of a freaking Disney movie. There were ducks on the pond, deer walking across the field, and an enormous blue heron fishing near the creek. Birds were chirping, frogs were peeping, and THIS ENTITLED JERK CHIPMUNK was helping himself to ALL of my vegetable garden. It would be fine if he was just like so hungry and recently unemployed and took a single zucchini back to his hungry kids, but no, this tiny monster sat there mocking me while he took a single bite out of at least a dozen different veggies. Beans, peas, zucchini, cukes, lettuce, the freaking strawberries, NOT THE STRAWBERRIES, I ONLY GET LIKE SEVEN OF THOSE.
Whatever, I’m over it.
We live in the woods, and the woods has wildlife, and wildlife likes to eat things. It’s part of the deal we signed up for when we became woodspeople. It’s not their fault really, they’re just out there trying to make a living.
Even if you don’t live in the middle of the woods, there’s still a really good chance that something at some point will try to eat your garden (have you seen all the rabbits running around the village of Northville recently??). There are some things you can do to protect your garden, but the first step is to find out what exactly is eating your plants.
Since much of the wildlife eating happens at night or when you’re not around (except that insolent chipmunk), you’ll have to do a little sleuthing to figure out what’s been in your garden.
Common Adirondack Culprits
Telltale Sign: Ragged Edges
Think about how a deer would eat a plant. They only have teeth on the bottom, so they will yank leaves off and leave messy torn edges on the leaves and stems. You can try planting deer resistant plants, but if that fails, you can use netting, fencing, or scent to keep the deer away. Our favorite method uses a spray of stuff that smells terrible to deer, but is completely harmless to them, other wildlife, or the plants. It smells pretty bad to us too when you put it on, but once it dries it's odorless (to us).
Telltale Sign: Angled Stems
Rabbits leave a calling card, and as soon as you know it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. Their sharp teeth will cut a neat 45 degree angle through stems. You’ll often see flowers cut off and stems left strewn around with the telltale cut. Rabbits work fast and can completely take out a garden in a single day. Fencing can work for rabbits, although the wild ones around here are teeny tiny and can squeeze through all but the smallest chicken wire. Raised beds also helps keep bunnies out of gardens. Again though, our recommendation would be an odor based repellent to deter them. Fortunately many of the deer repellents also work for rabbits, so you can usually take care of two-in-one.
Chipmunks, Squirrels, Voles, & Moles
Telltale Sign: Holes & Dug Up Plants
These guys won’t generally eat your flowers, but they will dig them up and leave holes and tipped over plants. Plant your bulbs deep and use good quality mulch to discourage little critters from digging. You can use bird netting to keep them out, home remedies like cayenne pepper, or a motion triggered sprinkler system (which is actually pretty funny to watch). Please, please, pretty please don't use poisons, and opt instead for a gentle repellent, like a castor oil or capsaicin based spray.
Telltale Sign: Total Annihilation
You can tell chicken damage by the way they completely destroy everything. Also the poop. So much poop. Currently there is no known cure. You're screwed.
So the moral of the story is, we have animals here, we like them, we just don't want them eating our plants.
There are a lot of options out there, but the best solution we have found is to use an odor based repellent that is harmless to both plants and animals. And we want to protect our critters! We like them! Except that chipmunk, he can go pound salt (I’m kidding, just in case my BFF Julia is reading this, the chipmunk can live).