Keep Nuisance Critters Out of the Garden

Something took a big bite out of that rosy ripening tomato. Few things set gardeners into a snit than breaking one’s back in the garden and finding that something visited in the night to feast on the squash.

Raccoon. Opossum. Squirrels. Blujays. Crows. So many intruders. Each has its own preference but one commonality: they wreck your work. When you have critters helping themselves to the fruits of your labor, the first step is to narrow down who the culprit is.

Many gardeners love to blame squirrels. But in fact, this resourceful member of the rodent family is rarely responsible for eaten fruit and veggies. Don’t put up a bird feeder because squirrels adore sunflower seeds. They’ll get to them one way or another. But squirrels are only active in the daytime. They are likely to be the least of your worries.

Grow citrus or avocado? Rats. That’s probably your problem. Unlike squirrels, rats are nocturnal. They love citrus and avocado. You’re best bet is bringing non-poisonous snakes into your yard. The Florida black racer is a fast but docile snake who will rarely make an appearance except in times of extreme droughts. And it will clear out any rodent problem.

Can’t bear the thought of snakes? Then place rat traps around your trees. As unsightly as they may be for a few weeks, rat traps are the best way to get rid of most of the problem pests. Unlike their cousin the squirrel, rats can carry disease, though it is rare today.

Another nighttime marauders are the opossum. They are America’s only marsupial. They are omnivorous which means anything goes. They love of tomatoes so if you see nibbles on your crop, that’s your likely pest. But opossum are nomads. They keep wandering. If you cover your crops at night and wait it out, this critter will just move on when she discovers there is no food source.

Raccoons are more challenging. They climb. They have hands that stay busy. By far raccoons are the most adroit animals at getting into closed places. They are meat-eaters. So the first order is to secure your garbage pail lid on tight. They’ll grab other things in your yard, like your tools. Put them away. They’ll tip over plants and go into the garage in search of food. The most harmless deterrent is Cayenne pepper placed in strategic areas. A fire-hot nose may sound awfully painful. But pepper is lot kinder than trapping and killing the raccoon.

Raccoons carry rabies. It’s dangerous to let them get close or to try to feed them. No matter how cute they are. That’s why trappers euthanize each raccoon.

Place netting over your prized melons, string beans and romaine. Netting deters blue jays and crows. Securing the garbage lid, covering your crops and finally a dose of cayenne pepper. You may lose a few tomatoes in the process, but you’ll won’t lose your wits.

GM Thomas