by Charlene Burgi
Last summer my vegetable garden struggled to grow despite my attempt to thwart the army of squirrels, rabbits, and other varieties of herbivore varmints within 50 miles that caught wind of planted vegetables. Try as I might, nothing stood in their way of consuming each tender morsel of green as it appeared from the richly worked soil. Wire baskets were overturned, five-foot perimeter fencing must have been a standing joke (if these critters communicated with each other), and even garlic and onion sprays couldn’t keep the onslaught at bay.
Don’t get me wrong: Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini were safe from the furry marauders. And several plants managed to survive safely inside the greenhouse. But this year I wanted fresh green beans, peas, Swiss chard, strawberries, asparagus, Yukon Gold potatoes, garlic, onions, beets, and companion flowers filling the garden.
I had to try something new to dissuade the beasts and may have found an answer. First, Jack built several raised beds. We attached 3/8-inch hoops using U-shaped fence staples hammered to the inside lengths of the boards across from each other at one-foot intervals. The fence staples made perfect holding spaces to insert the hoops since they were hammered only half way into the board. After the plants and seeds were planted, a layer of ultra-light garden fabric was placed over the hoops and secured with clothes pins at the top of each hoop and on the bottom of each side of the hoop. Each end of the planter is secured with a 2×4 resting on top of the planter with the fabric sandwiched between the two boards.
During the daylight hours (and when the pups are outside and on critter patrol) I roll the fabric back to allow for any pollination required for fruit production. In the evenings, the fabric is put back in place and secured with the clothes pins.
Granted, this is only day two of the plantings but who could resist the strawberry/asparagus bed? The strawberries are turning red and almost ready for picking, and the asparagus is just working its way up through the trenches that are being backfilled with soil. Both are great companions sharing the same bed.
The second raised planting bed is teeming with bush beans, beets, carrots, and marigolds—yet another mixture of companion plants. Peas are planted in the ground behind each bed; my thought is to drape the excess fabric over the plants once the peas germinate. Potatoes are growing in the old clawfoot bath tub with onions—a good team together. I will leave the tomatoes, cukes, peppers, and zucchini to fend for themselves since they did so well last year.
Do you have trouble with critters in the garden? You might want to try this critter prevention program. We used recycled lumber lying around from the house construction so the costs to install were minimal.
On a side note, I was driving down past the old barn on our property last Sunday when four round furry balls came waddling across the pasture toward the car. I stopped as I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at until they drew closer … and closer—then challenged the car! There were four badgers with these adorable faces, growling as if they could conquer the world. Wouldn’t you know I failed to have my camera with me—or my cell phone! I wonder if they are herbivores? Hummmm!