Saturday, June 25, 2011

Keeping four-legged pests out of the garden

     Something bit that rosy ripening tomato. Molested the melons. Few things will set gardeners into a snit than putting a lot of back breaking work into a garden and walk out in the morning to find something feasted on your squash.
    Raccoons. Opossum. Squirrels. Bluejays. Crows. So many. Each has its own preference but one commonality: they wreck your work. When intruders help themselves to the fruits of your labor, the first step is to find the culprit.
   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 as squirrels adore sunflower seeds. They will find a way to get to them, feeder  baffle or not. But these critters are only active in the daytime. They are likely to be the least of your worries.
    Grow citrus or avocado? You may well develop a problem with rats. Unlike the squirrels, rats are nocturnal. They'll feast on the fruits of citrus and avocado. You're best bet here is 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. It will clear out any rodent problem.

   Can't bear the thought of snakes? Then place some rat traps around your trees. As unsightly as they may be for a few weeks, rat traps are the best way to eliminate these pests. Unlike their cousin the squirrel, rats can carry disease though it is rare today.
    Other nighttime marauders are the opossum. They are America's only marsupial. They are omnivorous which means anything goes.  They have a love of tomatoes so if you see a bitten tomato, that's your likely culprit. Opossum are nomads. They keep wandering. Usually if you cover your crops at night and wait it out, this critter will move on when she discovers there is no food source.
   Raccoons are more challenging. They climb. They have hands and boy they keep them busy! By far they 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 nose that feels on fire may seem mean-spirited, but its a lot kinder than trapping and killing the critter. 
    Raccoons carry rabies. It's dangerous to let them get close or to try to feed them. No matter how cute they are. It's for this reason that a trapper will euthanize  any raccoon he catches. 
    Netting over your prized melons, string beans and romaine is a big help to deter bluejays. Securing the garbage and covering your crops. And finally, a dose of hot pepper. You may lose a few tomatoes but you'll won't lose your wits.  
     While you're at it, check this out: surprise

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