Article #9: Containing Inhibits 'Raiders' By Gene Austin
Home vegetable gardens are the targets of all sorts of four-footed and winged raiders, and everything from beagles to buckshot has been tried at one time or another in the effort to foil them.
One reader, F. Thalken of Vineland, N.J., writes that last year rabbits ate everything in the family garden but the tomatoes, and equally plaintive tales are heard from others.
Except for a few animals that seem to defy all reasonable restraints—notably groundhogs, skunks and raccoons—fencing the garden or the parts of it containing the most vulnerable plants remains the surest solution.
Before discussing quick and inexpensive ways to fence, however, note should be taken of the various chemical and natural nostrums concocted in the battles against marauding animals and birds.
Mellinger's, a firm that advertises "1,000 horticultural items" and is located at 2310 W. South Range, North Lima, Ohio 44452, in case anyone wants to write for a catalog, devotes an entire page in its current sales book to such items as Squirrel Skram, K-Pels to protect shrubs from dogs, dog and cat repellant spray bombs, Roost No More to keep pigeons and starling away, rabbit and deer repellent, mole killer and snail and slug pellets. Try them at your own risk.
One gardener swears by a substance more readily available: cayenne pepper. Sprinkled lightly on rows while plants are small, it is supposed to solve the rabbit problem. Once plants have passed the tender stage they are not as attractive to rabbits.
A spray made of nicotine sulphate (2 teaspoons of 40 percent nicotine sulphate per gallon of water) is supposed to repel rabbits, if a garden supply dealer who stocks the chemical can be found.
Various plants also have been arrayed in the battle. Soybeans, planted all around the edge of a garden, are said to be so attractive to rabbits that the bunnies will touch nothing else. Wormwood, a smelly plant that some gardeners place throughout their plots, is supposed to deter raids by rabbits, groundhogs, raccoons and other freeloaders.
My own garden is located less than 200 feet from a wooded area with a full quota of wildlife, but I've been able to protect the vegetables adequately with temporary fences and other wire restraints. I also subscribe to the theory that fencing an entire garden is needless and expensive since many plants don't need protection.
Experience will have to be the guide in your area, but my own observation is that the plants most likely to be raided are young peas or seedlings of squash, melons, cucumbers, sunflowers and similar plants with large, edible seeds; corn when it becomes ripe; and ripe melons.
Corn and some large seeds often are victimized by crows and other birds, who will fish out seeds or pull up plants when they are only a few inches tall.
Plastic-coated fencing in the 48-inch size, or 24-inch if you can find it, makes fine protection for young plants and seedlings, including peas and beans, and just-planted corn and other vulnerable seeds.
The 48-inch fencing is cut into 24-inch wide strips about 6 feet long and bent down the middle to form a wire tent that will allow the plants to reach a safe size. The strips are easily stored in a small space by stacking them one on top of the other.
Temporary fences made of 24-inch chicken wire will protect larger bush beans and peas and also will help support the plants if you have only a couple of rows. Stakes cut for 2 or 3s and sharpened with a saw or hatchet will hold the fence, which can be put up in minutes with a stapling gun and disassembled just as quickly and rolled for storage.
Fences admittedly make cultivation of plants difficult, but if dried lawn grass is used for mulch between rows and around the plants, no cultivation will be needed.
Cages can be formed of pieces of chicken wire to protect melons when they near the ripe stage but ripe corn presents special problems. I have found stalks, chopped off near the ground and toppled and nothing but cobs left where the ears had been.
I've heard of one gardener who ties the tops of his cornstalks together with nylon fishline; when the maurader chews through the base of the stalk it doesn't fall and the animal departs, too discouraged to return (or so I'm told). I prefer to pick the corn as soon as it ripens and to write off any losses as philosophically as possible.
Fending off stray dogs and other pets may be the biggest problem with roses and shrubs. To protect them, make circles of 12-inch or 18-inch plastic-coated wire fencing. The circles should be approximately the same diameter as the shrub.
A simple way to get the right size circle is to measure or estimate the width of the shrub, then cut a piece of fencing 3 1/2 times that long. Hook the ends together by bending the wire ends together with pliers—the circle should slip down over the shrub and is easily removed for weeding or other work. Even cats don't seem interested in getting inside these circles.
If traps are resorted to, I recommend the box variety that doesn't injure the animal, which should subsequently be released in a woodland, not a residential area.
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