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Posts Tagged ‘woodchuck in the garden’

Corn crop destroyed by critters

We have had more trouble with critters enjoying our garden this year than ever before!

It is being a challenge to say the least.

End of June - pre-woodchucks

End of June – pre-woodchucks

Healthy pole beans and sweet potato vines

Healthy pole beans and sweet potatoes

It started back in the spring when cucumber beetles infected many of my small cucumber plants with bacterial wilt. I lost probably 50 percent of my original crop before I realized what the problem was and sprayed the plants with Bonide Eight. I had to reseed and also buy some plants to replace the ones that were lost. I kept on top of them after that and ended up with a great crop of cucumbers until disease finally destroyed the vines in mid August. At least I was able to enjoy lots of delicious cucumbers and make lots of pickles!

Most of the lower leaves were eaten

Most of the lower leaves were eaten

Woodchucks have been the worst problem this year. Despite the fence and wildlife netting we have around the garden, somehow at least one managed to get in. We first noticed it when all the leaves of our sweet potato vines were chewed off. Then the lower leaves of the pole beans began to disappear! At least it didn’t bite off the growing tip of the bean vine and they continued to climb up the poles. The plants were just leafless at the bottom.

We searched the perimeter of the garden and found a spot or two where it looked like some critter might have been getting under the fence. In those areas, we took some old fencing, bent it at a right angle, and pinned it down so that it extended about 2 feet out along the ground on the outside of the main fence. We hoped that would do the trick.

The beans had begun to recover by the time I took this photo

The beans had begun to recover
by the time I took this photo

After that, all was well for a while … until one day when Eric noticed that the leaves along the top of the bean trellis were being eaten! Our bean trellis is sort of like a pergola made out of bamboo poles. There are two rows of 8 uprights and then bamboo cross pieces join the two rows along the top. This allows the vines to grow between the poles at a manageable height (once they reach to top of the poles) so that I can easily reach the beans to pick.

It’s a great system but we were baffled as to how the foliage at the top was being eaten! Certainly if a woodchuck tried to climb the poles to get at the top leaves, they would have knocked the poles over or at a minimum torn down many of the vines in the process. Plus, I don’t think the cross pieces could support even the weight of a small woodchuck. Yet the leaves were chewed right off!

The only critter we could think of that might be able (and willing) to do this was a squirrel. Squirrels have been enjoying the foliage and flowers of the petunias on our deck for years. Actually, they have recently switched to the coleus and tomato leaves since there are no petunias left! So it seems entirely possible that squirrels are the bean robbers. How in the world could you keep them out?

They left us only the cobs!

They left us only the cobs!

A few weeks later just as the Silver Queen corn was beginning to ripen, we went out to the garden and found that about two thirds of the corn in the Three Sisters garden had been pulled down and the ears were chewed down to the cob. Normally I would blame this on raccoons but I’m wondering if it was the woodchuck(s) again. To make matters worse, since it’s the Three Sisters garden, when they tore down the corn, they also tore down the rattlesnake beans that were climbing up the corn stalks! We can’t see where they might be getting in – it’s very frustrating.

Destruction in the Three Sisters garden!

Destruction in the Three Sisters garden!

Not much left of this butternut squash!

Not much left of this
butternut squash!

After the corn, the woodchuck started in on the butternut squash. He just got one or two before we discovered this latest attack! Luckily we were able to protect the rest of the squash from being eaten. It was too early to harvest so Eric pulled the squash (still on the vines) together in groups and we were able to set them in plastic crates with another crate wired on top like a little cage. A few of the squash were off by themselves so I just put one crate upside down over them and pinned it down with landscaping pins. This seems to have kept the critters at bay – for now. Hopefully it will last until it’s time to harvest the squash.

Our improvised squash protection cage!

One of our improvised squash protection cages! So far so good!

Oh boy! What next? So far everyone has mostly left the tomatoes and peppers alone. Guess I’d better knock on wood! And at this point the beans seem to be recovering and producing new foliage and flowers. Perhaps the acorns and hickory nuts are beginning to ripen!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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The tops of many of the bush beans had been eaten.

Okay – so I ended my last post with … “until my next garden drama”…

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for a new crisis to take place in my vegetable garden! This time it came in the form of a furry beast.

Woodchucks or groundhogs can ruin a vegetable garden in no time!

Woodchucks (or groundhogs) can ruin a vegetable garden in no time!

The other day when I went down to the garden, I happened to see some movement and a patch of brown in amongst my bush beans. As I got closer, I saw a brown head pop up with a mouthful of green bean leaves. A woodchuck – a.k.a. a groundhog! When he saw me coming, he took off like a shot with a big bean leaf still hanging out of his mouth! He made a beeline for the fence and scooted right under it. Oh man was I mad. We’ve never had a problem with woodchucks in the garden before. One year we had one that dug a burrow in our front yard but he moved away eventually and never got into the garden.

I ran over to where he had ducked under the fence and found that there was an opening where Eric had joined the fence around the Three Sisters Garden with the fence that goes around the main vegetable garden. That was easy to fix but I wondered if there were other places he might be able to get in now that he knows there are delicacies to be had on the other side of the fence!

A few days after the woodchuck chewed the tops off, new leaves have begun to grow on these bush beans.

A few days after the woodchuck chewed the tops off, new leaves have begun to grow on these bush beans.

For added insurance, I sprinkled Bonide Repels All granules around the fence where he got in and along other sections of the fence where I thought he might be able to get under. I’m hoping that will deter him from trying to get in again. There are a few places where the fence around the Three Sisters Garden doesn’t quite touch the ground so I will use some landscaping pins to fix that – just in case.

After sealing up the hole in the fence, I went over to survey the damage to my bean crop. Well –that rascal had chewed the tops right off many of my bean plants! Good thing I happened to go down to the garden when I did or I’m sure they all would have been mowed down. Thank goodness for small favors.

This variety of sweet potato must have been particularly tasty - at least he left a few leaves!

This variety of sweet potato must have been particularly tasty – at least he left a few leaves!

Upon further inspection, it appears that before he began chowing down on my beans, he had a little feast in the sweet potatoes. The tops of some of these plants were also chewed off. Eric had ordered a collection of 6 different sweet potato varieties this year and apparently some were tastier than others. That silly woodchuck had selectively browsed the leaves of only 2 of the 6 varieties. Again, thank goodness for small favors!

He also enjoyed some of the pole beans and even chewed off three of my melon plants.

So far between repairing the hole in the fence and sprinkling the Repels All around, I think I have kept him at bay for the time being. The bush beans are recovering and are putting out new foliage but unfortunately have been set back quite a bit. I’m a little worried about the pole beans – they haven’t bounced back as well yet.

I sure hope our garden survives long enough to bear some veggies this season! It just seems to be one crisis after another! Between the torrential rain, then the lack of rain, then the powerful winds, and now this woodchuck, I’m beginning to wonder if the garden will ever have a chance to grow! We’re hoping for the best. I’ll know more when I visit the garden tomorrow morning!

Until next time – Good Luck Gardening!

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