DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
May 16 2012

Squirrel Wars!!!

by Dea Anne M

I posted here last month about my adventures this year in raised bed gardening. I can report a lot of satisfaction with the way the garden is progressing. Here’s a picture:

Well you can imagine my dismay when I looked out my kitchen window a week or so ago and saw two squirrels whooping it up in the beds. Their tails were going like propellers and they were leaping about with the sort of lusty glee appropriate to a couple of forty-niners finally hitting gold or a pair of Visigoths deep into the Sack of Rome. A few angry shouts sent them fleeing, but when I went down to the beds to check out the damage my suspicions were confirmed. Every one of the baby lettuces that I had recently planted  from seed were gone.

image from thejacksack.com

When I was a kid, I loved the story of Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin. I mean, I thought squirrels were the cutest thing going. These days…not so much. The sorts of furry herbivores that I once considered a delight to witness: squirrels, deer, rabbits look like destruction on four legs now. There’s a real danger when you become a dedicated gardener of developing an us against them view of the animal kingdom and that’s not really where I want my mind to go. After all, squirrels have to eat. On the other hand, I’m not in this gardening thing as a way of providing backyard denizens with a 24/7 salad bar. Measures have to be taken, though I strongly favor those methods that do the least harm. Cayenne pepper tea, made by steeping the chopped peppers in boiling water then straining, has so far been very effective. The trouble with this method is that you have reapply the spray after each rain. Then again, gardening isn’t meant to be without effort. My friend Ray, recommends putting cat hair on the beds as a squirrel deterrent and I have heard this from other folks as well. As my own cats shed hair in quantities that rival the amount of pollen coating the surface of my car on any given day this spring, I’m guessing that I will be experimenting with this method  too.

If you too need to figure out how to deal with unwanted garden incursions and raids, then DCPL has resources to help.

Dead Snails Leave No Trails: natural pest control for home and garden by Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor emphasizes an organic, humane approach to controlling all sorts of garden pests without poisoning the garden in the process. This compendium of useful information includes tips on identifying garden-helpful insects that you might otherwise think to repel.

Bugs, Slugs & Other Thugs: controlling garden pests organically by Rhonda Massingham Hart includes a lot of great information on how to attract “beneficials” (i.e. birds and insects that naturally help control garden pests). Special features include tips on gently repelling pesky garden intruders when they have started helping themselves to more than their fair share. For example: “Clippings of cat or dog hair might be enough to ward off rodents and other pests.” Homespun wisdom is the best!

Outwitting Critters: a surefire manual for confronting devious animals and winning by Bill Adler, Jr. extends its reach beyond the garden to include other areas of animal driven trouble. Here you’ll find information on how to safely and humanely deal with everything from the ant parade in your kitchen, to the coyotes roaming your property, to that annoying alligator who has chosen your front lawn as her favorite sunbathing spot.

Finally there’s Squirrel Wars: backyard wildlife battles and how to win them by George H. Harrison from which I, quite shamelessly I confess, stole the title of this blog post. Harrison approaches critter problems with a sense of humor and documents actual, often off-beat, methods that real homeowners have used to cope. In the interest of understanding the “enemy” Harrison spends a significant portion of the book providing a natural history of squirrels, rabbits, wasps and other potentially problematic fauna.

How do you keep critters at bay?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John May 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM

I came out to look at my garden a couple of weeks ago and found a whole row of green beans eaten almost to the ground. There were no deer tracks, so I figured rabbits were the culprits. I added chicken wire to the bottom of the fence I had put up to deter deer, and so far, it has kept the rabbits out. Luckily, my plants are big enough that squirrels can’t really hurt them. Good luck in your feud with the squirrels!

Joan May 17, 2012 at 10:29 AM

I have an ongoing battle with the very smart squirrels in my yard. They just love to dig up my newly rooted or small store-bought plants from the soft, recently dug beds or planters. They don’t necessarily eat them; they just toss the plants aside in their digging efforts, and leave holes in the soil. If I press firm prickly sweet gum balls or pine cones thickly into the surrounding soil, that seems to deter the digging sometimes. But on occasion even then, I come out to find those tossed out onto the ground. Grrrr.

Merle May 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Back in the day when I had a yard and bird feeders I had quite a few battles with the rats in fur coats. My battles are over but below are addresses for two entry from my favorate blogger on her squirrel wars.

http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2007_06.html

You can skip past the fleece washing to the end of the below entry to see her revenge. It is sweet.
http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2007/08/28/this_is_the_way_we_wash_our_fleece.html

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