Practical Permaculture – Four-Legged Pests in the Urban Garden

Squirrel1

“Watching” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – How you view squirrels is often based on what you grow… I know people who love them… And I know people who call them “tree rats”… A simple solution is to get a pet… You would be surprised what a dog will keep out of your yard…

I’m doing so much gardening right now… All day… Every day… The last thing in the world I want to do right now is write about gardening… But I’m going to try… Sort of…

Now… If you have a garden of any type… You probably have a few four-legged pests… In my neck of the woods… The issues are cats, dogs, raccoons, groundhogs, squirrels and rats… Options range from fences to traps… Your preference most likely will be based on beliefs that are really none of my business… The following post is meant to look at the subject from both perspectives… This article deals with the trapping and disposal of rabies vector animals… Or… Just getting along with them… With a few tips on the domesticated relatives…

I’m going to start this post on the subject of cats and dogs. To be completely honest, there is very little you can do to domesticated animals to keep them out of your yard without raising a few eyebrows. I have actually written about cats before, you can check it out right here… All you can really do is defend your garden…

Dogs are not typically a problem unless you have a neighbor that lets theirs run free, which is typically illegal in any populated area… A simple call to the police can fix this, remember they are pretty limited in what they can do to said dog, or dog owner. Fencing will typically have to be installed in an attempt to exclude the dog, little else could legally be done without bordering on animal abuse… My best advice for dealing with a troublesome dog… Become friends with it… You would be surprised how the simple act of befriending the animal will change the way you look at its in-discretionary practices… in short… You wont mind cleaning up after the beast so much if you are friends with it… Just saying… Perspective…

Squirrels were at one time a problem for me, but the great cat population boom of 2011 has limited the squirrels in number.  We still have a few of them, but their presence is welcomed as they are really enjoyable to watch. The problem with squirrels for other people is the fact that they like to rob bird feeders, and bury nuts in gardens when they are storing them for winter. You can either trap the squirrels and relocate them… Account for the squirrels in your budget and simply feed the things… Or eliminate all food sources for a few years… If possible…

In nature… A nut-tree can only sustain so many nut eating animals… Occasionally… A tree will have a heavy bearing year… This is an evolutionary response done in attempt to allow seed germination… You see… Most years the squirrels will have no problem cleaning the nuts up under a tree or two… Because of this… Only so many squirrels will live in an area…  Because a tree aims to reproduce itself… It will compensate by dropping extra seed every once in a while… You want to do the opposite… Eliminate the original habitat by practicing meticulous cleanup for a few years… I can’t stress enough how many of these problems can be solved with regular maintenance… It’s almost laughable…

© chriscondello 2013

“Groundhog Food” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – Instead of mowing the food to the ground… Let it grow… Groundhogs and bunnies love clover… The trick is to make more clover available than your garden plants…

Groundhogs are the bane of the vegetable garden, wherever food is grown, groundhogs are not far away. Groundhogs tend to be territorial creatures, this territory is based on food availability. I have seen people build fences that go a foot into the earth, and the groundhog still finds a way into the garden. Another common practice is trapping, in my experiences a new groundhog will typically move into the old groundhogs hole within a week… It’s worth a mention that while it is perfectly legal to trap and relocate pests in the state of Pennsylvania, it is illegal in other states… Not to mention ecologically unsound…

Trapped animals are very commonly relocated by the trapper, great care should be taken in the disposal of these animals. Although it may be legal, I am against the idea of rabies vector relocation. which a groundhog is. Often times these animals get relocated to the closest park, where they encroach on the native species and often end up fighting to the death over territory… I just don’t see how this is more humane than simply ending the animal’s life… On the same note… I have attempted to kill trapped animals before… And I just can’t do it… No matter how big of a problem it has been for me…

So I’m sitting in my backyard earlier this summer… Momma raccoon is on the neighbor’s roof with three babies… Momma groundhog is in the backyard eating clover with her baby… And momma squirrel is running through the trees with her babies… I’m sitting in a chair watching the future garden chaos grow before my very eyes… Did I freak out?.. Absolutely not… Why you ask… Because I know how to work with these types of animals… And the first step… Is to make your neighbors available food easier to acquire than your own…

Another option… Is to simply plant a trap crop… A trap crop is simply a plant that you grow to distract the groundhog away from the plants that you grow for your own consumption. This can be as simple as a bunch of clover, sunflowers, sweet peas, or any of the Brassica. Plant them far away from your own garden, but close to the animals home. Make it easier to get to your trap crop than your vegetable garden, this can be accomplished using a small fence or tall border.

Raccoons are one of my neighborhoods biggest problems, I have had to super glue bricks to the bottom of my garbage cans before just to stop the damn things from knocking over the cans every night. If you live in an area with animal control, they should always be your first call. You never want to mess with a raccoon unless you absolutely have to, the danger involved can be life threatening.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Wand Flower” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – I love wandflowers… This has nothing to do with pests… Just a nice photo…

The neighborhood raccoon problem for me does not involve my garbage cans, it presents in small holes in my lawn where he was digging for grubs and worms. I actually caught him in my backyard one morning digging up my newly planted fig tree in search of grubs, I almost shit a brick… I had been staying up until 2 in the morning trying to catch this bastard in the act… And here he was coming in the first light of morning… Anyway I chased him up into a tree… And gave him a stern poking with a piece of bamboo… I did this three mornings in a row… And he still would come the morning after the garbage was picked up… I recently read somewhere that human urine can be a deterrent… Scientific fact or cruel prank?.. I’ll let you know soon…

On another… Cleaner note… I have personally had success using coffee grounds… I read about it on the internet a while back and being a daily coffee consumer… It fit the budget… I simply throw them out in the garden and yard after I am finished with my coffee… Of the three known raccoons living in my immediate neighborhood, I have had no recent damage… I thought the grubs had just all emerged and the food source was now gone… But after some digging… I have realized the grubs are still in my soil… It must be the coffee…

As far as garbage scavenger animals are concerned, it is important to remember that the animals can proliferate because of an availability of food. If you can eliminate a large portion of that available food, the animals will have to spread out over a larger territory, and the problem will solve itself. Remember that raccoons and rats serve an important purpose in urban environments… One that not many people are willing to do themselves… Cleanup… When someone throws their McDonald’s cheeseburger on the street, a human does not clean it up… So although they can be annoying… They are a requirement of the urban eco-system…

A wild animal will almost always take the easiest path to its food… If your garden has a fence around it… But your neighbors does not… The animal will eat your neighbor’s garden… If your garbage can has a lid on it… But your neighbors does not… It will be their garbage all over the street… Awareness and planning are often the key strategy… People always want a magic trick… I’ll give you a magic trick… Put the lid on your garbage can… If your cans are old and subsequently fall over… Spend $40 and get some new cans… Preferably ones with locking lids… And skip the wheels because they always fall off when the garbage men throw them back to the sidewalk… This makes them easily topple…

Now… I am not going to sit here and claim that I don’t have problems with animals in my gardens… I have not reached some kind of “hippy nirvana” as far as garden pests are concerned… What I have done is gotten to a point where I am able to isolate the problem… And in most cases eliminate the problem… And here’s the kicker… I have done it without killing anything… Mostly with persistence… But equally important is experimentation… Believe me… Some mornings I have wanted to kill something… But often it has been as simple as placing a few bricks over the soil in my garden where the animal likes to dig…

I would also like to add that 99% of the Raccoon related problems I am consulted on could be solved almost immediately by acquiring a new garbage can with a locking lid… Likewise… A groundhog really just wants food… You can either perpetually eliminate the things… Or account for his belly in your overall plan… Remember… Entering a yard or garden is often a risky move for a garden pest… At least it should be… If there is an easier source of food somewhere else… It will almost always go for it… The trick is often to make that easy source of food somewhere other than your personal garden…

This may be my last permaculture post for a while… I am gardening 10 hours a day… Five days a week… A guy has to eat… But because of this… I really don’t want to think about gardening when I get home… Sad… But true… We will just have to see what happens…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

https://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/practical-permaculture-keeping-cats-out-of-the-garden/

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Practical Permaculture – Four-Legged Pests in the Urban Garden

  1. sportsgrl says:

    I would add skunks to the list of furry critters annoying my area. They love grubs and although the holes in my lawn are obnoxious, it is the pit it had dug in the herb garden that tends to make me rage. Now that the utility folk have dug a hole at the cable box, something has decided that they want to expand it – I’m hoping to find a way to deter that soon. In the meantime, chicken wire and rocks are my garden’s best defence…

    Like

  2. The problem I have is monkeys. And during winter baboons. Can’t plant beans or peas, they just get eaten. Have been thinking of getting a dog to chase them but it is expensive to feed and my cat is going to be jealous.

    Like

  3. In our yard, the birds and squirrels come to drink from the bird bath. The squirrels live in the live oak tree. And when the three dogs are in the yard, the birds and squirrels get chased. Not a one has gotten caught though. Bird net kept my tomatoes from being eaten but my figs are gone.

    Like

Comments are closed.