Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Garden Invaders

Last summer, tree rats were in the midst of a hostile take-over of my garden. They ate my plums, my apples, tomatoes and a baby chick.  They dropped from the rain gutters to the ground by my feet and scuttled off in the dry leaves, leaving me standing with my heart pounding.  They built nests in the hen house -- they were beyond brazen.  And, I was beyond angry.

I tried every version of trap known to man.  I planted mint around the base of every fruit tree (they supposedly don't like the smell of mint and I really don't care if I've got an invasive mint problem in the orchard; it smells great underfoot).

The nests have disappeared from the hen house (having fourteen chickens to share space with has probably helped there).  I lost some fruit to birds, but not to rats.  Knock on wood, my tomatoes are getting plump and starting to think about turning red.  The trap in my tool shed sits empty, with its bait ball of peanut butter untouched.

The rats aren't completely gone.  I've seen one or two; but it isn't an epidemic.

Ground squirrels are out in full force and, while I hate their burrows and their thieving ways, they don't creep me out like rats.

There is a family of ground squirrels living in the pile of compost I have in a corner of my garden.  I can see them from the window, the little ones wrestling and tumbling down the pile, the older ones scaling the fence and surveying the garden from a fence post.  And, when Richard was visiting last week, he caught a squirrel raiding the bird feeder.

I was very careful when I set up the bird feeder.  There is a wobbly upside down cone on the pole that holds the feeder, so squirrels can't climb up.  It is in an open area, not close to the fence or a tree branch.  The feeder is full of black oil sunflower seeds and the birds spill quite a bit on the ground.  Mostly its empty shells, but sometimes they drop entire seeds.  And, some of those seeds sprouted in the spring and gave me wonderful sunflowers in the garden.  One of the squirrels climbed up a sunflower stalk, and when it bent over under the squirrels weight, it launched itself up to the feeder.  The squirrel couldn't fit on the ledge, so he dangled hanging by his front paws, and gorging on seeds.
"I couldn't believe the strength of the little guy," Richard said to me. "He was dangling there for a long time."

I couldn't believe how many seeds were gone.  I cut down the sunflower closest to the feeder and crossed my fingers that there aren't any acrobats in the family.


  1. Annette: I feed black oil sunflower seed also. The eastern grey squirrel is quite pesty, but one simple thing I have done is to grease the support pole with vaseline. They do try to jump up the poles or jump from a structure, but don't get a lot of traction if I keep the pole well lubed.

    I use a disposable exam glove and I have a small container of vaseline I keep in the garage for outdoor use. Squirrels hate gooey stuff on their feet and my mother is amused watching them slide around. Any petroleum jelly product (water proof) will work. Supposedly they dislike eucalyptus / Vicks vapor rub etc.

    M in NC

    1. Just remembered this from years ago when we had a cat. A pulled some cat hair from the brush and stuck it at the bottom of the well-lubed pole.

      It didn't look like much, but when the big-bad squirrel came to raid the feeder he gave a 'hard spook' , turned and ran. Eventually he approached very carefully , sniffing hard but very suspicious. The hair fell off over the next few days, but the squirrels really did not like it :)

      M in NC

  2. You are being invaded! Time for more cats. :D

  3. An American in TokyoJuly 27, 2017 at 6:40 PM

    Oh yeah, I have heard from farmers here that cat hair or dog hair will work!!
    Put it in a net and put it at the base or near the feeder.
    It also works if you hang some near your tomatoes or any other veggie/fruit you want to protect!!

  4. I think ground squirrels are cute! Rats, not so much, though! I'm glad the rat population is down for you. And, how sweet that sunflowers have sprouted up underneath the feeder. Who would have thought the squirrels could use it to propel themselves to the feeder. They must be hungry.


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