Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Critter Protection

In my prior post I discussed the challenges of protecting a vegetable garden in the Tucson region.  I have chain link around the garden area, but small critters such as chipmunks, ground squirrels, rabbits, mice, birds etc. can easily come in and set up shop.  Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening (see link on side bar) recommends constructing a cage out of chicken wire that is easy to lift and place over a raised bed garden.  Materials used are chicken wire and 1"X2" select pine boards.  Mel uses less expensive chicken wire with larger 1" or 2" openings, but it won't keep smaller pests such as chipmunks from squeezing in and gobbling up your tender plantings .  I purchased a heavier wire with smaller 1/2" openings which takes more time bending to shape but is still light enough to easily lift off your bed when tending/watering the garden.

I built two 4'X4' cages to fit on top of one of my 4' X 8' beds.  I found I could cut a piece of  4' wide wire 7' long and bend, with the help of a straight edge (see photo to the right), 2 even creases 18" from each end to form 2 of the 4 sides.  That left only two 18" by 48" pieces to cut for the remaining two sides.  The base of the wire was then stapled to the 4'X4' frames and the two single sides attached with those nifty plastic awning lock ties you can get at Home Depot.  To easily lift off and replace the cages on top of the beds I created a 12" long plastic handles out of left over pvc pipe and wire and attached one to the top of each cage in the very center.  For step-by-step directions for building these cages see Mel Bartholomew's New Square Foot Gardening book.  Having completed the cages, I planted seed of lettece, bunching onions, radish, spinach and snap peas with hopes that the resulting harvest will now be protected.

For my remaining raised bed and fiberglass barrels I have removed the bird netting (effective, but awful stuff to work around and a lizard strangler).  Since these plantings are mature (tomatoes, strawberries and herbs) I am taking my chances they will survive most attacks.  If not, I plan to set out a small Havahart critter trap that will be used to humanely capture the rodents and remove them far from my property.  I've heard peanut butter works well.  Before replanting the remaining bed, I will build two more 4'X4' cages to protect it as well.  I will share the results of these endeavors to protect my garden in future posts.  

Just a side note for Amber Rose, our 9 year old grand daughter.  Your strawberries planted in the gray sink had babies!  Tendrils from your plant crawled over to the sink next to it and rooted. I'ved transplanted several of your baby plants to another barrel so there will be more strawberries to pick when you visit.


Sue Swift said...

As if the Tucson climate wasn't enough to cope with ...

found you through Blotanical. Hope we'll see you around there a lot.

The Smiths said...

Thank you for your critter protection information. So far so good....we have 3 raised beds. Two with bricks 3 high for tomatoes, peppers, radishes, green beans, bunching onions, snow peas, cilantro, 1 with 1 brick high for the corn, squash, melons. Corn ears are beginning to emerge.
Tomato and tomatillo plants filled with green tomatoes which are beggining to ripen. We installed green shade cloth on top of each cage when the summer heat hit hard. We are taking our chances on the 1 brick planter which does not have any kind of wiring around it. We have seen a few prairie dog/squirrels and rabbits which are easily run by the dogs or loud noises. We are having great fun this growing season. Will post again later. Happy Growing.

Anonymous said...

What gauge was the wire mesh that you used?