pudgysmom
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Posts: 10
Joined: Mon May 27, 2013 12:15 am
Location: Raleigh, NC

Squirrels and other varmin

After a good start in May, June has been a tough month for my garden. Almost continuous rain has waterlogged my garden all spring and now June as well. I've spent extra time and attention tending my 9 tomato plants (a mix of roma, big girl, stripey and cherry) and have been able to prevent diseases by being extra diligent about selective pruning to increase air circulation and periodic spraying with neem oil. I was looking forward to some absolutely perfect tomatoes that were getting ready to ripen. First one disappeared, then another, then two a day, four a day. . . .

What the heck was going on? tomato thieves? Yep! Ends up a set of young squirrel triplets had developed a taste for green tomatoes. We caught them on tape red (or is that green?) handed! What to do? While the garden is my hobby, feeding and tending the squirrels has been my DH's hobby so deadly force was not an option but we definitely wanted to discourage this new found hobby. It is clear they are very young and their antics are pretty funny to watch most days - at least until they discovered my garden!

We developed a 'shock and awe' approach which seems to have been pretty successful. We haven't lost a single tomato since the second day of starting it. First some background, I have a raised bed garden (six 4x8 beds, one 8x12) that are surrounded by a 4ft fence due to extremely high deer pressure. A utility easement runs along our property and we joke that we are the McDonalds on the off ramp! Our lot is mostly wooded and home to a lot of squirrels. Every summer we loose a few tomatoes, but never has been much of a problem until this year. This is what we did.

1) moved all bird and squirrel feeders to the absolutely farthest corner of the yard away from the garden.
2) put ALOT of mouse traps baited with peanut butter around the tomato plants. We put them out upside down so they wouldn't snap the squirrels but would startle them.
3) put an owl decoy in the garden and move it every few days
4) sprayed garden with mixture of habanero powder and peppermint oil.

I can't say exactly what did or did not work, but I do know there has been no evidence of squirrels near the garden since the second day. The first day virtually all the traps were sprung. The second day 2, and since then none. As a matter fact, they haven't even been to the feeders on the far side of the yard since then. Don't know if it will last, but after no activity for two weeks I am hopeful.

A side benefit is I think the spray also drove off the voles that were starting to munch my onions and carrots!

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lakngulf
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 8:34 pm
Location: Lake Martin, AL

Re: Squirrels and other varmin

I know you ruled it out for your remedy, but I use a .22.

Also, the first place I had problems with squirrels in tomatoes was in Chapel Hill, NC in the mid 70s. I only had a small garden at married students apartments, but would look out the kitchen window and see squirrels running up a tree with a red tomato in their mouth. Nothing I could do about them there except pick the maters early. But if you have squirrels that like green tomatoes, you might be in trouble. Hope the plan works
Nutin as good as a kitchen sink mater sammich

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rainbowgardener
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Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Squirrels and other varmin

I would never get to eat a tomato, if I didn't have them totally caged in with deer netting. Growing in raised beds makes it easy to do that - fence in each bed individually.

I have squirrels, woodchucks, raccoons, opposums, rabbits, and a variety of smaller "varmints."
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

pudgysmom
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Posts: 10
Joined: Mon May 27, 2013 12:15 am
Location: Raleigh, NC

Re: Squirrels and other varmin

Well, I personally wouldn't rule out the .22! But unfortunately we live in a development with covenants and restrictions, so a .22 or deer netting is only a last resort and even then, not without consequences! Neighbors would have a fit with deer netting because its not approved by the HOA. We have a daisy BB gun and could get a paint ball gun as additional incentives! Unfortunately, I don't think this is the last of this story. . . .

Another option we talked about is live trapping and relocation. I hate to even think about that because my father tried that at him home in IL and kept a tally. I think over 100 before he gave up! Also, I've read that they need to be relocated at least 10 miles away. We joked we could spray them with a color dot on their back and then release them at 1 mile, 2 miles, 3 miles etc and see if and how long it takes them to find their way back! At least then there would be some real data behind it!

Anybody got any other ideas that at least will deter their gluttony to a minimal level?

pudgysmom
Full Member
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon May 27, 2013 12:15 am
Location: Raleigh, NC

Re: Squirrels and other varmin

Just an update on the squirrel situation. In the last few days, we've lost 2 additional tomatoes. So, I don't think that they are totally stopped, but still definite progress from before where I was loosing 5 a day! I actually feel like I have some chance at a harvest! :D

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