Saving The Garden

How silly I was to think that planting a garden was just that - planting a garden.  Planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing and harvesting are what I anticipate every year.

We've been growing a large portion of our own groceries for the past 8 years.  The first few years it was exactly as noted above - planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing and harvesting.  For the past 5 years we've also had to deal with critters eating some of our fresh veggies.  Chipmunks taking bites out of tomatoes (they don't like them but they take a bite out of numerous leaving them unusable) or stealing blueberries and strawberries, and woodchucks eating carrot tops, but nothing like what happened last week.

We have 3 woodchucks (whistle pigs/ground hogs) that we know of currently on our property and what feels like hundreds of chipmunks and squirrels.  We are blessed to not have to worry about deer (so far they are staying in the woods across the street) and the fox, raccoons, possums and fisher cats are focused on trying to get to the Coop Girls and don't care about the veggies at all.  The woodchucks and bunnies did eat the tops off of some of our carrots and all 30 sweet potato plants, but otherwise, hadn't touched the remaining veg.

Until last week.

Call it being naïve, call it not properly educating myself, or perhaps bits of each, but we thought that simply wrapping each raised bed with a 3 foot high chicken wire fence would be a great temporary solution until we install the permanent fencing this fall.

Why didn't I google keeping woodchucks out of the garden?  Why didn't we ask other farmer's at our farmer's market for advice?  I don't know why, but we didn't.

So, last week started out with a woodchuck going along each chicken wire wrapped beds and grazing on anything he/she could reach from the outsides of each bed.  I was so upset.  Sunflowers, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, more carrots, beans, peas, and cabbage were all mowed down.  Just the edges of the beds, but a lot of plants (and work and money) gone.

Ok, we thought.  Well, we can build a temporary fence with materials we have laying around to keep him/her out of the garden altogether.  So, one afternoon my husband gathered a bunch of wood, extra fencing, etc. and we concocted a make-do fencing around the perimeter of the garden.  "All it's missing is a moat" I joked.  It was quite a sight but we felt pretty confident as we headed to the house to make dinner.

After dinner I walked Oliver out back near the garden and as we got close I saw our hungry woodchuck jump from the middle of one of the garden beds over the make-do fencing, and then leap over our stone wall.  I ran to the garden to find sticks.  STICKS!  That's all that was left in the bed of cruciferous veg.  He, in a matter of an hour, ate all of the cauliflower, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, the leaves off of all the kohlrabi, and all but 2 heads of cabbage.

I was so upset.

There was nothing we could do that night except to cover everything with shade cloth until morning to try and salvage the remainder of the garden.

As we were falling asleep Jay said "I'll run to tractor supply in the morning and get fencing and we'll install the fence tomorrow".  He wouldn't have time to get the wood posts that we wanted so the plan was to install it with temporary metal posts and a make-do gate until fall.  We decided that if we sank the fence about a foot and then had 4 feet above ground, it should do the job.

So, on one of the hottest (and muggiest) days of the year, we spent the morning and afternoon installing a fence.  When we finished we were hot and tired but satisfied.  That evening, after dinner, Jay went into the shed to watch for the woodchuck.  He wanted to make sure we were all set.

And we weren't......

One quick google search would have told us this, but we never googled it.  Woodchucks can climb welded metal fences!!!  They can climb trees!  Who would have known?  And climb it he did.  Jay made some crashing noises with tools to scare him off and hoped to buy us enough time until morning.

And so I FINALLY googled keeping woodchucks out of a garden.  One of the ideas we found was to take additional wire fencing and fold it over the top of the fence, so when the woodchuck got to the top, the extra fencing would bend, causing him to fall off of the fence.  The next day, while I was selling at our farmer's market, Jay spent the day installing yet another layer of fencing to the top of the brand new fence.

And so far it's worked perfectly.

I am planning to replant brassicas for (hopefully) a fall harvest and we will purchase our summer supply from our farmers market.  I've got more lettuce and beans already coming up.  The sweet potatoes have leaves growing back and I'm hopeful the kohlrabi will survive as well.  The carrots will likely survive (they did the last time a woodchuck mowed down their tops), it will just be a hunt to find them.  We managed to salvage 5 of the 15 sunflowers (we were growing them for the chickens) and we'll hold out hope that the squirrels let them be.

It's always an adventure, isn't it?

How is your garden growing?


  1. Oh no! We don't have woodchucks in this area, so sorry for the damage they cause.

  2. How upsetting I feel your pain....I had a beautiful bunch of coriander ready to pick and the next morning the whole thing had been munched off...I was so cranky about it....all your hard work and they sneak in. We don't have that many animals to content with probably a possum and some mice maybe. Kathy

  3. Oh my. I'm so sorry for the trouble you're having. I hope the new fencing works. I've had trouble this year with a certain squirrel climbing our mammoth sunflowers and eating them right off the stalk. Ugh. It's always something...

  4. For the past 4 years the squirrels and birds have feasted on all our apples, cherries, peaches, and assorted other fruit and nuts leaving us almost none.

    This year.mother nature pulled a fast one and produced 100 fold of fruit. Plenty of fruit and nuts for all. Don't forget praying in your mantra of gardening chores.

  5. We used DD battery powered electric fencing for our country garden and never had ONE critter. One year I grew 250 lbs of tomatoes!:

    It's really made to keep dogs & cats out of your beds and it gives just enough zap to get your attention, but not hurt. Kinda like putting a 9-volt battery on your tongue.


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