There’s a squirrel in my yard that’s seen too much of the Food Network, turning into a four-footed foodie with kleptomaniac urges. We discovered this as odd things began happening, such as our tomatoes getting stolen. This isn’t so unusual; after all, squirrels like love apples as much as humans do.
Then my spouse called me out to the yard, and I knew we had a problem. There, deposited on a landscaping timber at least 20 feet from the garden, was a huge beefsteak tomato, partially gnawed and discarded. “What kind of a squirrel could lift that, much less carry it this far?” my spouse whispered, alarmed.
“Just look at the size of that tomato, it has to weigh at least two pounds,” he said, eyes scanning the fence line for a Godzilla-sized squirrel, “I wouldn’t want to meet that animal on a dark night.” Worry tickled my mind as, for the next month, we discovered tomatoes strewn through the yard like eggs at Easter.
Had the problem stopped there things would have been fine; there were plenty of tomatoes to share. But as the summer wore on the squash and melons fell victim to the rodent’s desire. Apparently the animal couldn’t tell when the fruits were ripe, so it nibbled on each and every one to see if it was ready – none escaped this dental delving.
As the fruits grew they became battle scarred; skin closing over the early wounds. We convinced ourselves that eating squirrel-chomped squash was ok, if you didn’t look at the tooth marks on the rind.
The search for squirrel control turned up suggestions for repellants, with either hot pepper or predator urine. Both need to be reapplied after every rain or irrigation, and hot pepper might cause the fuzzy thief pain; I didn’t want to hurt the critter or commit to such a time-intensive means for control. We tried to wait it out, but things turned ugly.
The pumpkins were the hardest hit, possibly due to their growing in a different spot of the yard where they weren’t disturbed. Joy turned to horror when harvesting the first to ripen – it had been attacked from behind. Savaged beyond repair, the gourd had been completely hollowed out, as if the squirrel planned to use it for a diorama.
Protection was needed and I opted for the second type of squirrel control: cages of small mesh wire. These worked well, the one-inch mesh keeping the pumpkins whole. I grew complacent, believing the squirrel was thwarted. But the lull was just the rodent changing gears, popping up where I least expected it: in the garlic.
Squirrels are known for their love bulbs. To protect them, we lay chicken wire on the ground under the mulch so the marauding mammals can’t dig them up. Squirrels and their ilk aren’t supposed to like garlic or any of the allium clan; this is why they’re recommended for areas where rodents are a problem.
Chicken wire works in a bulb bed, but on a raised bed where other edible plants need room meant getting new ideas about management. I turned to the experts whose suggestion was: “place crushed garlic in the area to repel squirrels”.
How helpful. We have a bushy-tailed Ratatouille pulling up garlic like it’s cooking an Italian meal, and the experts want me to peel and crush the cloves for it. Instead, I’m back to chicken wire, but temporarily. Stapled over the top of the bed walls, it will keep the thief from the garlic over winter, and be easy to remove in spring, when planting season – and round two of our struggle – continues.