Grit Blogs > A Long Time Coming

Garden Pests: I Give Up

A photo of Shannon SaiaI wrote awhile back at some length about my experience with rabbits in the garden. Peter Rabbit is still a regular at the outdoor buffet. We were on vacation last week, and every day since we've been back, he and I have met up in the garden and exchanged pleasantries. I mean, we might as well. Obviously neither one of us is going anywhere. And really, I can't blame him. I mean, he was born there. Sigh.

To be honest I'm longing for the days when all I had to worry about was one enterprising rabbit. Recently the chubby groundhog that also lives in our back yard under one of the sheds has been hanging out in there too. One afternoon not long ago I was out in the back yard when the dogs starting going bezerk around the garden, chasing something. This in itself is not news. They do it to the rabbit all the time. Inevitably the rabbit finds his way out and darts off somewhere where the dogs aren't looking, and by the time they notice it and give chase she's got enough of a head start that she easily disappears into one of several holes in fences and under sheds.

But when I looked over there on this particular day, it was no rabbit that had caught the dog's attention. This enormous groundhog was running around in there, poking his head at the rabbit guard trying to get out, but unable to because he was so big. I went closer to him. He was in my squash, and one of my dogs, J., was barking his fool head off at him. I was trying to call the dogs off so that the groundhog could find his way back out again, when suddenly J. jumped the four foot fence and went in there after him!

This was a mess because I sure as heck wasn't going in there with all that going on. I finally threw one of my daughter's toys into the garden – away from the sparring animals – to get J.'s attention. Once I had it, I told him to get out, and he did, easily clearing the fence once again. My heart was pounding. He was unhurt and unphased. All I could think was thank goodness he'd just been to the vet last week for his rabies shot.

I hauled the boys up into the house and went back out to the garden, where the groundhog, able to think for a moment, I suppose, in the silence, found his way out of the garden where two separate peices of fencing meet. He disappeared back into a corner of the yard and that was that.

So there are now two critters helping themselves in there. No wonder I never get any strawberries.

A few mornings ago, I let J. outside by himself. A few minutes later I pulled back the curtain to check on him and he was standing on the deck, looking out into the yard. Down in the yard was the groundhog, in the grass, doing what groundhogs do.

The fact that J. wasn't chasing him was new and different. I can only surmise that while J. was unhurt during their altercation he was not, in fact, unphased. He had obviously figured out that that groundhog could kick his butt.

He's also figured out how easy it is for him to get into the garden, and now J. is jumping in there all the time.


Thankfully it's just to chase something, and I can usually get him out pretty quickly. But good grief. The sheer poundage of my garden pests is increasing exponentially.

Be sure to check back for my next post: What to do with that elephant in the garden.

s.m.r. saia
7/19/2010 8:26:08 AM

N. Dave and Cindy, thanks so much for reading and your comments and commiseration! So far I haven't had the pleasure of moles....Honestly it hasn't been too much of a problem overall I guess. I do have to pick my tomatoes when they just start to turn red though, and let them ripen inside, because if I let them get ripe on the vine I find them hanging there with big bites out of them!!!

cindy murphy
7/16/2010 9:53:41 PM

I'm right there along side you, Shannon. Argh!!! Although the rabbits and moles seem to have tapered off to only an occasional garden sighting since the heat set in. No signs of groundhogs....yet. Shhhhh....they're probably all listening, and are just waiting 'til my back is turned to make their move.

nebraska dave
7/14/2010 6:01:31 PM

@Shannon, Good grief I thought gophers were a nuisance but it sounds like ground hogs are worse. I once had a gopher taking liberty with my backyard. It took me the better part of a year to drive the little bugger out of my yard. I finally came up with the idea to eliminate the food in my yard and he moved on to the neighbor’s yard. He did the same and so on and so on until the rascal was out of the neighborhood. It is hard to break up an animal defending his/her territory. Once they get focused it’s difficult to calm them down until their territory is clear. My neighbor’s shepherds keep my yard and garden clear of most animals. I have a fence around my backyard but not around the garden per se’. Other then the nesting ground for something in the early spring my garden has been animal and bug free. I suspect it was a rabbit trying to build a nest in the middle of my tomato plants. I haven’t been bothered with them since I sprinkled red pepper over the area. I’m not sure what would work on ground hogs. I hope you get your garden problems solved before harvest time.