Rub Some Dirt on It

Defend your garden from unwanted animals.

Photo by Caitlin Wilson

Just over a year ago, I bought my ­first house — all 720 square feet of it — along with a yard that looked like it had never been turned to anything but lawn. When I ­first saw the yard, on an unseasonably warm January day, I knew I could transform it into a vegetable paradise ringed with roses. I had boundless ambitions, a hatchback car, and a shovel, along with childhood memories of maintaining a vast garden with my mom.

I wasn’t quick enough last year to get much of anything growing, but I was determined to have a garden this year. I brought in dozens of loads of compost, topsoil, and mulch, piling them into low raised beds bordered by scrap wood I had scrounged from neighborhood driveways on trash day. Meanwhile, my living room gradually ­filled with recycled yogurt cups and mushroom containers holding starts of every type of seed I could get my grubby hands on. I also ordered some shrubs from a nearby nursery, and somehow my original order of about four roses grew into a dozen, which showed up by twos and threes.

As I started planting, I realized that no matter how ­fiercely I wanted a garden, the local rabbits just as ­fiercely wanted to make salad of anything more than half an inch tall. No matter how often I let the dog out to chase them off, or how thoroughly I fenced my precious shrubs and perennials with chicken wire, I found neatly clipped twigs and beheaded seedlings every morning. The situation called for more extreme measures.

I fenced off the vegetables with hog panels, and then my partner and I zip-tied chicken wire to the inside. That took care of the veggies, but there was a lot of yard the rabbits were still merrily romping and chomping through. At last, and again with help, I got the whole yard fenced with rabbit wire. There are still a few intrepid visitors, but most of the rabbits seem to have sworn off my yard. It’s just too much effort to get in, and then there’s the chance that a speedy little dog will chase them hither and yon while they try to remember exactly where they squeezed under the fence.

Many of my early starts croaked when I planted them out — probably a combination of inconsistent watering and poor hardening off — but the replanted seeds took off, and a few seedlings from local farmers markets filled in the gaps in the garden plan. We’ll de­finitely have enough okra, basil, and popcorn, and the bean crop is looking good so far.

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