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Gack!!! A groundhog in the garden! May 1, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

Silence Dogood here. As if this hadn’t already been the weirdest spring on record! We’ve had temps in the 80s in March, frost on our neighbor’s back lawn this morning, on the cusp of May, along with nighttime lows in the 30s all week, and then temps back in the 80s predicted for later this week. The lowest rainfall on record for March, and not much better for April. Yet our raised beds are doing better than ever, or, I should say, were doing better than ever.

Our perennial veggie bed is bursting with rhubarb, horseradish, asparagus, comfrey, motherwort, and catnip (for our three huge Maine coon cats). We’ve planted Jerusalem artichokes in it and some potatoes, too, which we find are perennial for us, and are eagerly awaiting their appearance. Our allium/herb bed is resplendent with “walking” onions, garlic, garlic chives, chives, onions, leeks, sage, oregano, thyme, and cilantro. And our long bed, which is shaded by a pair of dwarf apple trees and thus is best suited to greens, strawberries, and potatoes, is—or I should say, was—having its best year ever.

The formerly mild April weather had encouraged us to plant all sorts of greens, mustard-family plants, and cole crops in the long bed. We planted three kinds of kale, four kinds of mustard greens, five varieties of radishes, and innumerable types of lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens, along with some new strawberry plants. Everything was looking great, until this past week’s dip into the 30s, which burned and blackened the newly emerging potato shoots. (We think the plants will recover.)

Then came Sunday. It was perfect gardening weather—temps in the low 60s, a clear, sunny sky—and our friend Ben and I were out taking advantage of it, as, I was pleased to see, were both our neighbors. (“Silence! What’s this huge spider? Is it poisonous?” “Ben! Look how well my bamboo’s coming back!”) Naturally, I managed to get a horrendous sunburn, which OFB, who’d been gardening in a fleece jacket, long pants and baseball cap, as opposed to my bare head and tee-shirt, had little sympathy for. “Beach bunny.” Grrrrr!!!! But I digress.

Point being, at some point during my weeding and greenhouse-tending, I took a break to look over the beds. And then I saw that the kale and Swiss chard plants had been decimated. “BEN!!! Something’s eaten our plants!!!” OFB thought it must have been a deer, but I pointed out that a large, hungry deer wouldn’t have settled for munching down a few chard and kale plants, especially with apple trees invitingly nearby. I thought it must have been a rabbit or a groundhog.

Fellow gardeners may find it strange that we haven’t had problems like this before, but for whatever reason, we haven’t. Our previous problems have all been caused by birds, who regularly beat us to our strawberrries, blueberries and raspberries, and to bugs who attack our peaches and apples. Veggies have been pretty much exempt.

Thinking quickly, I suggested to OFB that we get out the bird netting we usually drape over the trellis protecting our blueberries and drape it over our bed of greens. It’s not exactly heavy-duty protection, but it would provide some protection, allow us to water through it, and be lightweight enough for the greens to grow up beneath it. So we did that, weighting the ends with stones.

Then this morning, OFB and our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, went off to feed the chickens, one of our favorite morning rituals. For whatever reason, I was looking out the back deck door after them; I guess I just enjoy seeing how much fun they have while they’re doing the chicken run. And because I was watching, I saw a groundhog race from the greens bed into—talk about adding insult to injury!—our wood- and straw-shed at the back of our greenhouse.

“BEEEENNNNN!!! There’s a groundhog! It’s a groundhog that’s been eating our crops! It just went into our greenhouse shed!”

OFB, for once quick on the uptake, grabbed Shiloh and raced to the shed. Yelling “Boogah! Boogah Woogah Woogah!” at the top of his lungs, he began kicking everything in the shed with remarkable vigor, while Shiloh did her part by barking at deafening decibels. I don’t know what effect this had on the groundhog, but I suspect the neighbors will be talking about it for years. (After all, it was 7 a.m.)

As it happened, we have a couple of rolls of 3-foot-high chickenwire fencing in our toolshed. So this evening, we headed to our local hardware store and got six posts for it. As I write, I can hear the banging as OFB hammers them into the ground. Will this be enough to keep the wretched grundsau (as it’s known locally) at bay? 

I haven’t got a clue. I guess I’m just grateful it wasn’t a deer, also plentiful in these parts. But I hope the groundhog decides to join its famous relative Phil in Punxsutawney and abandons our backyard. I don’t know about you, but I’m not especially eager to eat greens or anything else after they’ve been munched on by somebody else.

                 ‘Til next time,




1. Corinne - July 28, 2012

I think I also have a ground hog. The swiss chard has been eaten clean in one night, but nothing else – I suppose until it comes back tonight. How did the fence work? Don’t ground hogs dig underground?

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