Saturday, April 10, 2010

Varmints continued

Our problems with mice and deer continue. You may remember that I had a bit of trouble with mice eating the peas I had planted, and nibbling my seedlings in the greenhouse. You may also remember I dealt with the pea issue by covering the bed with a floating row cover. Ha.

I should thank all of you who might have laughed at me, and refrained, hearing this great plan. Why on earth would I think a floating row cover, even one securely anchored around its perimeter, would keep out a determined and hungry mouse? The very next day I lifted the cover the find the same neatly drilled holes in the soil where the peas had once been. Little buggers.

And there was worse news in the greenhouse. Sure, my chard seedlings had been nibbled to the ground, but chard is easy and quick to grow and I didn't feel so bad having to plant some more. But my pepper seedlings! My carefully pampered and prospering pepper seedlings - now that hurt. The mice didn't even fully enjoy them - they just chewed them off and left the decapitated bits on top of the soil.

Well, I got a bit heated under the collar. Things got even more heated a few days later when Kim went back to the garden and discovered that deer had nibbled the tender leaves of the freshly planted Asian pear tree and the ends of a few of her new blueberry bushes. We should have expected it, but our problems with deer have been sporadic. We had planned to put a wire cage around the tree, and netting over the blueberries - we just hadn't got to it.

I had to figure out how far I wanted to go in the mouse-deterrence battle. Those of you who refrained from laughing at my floating row cover idea may have to turn away for a moment, because my next strategies were to sprinkle cayenne pepper all over the seedlings in the greenhouse, and plug in an electronic rodent deterrer. You can guess how well those worked. So now, for the first time in my life, I am baiting mouse traps with peanut butter every evening, and first thing every morning I make the circuit of all the traps and dispose of the dead mice I find.

I cried with the first one. Only its nose had been caught in the trap, and I wondered how long it had lived, and how much it had suffered. I hated myself. I don't kill things - I grow things. What was I doing?

It got a bit easier after that, mostly because all the mice I have found since then ( and there haven't been that many) have had definitively crushed heads. I could see that their deaths would have been quick. But it still doesn't sit easily with me.

Dealing with the deer problem was easier. No life and death issues there, just some wire fencing around the pear tree and some nylon bird netting for the blueberries. We used netting last year to keep the birds from the strawberries and the deer from the blueberries, gooseberries and blackberries planted along the fence, but we weren't totally happy with the system we had worked out, mostly because the netting kept get tangled in the lawn mower, and it proved to be a pain to keep out of the way when harvesting all those berries we had protected so well.


So this year Kim got serious and came up with a great way of managing it. She screwed stakes to the outside of each raised bed, pulled netting taut over the stakes, and then used more screws at the bottom to hook the bottom edge of the netting, providing good coverage without having netting dragging on the ground waiting for the power mower. When we want to get into the bed we just unhook the bottom edge of the netting and drape it up over the top, easy as pie. Blueberry pie.



These little hooks from Lee Valley have proved very useful. We used the net-to-wire hooks to easily fasten the netting to the existing fence, and the net-to-net hooks to tie back the excess netting at the corners. And they're cheap!

3 comments:

Paula said...

I'll keep Kim's solution in mind this summer. Haven't had any problems with mice or deer (the deer would be a stretch here) but I do have slugs and I do have raccoons. And cats that spray the house. My bedroom smells like cat piss in the summer and I'm really tired of it.

So five inch copper mesh around all the beds for the slugs (which is working) and a new fence and gate on the one side of the house, and then two Cat Stop devices posted at either gate. The one on the left will drive off the neighbor's cat that pisses on my outside wall, and the the one on the left will stop the raccoon in its tracks.

Not sure what to do about the skunk that traveled through the backyard at dusk a couple of times last summer, though. That's a whole 'nuther animal.

~Kim~ said...

Great solutions!! I know how you feel about the mice...We've got the same thing in our barn--I know we have to "be tough" but sometimes I'm just not that good at it!

Toni aka irishlas said...

You've come up with some great solutions. Hopefully, this will be the last of the "pests".
We have deer and rabbit problems more so than mice. But then, we have a couple of ferrell cats running around so that may be why we don't have mice problems!

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