This year I tried to plant a vegetable garden, yet again. In the past, other than a few gargantuan tomato plants, I’ve never had much success. I don’t have the proper soil or sun exposure. Then I tried container gardening with even less success. Apparently I didn’t have proper drainage. Just when I was getting ready to give up, a friend recommended The Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew. I immediately fell in love with the concept. Managing a couple of 4 X 4 raised bed gardens seemed much easier than what I had been trying to do. So I decided to attempt it. My family gave me a beautiful cedar 2 X 4 raised garden bed. It was a little smaller than what I had planned for, but cedar will last a really long time before needing to be replaced. I decided to start small rather than get in over my head. But unfortunately, I had a few early set backs.
While my lettuce transplants did well, my broccoli looked questionable. Then I began the big job of seeding the rest of my squares. I had planned Carrots, Broccoli, Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Bush and Vine Beans. But I bought my Tomato plants too early and had to keep them in the house. By the time I put then outside, they looked anemic and sickly. The worst part was the first night after I put them out they got zapped by a frost, even though it was supposed to be safe to plant them! So I waited and figured I would buy more plants later. Then the siege began. Something was digging in my beds. Every time I would plant something new the next day I would find soil scattered around the raised bed. I figured my seeds had been taken or eaten, but I couldn’t be sure. So I waited a few weeks to see if anything came up. Only a few sad carrots ever emerged. So I replanted the beans and corn, only to have the same game repeated again. Now I decided to build a cover for my bed out of chicken wire. Mind you, Mel recommends building a cover in his book, but I’ve never had a problem with garden pests before. But due to time restrictions, it took quite a while to finally get the cover built and installed. So I replanted everything again. I had also decided to plant a few climbing varieties of vegetable so I installed a vertical sheet of nylon netting with holes small enough to keep out animals. This time everything worked beautifully. My broccoli looked great and everything else was looking healthy. Then the day before our vacation a visiting friend looks out my window and comments “Is that fence designed to keep out squirrels, because there is one hanging out inside your garden right now?” I was furious. My broccoli was gone, snapped off and completely uprooted, then left next to the raised bed, shriveled up. This creature didn’t even have the decency to eat what he dug up! My corn was gone as well. Fortunately, my beans plants seem to have been left alone. But elsewhere in my yard, perennial transplants which I had started as seeds indoors in peat pots were all dug up, the peat pots strew throughout the yard. I’m not sure a single transplant survived. I discovered that the squirrels had gnawed through the nylon webbing to make a hole large enough to climb through. I tried to patch the area, but my work was mostly in vain. I feel like I have a lost the battle, at least this year.
I’ll keep working with my existing plants of course, but I have two beds sitting empty. My recently harvested carrots were a disappointment, but I may still try to replant them for a fall harvest. I have finally succumbed to the belief that has been told to me by many others: Squirrels are evil. They may have cute fluffy tails but in the city, they are a menace. They empty bird feeders, and dig up plants. Then even shred my mother’s hanging baskets. As if they have any shortage of food. I think perhaps it is simple boredom. Like many people, squirrels trapped in cities have too many idle hours without proper entertainment to keep them out of trouble. Maybe the city government should organize a vast resettlement to the rural regions where these poor deprived city squirrels can run free. Or maybe we city gardeners should simply build better fences, set traps and buy pellet guns.