Ground squirrels have invaded my life.
Actually, ground squirrels have probably just outsmarted me. I hear their mocking chitter when I plant my few modest veggies, and I know they are making plans: organizing their army because they are plotting their next move determined to foil my inevitable plan to harvest a small number of tomatoes, bell pepper and eggplant.
The first couple of years that I planted a garden I chose an area of the property where snails were my biggest nemesis. Although they challenged about every attempt I made at sending them packing, they did not deter my efforts to yield a decent crop. Perhaps it was the coyotes that snuck in to hunt for fruit and small rodents that offered some protection for my carefully tended young plants.
Then it happened. The invasion was occurring and I was ignoring the signs, confident that Mr. Green Jeans was indeed in my family tree. Surely nothing could go wrong.
I was wrong. First it was the bunnies.
My garden was practically inhaled that year. It started with some nibbles and then it was as if the bugle was sounded, and my plants disappeared just as quickly as if they had never existed. I was devastated. Determined more than ever to win the war, I replanted everything that year, and my garden was reinforced with a better fence that no bunny could get in. I had won! Or, at least I thought so.
Then, the squirrels appeared.
Nothing I could do would keep them out. I would find beautiful, green tomatoes ripped off my plants, their path of destruction evidenced only by the single bite taken out of each. I searched online for answers, some websites telling me that this is not the behavior of a typical ground squirrel. However, I found solace in a forum discussing squirrel garden devastation, including the crime scene photos taken by the tearful and obviously defeated victims.
I decided the next year, I would try again. Money was of minor consequence at this point; it had now become a war I needed to win. A fortress was put together with as much effort as Ft. Knox. I would be victorious. What I didn’t know is that squirrels always have back-up plans. At first nothing happened. My plants were growing, and I was feeling quite smug that I had played my hand well. They knew they couldn’t climb in, but I had not counted on them chewing their way through. My garden was destroyed in a matter of two days and nothing was spared. I was defeated and knew all there was left to do was walk away with my tail between my legs.
The next year, I decided to try a couple of potted plants. Having forgotten some of the pain involved in the ruin of my fortress, I resigned myself to a few plants on the patio. This could be good. I planted some herbs, tomatoes, bell pepper and an eggplant. So far all was untouched. I managed to have a few tomatoes and bell pepper for salads, but was waiting for those majestic purple beauties to make my Eggplant Parmesan. My plant seemed a bit stressed, and I found myself nursing one eggplant and watching it grow to harvest.
The day had arrived. I was ready and really excited to have this modest yield. Eggplant Parmesan would soon be sitting in front of me to relish with a sense of accomplishment. I stepped outside and immediately spotted the empty place where my eggplant once hung. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What could have happened? It couldn’t be an animal; nothing had touched the other plants. Still recovering from this unbelievable loss a day or so later, I must have uttered something out loud about my missing eggplant, when someone leaving the house the day of the incident turned to me and said, “Oh that purple eggplant? I saw a squirrel run across the driveway in front of my car with it in its mouth.”
The knife just got a bit deeper.
Somewhat wiser and un-jaded by my experiences, I decided to create another potted plant garden this year, but this time they sit where the dogs play.
Tell us about your veggie garden nightmares or share your tips. Whether you have grown eggplant or not, get yourself some of this!