Monday, June 6, 2016

Chipmunks in the Garden: Wildlife Warfare

Birds and sunshine and thunderstorms, oh my! Early summer has arrived, dear readers. My newly-expanded cinder block garden is finally starting to see some action and I am overjoyed to say most of my transplants are kinda sorta growing. 

Now typically this would be my favorite part of the gardening season - it's direct sow time! I love direct sow seeds. Just pop 'em in the ground and bam, you are golden. Well. Kinda. Last year I may have direct sown some sweet corn with popcorn and ruined my harvest by cross breeding the crud out of them BUT we don't need to talk about that! It's a new year :)

And that means, of course, new garden issues. My backyard chipmunk population has exploded. I don't know what these little guys were doing all winter but I swear I cannot step outside without seeing at least five of them at any given time. Their chirps wake me up in the morning. Their scratching in my garage scares the crap out of me when I let the puppy out at night. And during the day? During the day they wage war against my garden.

That's right. The chipmunks are tearing my garden, and consequently my heart, apart.

I had visions of planting enough sweet corn this year to last me the winter. I planned it all out, ordered the very best seeds, and made sure to design the beds so they wouldn't cross-pollinate like they did last year. I went outside a few weeks ago and gently planted well over 100 corn kernels into my raised beds. They sprouted and I rejoiced.

And then. *sniffle* And then.....this. 

One bed, the popcorn, was destroyed. The sweet corn was intact...but my precious multi-colored popcorn was gone. 

I scoured the internet. Squirrels! it said. Squirrels! Or birds! Just cover your seeds!

I went out and spend $150 on hardware cloth and chicken wire. I couldn't bear to start with the expensive stuff first, so I replanted the popcorn and installed a chicken-wire cover with a bamboo rod to keep it from sagging under the weight of a bird or squirrel. Because that's definitely what it was that was eating my corn, right? A bird or squirrel! Yes, yes, that's what the internet told me. A bird or squirrel. I deny being in denial.

There, I remember thinking. I checked the sweet corn beds....they were untouched so I left them alone. Again, my wishful thinking blinded me to the obvious. Maybe they don't like sweet corn, I thought. No Jen. No. You and I both know that is a load of rainbows you're telling yourself so you don't need to face the reality of your situation.

Sure enough, the next morning my sweet corn was gone. Both sweet corn beds, destroyed. I sniffled and checked the popcorn bed. Still good. Whew, those covers must work! I thought. So I replanted and installed covers over the sweet corn beds, too. That awtta fix 'em

By the afternoon the popcorn bed was dug up again. They'd managed to get under my screen, obviously with the use of devil magic. I wasn't ready to accept what was happening so I replanted and weighted down the screen, then left to get groceries. By the time I came home all three beds were dug up in their entirety. 

I'm not going to lie to you here, this is a safe place. I cried. I cried my sweet little eyes out. 

Then I went back online. I found a recipe for homemade chipmunk repellent made from hot peppers, garlic, and water/oil/soap. I mixed up two batches. I replanted all three beds and sprayed the crap out of them. I even sprayed the outside of the beds. When my sprayers got clogged I ripped the lids off and shook the bottles all around like I was shaking gasoline on a cheating lover's nicest dress shirts. I danced with that pepper spray. Then I put my covers back on.....not like I needed 'em, I was sure of it!...and went to bed.

The next morning everything was gone. Again. I felt my heartbeat in my temples, people. 

There comes a time when every gardener, especially one with a short growing season, must admit defeat. After planting over 300 seeds, spending hours concocting ways to secure my beds, and burning the crap outta my hands, eyes, and ego with hot pepper spray, this was absolutely one of those times. My local farmers will be supplying my sweet corn this season.

But I still want to use these beds, you see. And I have other things I need to plant, like my beans and squash. Chipmunks, however, like all seeds. All of them. If my screen weights don't work I am down to two final options....1) trap those buggers or 2) provide them with a food source away from my garden. I don't like either option, to be honest. I'm kinda hoping my chickie babies grow up fast so they can act as my infantry and just go to town on the entire thieving lot. 

And yes, of course there's a little part of me that truly believes they won't like beans..... :)

What would you do, dear readers? Ever had chipmunks in the garden? What did you do to control them? I'd love to hear about your garden pest experiences in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

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