You know one of the reasons I love knitting. Because I can control it. If I don't want my cat to get into it, I put it in a bag and zip it up. I know when I get to it the next day, it will still be there - safe and sound.
Wish I could do the same in the garden. Every season has it's challenges and it's ARGH! moments, and 2020 is no exception. I think I will dub this "Year of the Critters" (although I think I may have already had one or two of those in the past). And be forewarned...I've sprinkled this post with images that are akin to a horror story for gardeners. Proceed at your own risk.
|One of many melon devastations...|
It started a couple of months ago with the demise of every single strawberry in the strawberry bed. That's right - EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Gone.
At first, I wasn't sure how this happened and I thought perhaps one of the tiny baby rabbits had gotten under the netting, or perhaps it was an ingenious bird. The thing is, both rabbits and birds generally leave signs of their presence - i.e. half eaten "fill in the blank". In this case, every strawberry was picked clean as if it had never existed. Then I read in a local Facebook group that chipmunks had made a feast of someone else's strawberry bed, also eating every berry. And the mystery (to my mind) was solved.
I should have known - this has been the absolute worst year for chipmunks - ever.
|Chipmunk and kitty cat standoff at the window...|
In the past, we would see one on occasion, trapesing through our backyard, but this year they are rampant. They have been voracious at the birdfeeders - a first around here. They actually got into the garage and chewed through a rigid plastic lid to get into the birdseed that was stored in a bucket - and I'm not guessing here - I actually caught it in the act.
But the chipmunks were not the only garden invaders. We had at least two litters of rabbits (is that what they're called?) make our backyard their home this year. I have had, no joke, FOUR rabbits lounging in the backyard at the same time. Seriously - all sprawled out as if they were watching Netflix.
What follows is a summary of the damage that the garden has endured this year.
|The fate of most cucumbers...RIP|
|The majority of melons ended up like this & never grew past the baby stage|
I only grew 2 pepper plants and this is what happened to the first one (the 2nd fared only a bit better - I'll likely get a whopping total of 2 peppers from it):
|This pepper plant didn't recover|
And forget about the yard long beans that I was growing in one of the ornamental beds - they didn't stand a chance:
|Chinese yard long beans - practically every stem was severed|
And then the ultimate 'argh' moment - both the perpetual chard bed and the carrot bed were decimated - practically all of the plants were chewed right off at the base.
|Chard bed...wilting leaves because, as I subsequently found out,|
they were severed from the base of the plant.
When I first noticed the wilting, it seemed as if the beds had been trampled. But when I went to see what was wrong & lifted up a group of wilted leaves, I realized they were no longer attached to the base - they had been severed at ground level. Same for the carrots - they were all flopped over and what I found was essentially a bed of greens...attached to nothing.
|After the severed leaves were cleared from the bed,|
this spot was basically empty.
I've decided to leave whatever carrots are actually still in the ground until we have a few more chilly nights to sweeten them up. If I'm lucky, I may get some baby carrots out of this.
To add insult to injury, there was also a lot of damage in the ornamental beds. I suppose "a lot" is relative as 95% of the plants in the garden are just fine. But the 5% the rabbits got to stings, especially as they are all new plants from either last year or this year. Here's a pictorial rundown of the carnage:
|Hostas planted last year: Top - Mouse Ears / Bottom - Monster Ears|
Most hostas were ok, but a few were particularly delectable for some reason.
While slugs love hostas, to me, the clean cuts indicate rabbit damage.
|More hostas from last years planting|
Right - Frances Williams / Left - Sweet Innocence
|Hosta 'Wishing Well' is gone altogether|
|This Rudbeckia by the front door has been a bunny buffet all season|
(although a Rudbeckia only a couple of feet away seems to have gotten away unscathed - go figure).
|A poor tiny ninebark planted last year...|
and so much smaller now than it was then 😔
|A newly planted birch...now leafless.|
|This fall aster is looking much worse for wear -|
it's been "pruned" by rabbits all season long (note all of the white stem ends)
I've since placed a chicken wire cage over the remains of the hostas as well as the asters, birch and ninebark and am hoping they all have enough energy stored in the roots to make it to next year. As long as I see a little bit of green (or purple!), I'm hopeful. The 'Wishing Well' hosta, however, will likely need to be replaced.
Apologies for the "downer" post - sometimes reality is not pleasant. I, for one, always feel better about these types of things when I know that I'm not alone in my garden frustrations. So I'm sharing in the spirit of camaraderie (aka "don't feel too badly if things didn't go well in your garden this year...look what happened to me" 😜).
All I can say is that I'll be starting some garden cleanup sooner rather than later. But just to wrap up on a positive note - there was a beautiful fox hanging out on our hilltop recently, just gazing at our backyard. Unfortunately, we had a torrential rainfall shortly after it got here, so he (she?) scampered away into the wooded area. Hopefully they didn't go far and this may, at the very least, persuade my critter population to relocate far, far away.