Little Garden of Horrors....

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 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)


Above is the most obvious before and after.  On the left is the fall aster 'Barbados' purchased a month ago.  What's left of it now is on the right 😡

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.


  1. Oof, I feel you. It is always nice to see animals in the yard but when you know they are going to dig up, barrel over, or eat your plants---can't help but throw some curse words out there!

  2. Very frustrating! The damn critters should just grow their own gardens and stop mooching off of us.

  3. I remember how excited you were with that trunk full of plants you brought home - I'm sorry so many were trashed by rampant critter activity. Hopefully, that fox will not only come back bit will also bring its progeny with it next spring.

    We had more critters here than usual earlier this year. In addition to the usual raccoon marauders, skunks, squirrels and possums, we had bunnies (not common for us) and peacocks (ditto). I stopped filling my bird feeders and that, plus the coyotes, seemed to take care of the bunnies and the peacocks. The gopher (my first) was the biggest problem but relentless use of a pellet deterrent watered into the soil, installation of solar powered sonic devices and, possibly, the coyotes finally seems to have rid my garden of that pest. Rats are another problem - I lost almost all of my tomatoes to them - but I'm guessing a neighbor has taken to poisoning them as I've found two dead ones in my garden. Much as I'd like to be rat-free, I'm not happy at the idea of rat poison moving up the food chain.

    1. I've read that bird feeders can be a huge draw. I've already stopped filling them and will wait until winter arrives before doing so again. As a pre-emptive measure, next season I'll be taking them down for the spring/summer.

  4. Good grief ... Kris's post really got to me ... I would be so shocked and disgusted to find dead rats in my garden .. and she is so right about poison and the food chain.. that is disturbing as hell.
    I'm so sorry you have had such a hard time of it .. we have squirrels and a chipmunk in the back garden , but I don't grow veggies so not a lot interests them here .. and we actually (and I can well imagine the reaction with this) throw a peanut or two at the squirrel who leaves after that happens .. some how my husband trained him to JUST LEAVE after he has a peanut .. the chipmunk .. well we are soft hearted because no damage has ever happened with him or her ?I actually leave a little bowl of sunflower seeds for him/her and nothing is touched in the garden .. every situation is different .. but so far this has worked for us.
    I hope maybe next year things will be better for you ! the fox may well keep your produce safe in a natural course of events ?
    PS .. Jason's remark made me laugh ;-)

  5. OMG. I know exactly how you feel. It's heartbreaking to see. When I had my year (or 2 or 3) of the rat a couple years ago I was ripping out vegetables just so that the rats (and mice and voles) couldn't eat them (if I can't have them neither can you!!!). I think the last straw was when they got into the bean cage and ate all the flowers, they couldn't even wait for the beans to develop. It just about broke me, it certainly broke my heart and bruised my spirit, I was nearly ready to quit gardening. I was feeling pretty hopeful this year, watching things grow without the benefit of hardware cloth cages and then one day recently, dang it, I discovered that something was munching on the veggies that I had started for winter. I turned my critter cam in that direction and videoed a ground squirrel in action. I trapped that one and thought problem solved and then it started again. Now I've got all the greens and developing broccoli heads liberally sprinkled with pulverized hot Thai peppers. Try a mouthful of that! So far so good... The danged things must advertise where the good spots are, there's a couple of spots in one bed where they keep trying to dig burrows. I fill the tunnels in and they just excavate them again. I've sprinkled those spots with hot pepper also. The traps are set again and I think I need to order another pound of dried Thai peppers. I wish you the best of luck with this challenge and know that I feel your pain.

    1. Oh no! I can't believe that you are once again dealing with critters in your garden - hopefully the hot pepper will keep them at bay. I'm planning on trying pepper too (just need to pop out to the store to grab a big bag of it) and using extra hot thai pepper powder is a great idea. Too bad I got rid of the lemon drop pepper powder that I grew. Even a pinch was SEARINGLY hot & much too hot to use in the kitchen, which is why I tossed it - would have come in handy here (and maybe a reason to grow it again)!

    2. The hot pepper didn't keep them from digging in the same spot again but the plants are still unmolested, for now.

  6. Oh no, so much damage. I suppose if it were going to happen any year, you'd take bets on it being this year with everything else which has been happening. The only good thing I can say is that you can start again next year, though there's never any guarantees with gardening, we can only hope that things will fare better.

  7. I guess this is the high price for having an abundance of wildlife = our 'critters' are smaller but no less destructive.This year however it's the weather that has been the real problem. WE had a lovely bed of impatiens that suddenly looked dead. We thought a neigbour's cat had trampled the plants until one in the tubs suffered in the same way. It seems that the plants couldn't cope with the cold night temperatures. Then the tomatoes are struggling to ripen due to lack of sun.

  8. Oh, I do feel your pain Margaret! We've had rabbit troubles here this year. They keep digging up newly planted iris, and I had one get in the vegetable garden through a hole in the poultry netting. Now I have one that sneaks in the greenhouse, where there's lots of goodies to eat! 2020 has been quite a year.

  9. I hear you! I can especially related to the rabbit damage. I keep trying and trying to add new things, and occasionally they'll leave plants alone long enough for them to get established. Some survive and come back. Others simply must be protected with chicken wire. Rabbits are my biggest garden problem. We all have challenges, for sure!


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