So they aren't really condoms, but the only way I've found in my urban garden to save any of my fruit crop is to surround a potted plant in mesh. (See photos) I've been using mesh laundry bags to try to utilize covers that are both breathable and water permeable, but I am soon going to be beyond the size that my laundry bags can handle. Long term, I'd like to build a garden house out of beams with hardware cloth attached to them, but in the meantime I need a way to keep the critters out of my fruit/veg plants. I'm dealing with starving squirrels, chipmunks, shrews, birds, rabbits, skunks, fox, and who knows what else. I've given up on the traditional in-ground garden until I have means to protect it, and have gone to container only for the most part. The pics are of 3 young blueberry bushes and a hanging strawberry plant. Problem is, my mesh bags won't fit over the tomato planters that I have and I'd really like to have a decent harvest for once. Has anyone in a small garden situation found a good way to protect fruit/veg container plants that doesn't involve locking them up inside?
I think those are good short term solutions for a sad problem.
I've found that usually critter problems are caused by (as you noted) lack of food or encroaching humanity.
On our farm we have quelled most of this type of problem by having three LGDs and the hogs seem to really keep the deer away.
The dogs and donkey keep the large predator (coyote) from even stepping foot on our property.
The dogs take care of most of the other 4 legged predators.
Snakes seem to be the only "bad critter" that our "protector" animals don't manage to keep away, this is mostly because the chicken house is fenced separate from the hog's land with fencing that keeps the hogs out.
I might have to remove that fence so the hogs can grab a visiting, egg stealer for a quick snack.
At one place I lived at I put 4 tall posts around every tree and then used 1/2 inch mesh wire around them to keep the critters off my produce.
The nut trees even had to have a "roof" put on the surround to keep the squirrels off my hazelnuts and walnuts.
I feel for anyone trying to get food from their plants and trees where there are "gatherers" around in quantities.
Unless the squirrels in your area have bad teeth, I'm afraid they'll go through the plastic netting like it's tissue paper. I have a lot of plants in containers and I've tried plastic netting, plastic hardware cloth, chicken wire, and eventually aviary wire. Aviary wire is chicken wire with 1/2" openings. Squirrels can reach through regular chicken wire (1" openings/mesh) and pull the plant right up to their mouth, but can't reach in too far with the 1/2" hole size. I make cylinders that fit around the containers (1 gal, 5 gal, and 15 gal) and crimp them at the top with clothespins. You have to be able to reach in from the top, and also to easily remove the cylinder when you want to spray something like Safer's Soap on the aphids, spider mites, or whatever insect you have to deal with.
My raised bed plots have chicken wire cages built around them, 4'x8'x4-6'high. There's no other way I could have a garden , the squirrels eat the leaves and then the fruit if the plant makes it that far. They don't seem to like the tomato leaves, so that always lulls me into thinking the tomato fruit are safe. But it ain't so.
Bryant what's the "roof" you put over your nut trees?
I'm beginning to feel foolish for complaining about the rabbits in my neighbourhood. I have never had more than the odd bite here or there from birds or chipmunks with my mesh top to my raised beds as you see below. (Ignore my crappy looking plants- I'm dealing with a bad soil purchase).
Now, I am only starting fruit tree this year, I may eat my words when I get there!
My strategy involves a very active dog and a lot of chicken wire since I'm already struggling for light in most places. Out here it's less that the squirrels are starving and more that I live in a forest, so there's just too much wildlife to compete with. The dog keeps the bears and deer away, but the squirrels and rabbits are ever-present, and the raccoons are only scared off if you're less than three feet away from them. Next year I hope to spend some time to build some multi-purpose raised bed tops that function as cold frames in the spring and cages in the summer.
I love all the options posted here, and I think (for my tomatoes) I'll have to go with a cage-type solution mentioned above. My squirrels are voracious, and maybe a bit vindictive, they eat a lot of the birdseed I put out, and the corn for the ducks, and all the acorns from all the oaks in our neighborhood, yet they continue to want to take just 1 bite or 2 out of all fruit/veg planted, I think just to sample, then they leave all the bitten fruit/veg remains scattered all over the yard. Nothing is worse than seeing all your tomatoes, 1 day before you would have picked them, strewn about the yard with bite marks in them. Animal control is out of question for us, our cat was attacked by a pit bull and now she is terrified of dogs, and as we live in a city, I can't let her roam. Kitty gets supervised time outside, but not enough to be an effective deterrent. Planter cages it is! I love the idea of using clothespins to secure the the panels, as that would give easy access to the plants.
Well, your topic and walking out to the dog sleeping on my tiny little kale seedlings finally motivated me to head out to the lumber yard and build one of my cold frame / cage contraptions. This garden bed has been a tragedy of dying seedlings. This is the 3rd time I've planted it this season. The first time the dog rolled in the fresh compost immediately after I planted all my transplants. Oops. Then the squirrels came by the next day and ripped out the remaining struggling seedlings I had re-planted. Sigh. The second time, I didn't have automatic watering setup and my partner misjudged how much water evaporates here… fried seedlings. This third time I'm desperate to get something out of it, and I'm hopeful!
If I built this again, I'd find a better way to force the top hatch into square. Probably some diagonal braces on the ends, or maybe some tension wires running in Xs. As it is, it's slightly out of square, but good enough for me.
Here are some photos of cages I use. The one around the 5 gal container (with pepper plant) is made from aviary wire, 1/2" holes that a squirrel can't reach into very far. The larger raised bed cages are made with stucco wire, which is a higher quality chicken wire made in the USA and cheaper than the chinese chicken wire you would find at Home Depot (which is also where you buy the stucco wire). The taller cage is for growing corn and popcorn, it's over 6 ft tall.
My property is almost completely surrounded by Norway Spruce with an occasional very similar Blue Spruce thrown in, probably misidentified when originally planted 70 years, or so, ago. The squirrels here seem to spend most of their time pulling apart pine cones and eating/saving the seeds. I have five foot high fencing to keep out deer with chicken wire around the bottom two feet. I don't have problems with animals eating from my gardens except for strawberries. I get nothing from that patch of 2 dozen plants. My wife uses some deer repellent on her flowers; which doesn't seem to work very well to me
The only problem I have with tomatoes is stink bug damage to the tops. If I were growing commercially I'd get about zero salable tomatoes. I don't use an insecticide. I plant in the ground. I use manure and peat for soil improvement with leafs added each fall.
My theory for years has been that if you have animal damage then you just need more trees/bushes or plants. It might make some sense to hand out seedlings of trees or bushes to the neighbors just as a way of increasing the browse for the animals in the neighborhood. Myself I couldn't afford to give commercial stock, but if I grafted myself and handed out the recently worked whips in the neighborhood it might be doable. Think of the orchards or farms you've seen. The trees aren't surrounded by individual fences, like mine are. The rows of strawberries are out in the fields. When I look at commercial blueberry and raspberries they're in a small field, no fences.
They weren't very bright, but they were very, very big. Ad contrast:
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