It just might be time to take down that Certified Wildlife Habitat sign on the front lawn.  Apparently, the fancy placard is like a welcome mat for wildlife or something.  (Who knew?!)  Squirrels scamper hither and yon, sampling (AKA “biting and ruining”) the few peaches that survived the windstorm.  Rabbits subdivide the lawn into personal clover homesteads (“oh hello, Mr. Thumper, and how are the children?”) and robins dive-bomb worms from every available fence-post.  Oh, wait– you have fence posts, you say?  Doesn’t that mean you have fences?  So what the ducks is your wildlife problem?

Well, yes, we’ve got fences but evidently what we really need is something more like the Great Wall and I’m almost positive our suburban zoning laws won’t condone that.  (Too tall, for one.  Who can see your prize-winning hydrangeas, then?)

As it turns out, fences can work but not all fences keep out all critters.  Plus, you have to balance your needs (and your wallet) with the habits of the plant vs. its value as a food source to animals of various stripe.  (Yes, we’ve got skunks, too.)  And then consider the human who has to work around the fence without a) getting tangled, b) straining a hip flexor or c) spending an arm + two legs for a customized varmint-fence.  Plus, it should look pretty!*

With those stringent criteria in mind, this summer I started out by trying to imagine the worst that Mother Nature could throw at my veggies and, after getting truly panicked, rolled back some and just settled for “what can happen that I can handle slash pay for”.  Under that scenario, I realized the following:

1) Get the fences up early.  As soon as possibly after planting but certainly before the ducks see those first delicious tendrils peeking from the soil.  Believe me, your eyesight has nothing on duck-vision.

2) Zip-ties are a gal’s best friend.  OK, maybe not BFFs but you can certainly count on the inexpensive, sturdy zip-tie to secure temporary fencing zippity split.

3) Remember that plants grow.  Oops, always forget just how much certain veggies sprawl or climb.  I use temp fencing for the pumpkins and move it back gradually as they take over their starter bed and colonize the rest of the lawn (yay—less mowing!!!)

So, with all that in mind, you’re probably wondering why I’m moaning about fencing, especially this late in the season.  Give it to you in one word: GROUNDHOG.**  Yes, this week as I was doing the dishes and enjoying the summery green view, I spotted what at first appeared to be either a very fat squirrel, a double-decker rabbit or, gosh darn, honey, come quick, there’s a beaver on the back lawn.  Wait, that’s no beaver, sweetie, that’s a den-building, burrow-making, get under fences and eat everything you’ve got and also order take-out, honest-to-goodness woodchuck, breaking his fast with our sweet, delicious, recently inter-planted clover***.  Grab the camera!

When I called my mom to report our latest charming visitor, she quickly doused whatever Weather Channel-like enthusiasm I had for the rodent and described the situation in more Bill Murrayish terms.  (Either “Caddyshack”–albeit with a gopher– or early parts of “Groundhog Day”, take your vintage pick!)

“All bets are off,” she declared, in dispiriting funereal tones.

Well, I’m not one to give up easily.  Heck, it’s easy to give up easily, it’s much harder to give up long after it’s clear you should have given up easily to begin with and saved yourself a lot of trouble (and cash!).  So, like any other unreasonable gardener, I’m still maintaining my fences and watching the expansion in the wildlife B & B that the raccoons must be running on Craigslist.  Meanwhile, have no idea what inspired our newest guest to take up his (hopefully) temporary residence.

Was it something the robin tweeted?



Sorry for the focus–they move fast.


* Asking too much, as usual.
** Is that one word?
*** Rabbit-Approved.


Copyright 2013, Lori Fontanes