For the past many years I have been using row cover fabric in the garden in spring to keep squirrels from digging up newly planted veg beds. It has worked beautifully. Until now. But there is backstory. Cue wavy picture and flute-y music for going back back-in-time.

Here we are in late summer 2020. A scrap of torn row cover fabric hangs on the deck stair newel post. The scrap has been hanging there since late spring/early summer when I pulled it off a veg bed. It was part of a larger piece of fabric that had been used a couple of seasons and was now ripped in a few places, with this smaller scrap having torn completely off.

I am sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch and I look out to see a squirrel grab this scrap of fabric and proceed to shove the entire thing in ki’s mouth until ki’s cheeks are bulging and a small wad is all that puffs out from between ki’s lips. Then my squirrelfriend runs off with it to, presumably, line ki’s nest. The whole process of stuffing the much larger than a squirrel scrap of row cover fabric into a small squirrely mouth was an amazing thing to see. At one point I thought my squirrelfriend was choking on it as ki appeared to be heaving and I had a moment of panic because I thought I might need to run out and try to rescue a choking squirrel. Thankfully for the both of us, everything was fine.

I was not concerned about the scrap of row cover fabric finding a new home in a squirrel’s nest because I was going to throw it away, the scrap now being too small to use in the garden. I didn’t give it a second thought.

Early spring in the present and I made that planted box out of an old solid wood dresser drawer and put a piece of row cover fabric on top to keep the squirrels from digging in it. All was going smoothly. The radishes sprouted, the carrots began to sprout, I was feeling good about my experiment’s success.

And then I noticed little rips begin to appear in the row cover fabric. We’d had some really windy weather so I made up a story that the wind pulling on the fabric tucked around the planter box had somehow torn the fabric in a few places.

Until I look out one afternoon to see a squirrel standing in the planter box and pulling on the row cover fabric, trying to tear it. I shooed ki away, tucked the fabric back in and thought nothing of it. The next day when I got home from work I look out onto the deck and see this:

planter box

And of course, to add insult to injury, the squirrel dug the dirt in the planter and killed all of my radish and carrot sprouts. While I stood at the window agog at what had transpired, my squirrelfriend appeared and ran off with the remaining bits of fabric scrap that had been left behind. 

Clearly, the wonder of row cover fabric has run out of magic. But in some ways that is actually ok because the fabric is synthetic and after my current bundle ran out I would not have bought anymore. But, I still have a lot of fabric and now am unable to use it on my veg beds.

Experiment number two is now underway. This experiment is to plant my veg beds with as little digging as possible. Because when a squirrel knows a bed has been dug in, ki thinks there is something good in there and will dig, dig, dig looking for it. We have so far planted peas, kohlrabi, and cabbage and not had any squirrels dig in the beds. This of course may be due to them keeping busy with the row cover fabric on the planter box on the deck. Who knew experiment number one was a decoy for the actual garden planting?

This past week the serviceberry (Juneberry, Saskatoon) bushes burst into flower. If I have the good fortune of all those flowers turning into berries, it is going to be a very good year.

The bush cherries are also covered in pretty pink flowers right now too. Two years ago we moved them from their original location where they were being crowded by raspberries and sunchokes to a new location. Last year we had some cherries from them but it was really a recovery year for them from the transplant. Now that they have recovered, they are doing amazing since they are no longer crowded.

It’s early spring yet here, but the nettles are up and we have had some cooked nettle greens along with sorrel and curly dock (I see I can make flour from curly dock seeds, I feel another experiment coming on!) in various dishes. The dandelions and violets are not blooming yet, but I have my Pomona’s Pectin ready for jam making when they do. The week ahead looks like the weather will be consistently warm finally, so I just might be making dandelion jelly next weekend. That will be experiment number three. 

I love experiments! What experiments have you got going on?

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10 thoughts on “Experiments

  1. Hahaha That’s a good one! And I could HEAR that flute music. You know I love a good squirrel story and have many annoying four-footed friends with whom I have extended conversations several times a day, occasionally over a shared snack of nuts or seeds. But I also can relate to the frustration that comes of that.

    We use the decoy method and leave interesting and freshly unearthed pots of dirt with little half-dug holes, in hopes that the fruitlessness of those searches spares more “significant” plants from getting the digging attention. Also, I’ve become convinced that once one squirrel digs in that spot, it will forever return unless the dirt/material is changed out, so I often remove a whole pile of soil and put it somewhere in the garden and then try to start over. (Obvs, though, this wouldn’t work for sprouting. *sigh*) it doesn’t always work…but sometimes. Maybe it’s just the idea of trying that is some consolation?

    1. LOL BIP we’ve tried decoys before and the little stinkers go for the decoy AND the things we are trying to distract them from. I truly admire their persistence, resilience and ingenuity but I just wish they would practice it in someone else’s garden! 😀

  2. I like experiments of all kinds (although not of the garden variety, since I have none). I love watching squirrels, the ones we have here (red – Europeans) are excessively shy and wouldn’t dare taking away your cover! Among my recent experiments: trying this birch sap water that many rave about (I only bought a very small carton, and didn’t like the taste), tracking my social media time everyday for a month (with shocking results, I’ve done it in March and I do it again in May), and I try to introduce 2 new recipes every month with various level of success with my kids.

    1. I wish our squirrels were excessively shy! I have never heard of birch sap water before. But tacking your social media time, good for you for doing that! I get a report every week on my phone how much time I spend on it but I don’t keep track of my computer use and what I do there. While I am pleased with how little time I spend on my phone, I know I spend way too much time on my computer! That’s wonderful doing two new recipes a month! I hope you find some to add to the regular meal plan 🙂

  3. Your experiments sound amazing! I’m sorry your sprouts got dug up. This is my second mention of nettles I’m reading today, so maybe the universe is trying to tell me something? The first was someone i follow on Instagram making pesto from nettles.

    1. Laila nettle pesto is delicious! Also very good for you. We make it at my house in the summer. It has a very green flavor but not in an unpleasant way. If you try it, let know what you think!

  4. That is funny. My rascals are deer… they have munched several rhododendrons down to sticks (ARG) and it is a battle keep them away from the roses. I love to watch them but I always try to scare them away (reluctantly) when they show up in the yard. I am just starting to think about planting; we’ve been doing a ton of yard work this year but I have neglected the garden beds other than putting cardboard over them to smother some weeds from last year. I need to see what’s ready to plant and review my garden plans. The garlic (an experiment last fall) is coming up beautifully so that’s exciting. I also moved all my lavender into one area (rather than have it scattered around the yard) since it has not been as beautiful as I’d hoped. Maybe grouped it will look better. We are feeling very inspired in the yard this year so we are busy busy busy like your squirrel friend!

    1. Squirrels are annoying but I am so glad I don’t have to deal with deer! Happy to hear your garlic is doing well! Have fun with your yard inspirations! I love hearing about them 🙂

  5. A friend and I are experimenting with ground hog repellent for holes we want them to abandon because they’re too near our houses. So far we’ve tried apple cider vinegar and used cat litter, with mixed success. Next up we’ll try some crushed garlic. We’ve read they don’t like pungent smells. Neither do we!

    1. Oh wow Jeanne, groundhogs sound serious! I hope the crushed garlic works. If not at least you won’t have to worry about vampires for a little while 🙂

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