Defending the Garden

I checked my garden first thing in the morning, as I usually do, before even pulling on my pants. To my dismay, I found that I’d lost another 10 or so corn plants, or twice as many as I lost yesterday. Clearly, what happened yesterday wasn’t an isolated incident; whatever it is that’s eating my plants knows they’re there, and likes them. I don’t blame them. I ate some corn shoots myself, and they’re actually quite tasty (slightly bitter at first, but then surprisingly sweet).

Great. My plan for the day was to lock up camp and head out to the city, and since that trip takes 6 hours, I usually try to leave as early as possible. But it was clear that if I left my garden unprotected, my entire crop could be lost before I returned. Something had to be done.

Before doing anything, I stepped off the dirt and onto the rocks to avoid further contaminating the crime scene, and carefully observed the ground for tracks. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much: a couple of prints that vaguely looked like rabbit, and some marks that might’ve been deer hoof prints. But without solid evidence, I wasn’t even sure what I’d need to protect my garden from. If I wasn’t sure whether it was rabbit or deer, I’ll have to defend against both.

I considered my options. If I were truly awesome in a McGyver-esque fashion, I might’ve concocted a chemical solution using random spices and cleaning liquids, that I could spray on the plants to discourage animals from eating them, without doing harm to the plants themselves. Or, perhaps I would’ve written an iPhone app to emit a frequency that plant eating animals don’t like. No. It should be a robotic sentry. Maybe it’ll even be armed. But know not to shoot at my neighbor when she comes to water the plants.

Rest assured, I only wasted mere seconds –okay, maybe a few minutes– on such fantasies. Obviously, I needed a fence. I surveyed my resources at hand. I had some chicken wire that I bought a while back, though the roll I had was only 2ft wide and 50ft long. Not enough, but it’ll have to do. I had plenty of two-by-fours laying around to use as fence posts, though it took me a while to decide how to erect the posts. One option was to bust out the post hole digger, but I quickly eliminated that option. The dry compacted ground is solid, and rocky. I wasn’t going to dig holes in that kind of ground in this kind of heat, while under time pressure. I eventually opted to build free-standing mobile fence post structure, consisting of two 4ft posts attached on ends of a single 8ft length of 2×4, with legs coming out for stability (and corner braces to keep the whole thing rigid). Two sets of those, and I’d have 4 corner posts. I busted out my power tools, and got to work.

The end result is what you see in the picture above. The chicken wire only goes 18 inches off the ground (6 inches spill onto the ground and are weighted down with rocks to hopefully prevent rabbits from digging underneath), and I strung up some neon pink twine with bright orange flags tied to it a foot or so above the wire, to hopefully discourage deer from stepping over the mesh.

I have to admit, it was a fun project. Since I still wanted to hit the road as soon as possible, I had to think fast and work fast. Running to the hardware store would’ve been too time consuming (at least an hour round trip), so I had to make do with what I had, and I think I did ok. I guess the real question is whether it works. We’ll see…

2 thoughts on “Defending the Garden

  1. You may be underestimating your opposition. That might stop a rabbit, thus narrowing down your list of suspects, but I don’t think that will stop deer. My Grandparents live in Almanor and they had to build a six foot fence around their garden to keep deer out.

  2. To stop a rabbit, or anything else that digs, it should extend at least 12 inches below grade and then 12 inches out. If its deer then try a ‘horizontal fence’ about 6 feet out from your vertical fence and a few inches off the ground. It works like a cattle guard, they won’t walk on it and if they can’t get close enough to the fence then they won’t be able to jump it.

    Also, chicken wire might stop chickens but won’t stop anything that is determined to get in. Think chain link or welded mesh.

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