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Who’s eating my garden?

When the level in the rain gauge was going higher and higher as the rain continued to fall, we decided to take a quick walk down by the creek to see how the banks were holding up.

We walked by the garden on our way and I was shocked to see all my lettuce “mowed” down, Milkweed broken over and all the leaves on the violets completely chewed off.

In the past two rainy days, a family of groundhogs had decided to take up residence under my potting shed. They had the usual two entrances established, one in front and one in back. Rocks were carefully pulled back to allow easy access to the warm and dry area under the shed.

Then, as we arrived at the cabin, I was greeted with more plant carnage. Most of my hostas have been relieved of their leaves. I am sure that this is the work of a hungry doe with a fawn that we have seen every evening down by the cabin this past week. Ah … the joys of wildlife.

Daylilies trimmed in the front yard, hostas with bare stems on the hillside, but those thistles are still surviving by the lower drive. The deer had even pruned the jewelweed along the tree line.

What’s a gardener to do? The squirrels and chipmunks are still digging in the pots on my deck occasionally, but the repelling granules seem to help.

As I read more about groundhogs (woodchucks), I was surprised to learn that they can climb as high as 20 feet to dine on leaves and fruit, but usually feel safer in lower branches that allow quicker descent and escape.

Groundhogs relish field crops, such as alfalfa and soybeans, but they also like most homegrown vegetables, including lettuce, broccoli, spinach, peas, beans and squash. They love berries and fruit as well as many herbaceous ornamentals. A foraging family of groundhogs can clear a small vegetable garden in less than a week. Gardens close to wooded or sheltered areas are more likely to be attacked than a small garden in an open area.

Fencing can help keep groundhogs out of the garden, but the fence must be strong, about four feet tall, and buried to a depth of at least one foot.

One of my books recommends electric-mesh fencing as a solution. My research will continue, as will the fortifying of my enclosed garden.

Did you get those garlic scapes harvested before they started to bloom? My father-in-law bragged about his cucumber harvest yesterday. I am so ready for a big bowl of cucumbers and onions.

Don’t forget to email your gardening questions to Brown County Master Gardener volunteer Mike Hannah at mhannah2@msn.com.

Here’s hoping our gardens survive all this rain.

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