Since my garden has taken on a second life, I have been keeping the Havahart trap armed and ready for action. I’ve come a long way since catching that first woodchuck. I no longer scream when I discover a critter inside the trap. I have a process down that when I see that I’ve trapped something, I call this man who comes over and removes the critter to a place far, far away. I still am too scared to release the critter by myself. I also have the perfect recipe down to put inside the trap–two chunks of cantaloupe, two chunks of apple, a carrot, a stalk of celery and two cabbage leaves by the entrance to entice the critter to enter the trap versus the garden. It seems to be working although recently I’ve mixed into racoons versus woodchucks. I know what kind of destruction a woodchuck can create in a garden. What about the racoons? Does anyone have garden issues caused by racoons? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of garden woes caused by racoons, but I’m sure there are stories. At best, the racoons have gotten into our garbage can and made a mess, but I have never seen them among the rows of vegetables out in my backyard.
There is a part of me though that is still sad every time the man takes the animals away. It’s sort of a feeling that I’m putting the balance of nature in my backyard out of whack. That I’m disrupting some sort of backyard ecological balance. Isn’t nature all about survival of the fittest? I’ve read stories on other blogs of people battling nature in order to grow a garden, so I know I’m not alone. I guess it’s just another one of the tough and crazy decisions you have to make when you start a garden.
I’ve always believed that getting the best results out of gardening starts with simply listening to all the advice that exists out there and then just doing what feels natural. You do what feels right in the pit of your stomach. Sometimes this feeling makes you do things that no one has told you to do and might seem a little crazy to the ordinary man, but you decide to do them anyway. Most of the time, following your gut helps yield successful results. It makes you feel that you know best about what works in your garden. You are one with the soil. When doing something out of the ordinary gets you great results, you begin to share your ideas with others and you hope that they will follow what you are telling them. Sometimes you feel like a scientist when doling out your advice and sometimes you feel like a quack. I realized that there really aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules out there for gardeners, but there is loads of advice. This weekend I started to think about all the gardening advice I have received over the years and then I started to wonder how much of this advice was simply old wives’ tales that I have been told time and time again and how much of the advice that I follow was based on fact?
Most of the wives’ tales I know about the garden came from my Grandma. You know what I’m talking about. Those old gardening tips that are sort of urban legend, like a proverb, and are generally passed down by an older generation to a younger generation. Such “tales” usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details. I can think of two things that I was always told to do in the garden by my Grandma that I’m not sure helps or not. Garden wives’ tale or not, that is the question!
The first is to always remove all “suckers” from your tomato plants because all of the plant’s energy will go to the “sucker” and not to the growing fruit. A “sucker” is the little stem that grows out from between two healthier stems. Think of it as a little stem that is growing from the middle of stems that are in a “V” formation. I think this makes sense and I do it all the time. Too many branches on the tomato would require more energy to keep the branches alive and growing. By simply pinching the “suckers” off, less energy is utilized for stem production and this energy instead goes into the making of a tomato that is bigger, sweeter and juicier than if you didn’t attend to those little “suckers”. So in my garden, you will always see perfect “V” formation tomato stems. Also, think back to the old days when I’d be in the tomato patch with my Grandma and she was screaming out “SUCKERS” for all to hear!
WIVES’ TALE OR FACT: FACT–in my humble opinion
My Grandma’s next rule had to do with toads in the garden. Finding a toad in your garden was one of the luckiest things she could imagine. I agree in concept that toads eat bugs and so having a toad or two in the garden is helpful in keeping the bug population down. However, my Grandma said if you ever removed a toad from your garden, your garden would suffer from blight. To her, toads were like her garden soldiers. Toads were good luck and you didn’t want to curse yourself by removing one and making it angry. For whatever reason, my garden is a toad haven. Even though I don’t really believe the curse warning, I never remove one. Why take such a risk? I have enough problems in the garden with woodchucks and all of that. Why would I deliberately try to anger my toads and make them whip up a nasty curse?
WIVES’ TALE OR FACT: TALE
So suckers and toads are a couple of the wives’ tales/facts I remember related to the garden. Sure there were others I remember not pertaining to the garden (i.e., Never sleep with the curtains open when the moon is full. If a moon beam hits you, you turn crazy.), but that’s another post. Are there other garden wives’ tales out there or any hard and fast facts that we should all adopt in our routines? If you have one, leave a comment and let me know what it is. This Summer, I’m needing all the help I can get when it comes to gardening.
This is not the greatest way to start your Sunday. When the
Saint animal control guy first came to the house to remove the woodchuck I had caught in my Havahart trap, he said that where there is one, there are several. Guess what, he was right!
Let’s start the story from where we last left off with our woodchuck gossip. As a precaution to keep what’s left of my garden in a healthy state, I have continued setting my trap as much as possible to deter my new woodchuck neighbors. Several plants have snapped back after being eaten by a woodchuck earlier in July and I vowed to keep it that way. Last weekend, the food that I had loaded the trap with came up missing with nothing to show for it. I had actually seen a chipmunk run in and bring out a piece of cantaloupe, so I figured that the food was going out in that manner–to an animal very light in weight so that it doesn’t trip the trap, but crafty enough to get the bait out.
This Sunday morning, I woke up and looked out the window as I do every morning that the trap is set. The door was closed! I crept out in pajamas and my garden boots. I listened for any sounds coming out of the trap–silence. I lightly kicked the trap. If you were inside a cage and trapped and then someone kicked the trap, wouldn’t you run around a little or at least give out a scream? I got zip. So I took my scissors and cut open the black contractor bag I had placed around the trap. Look at what was on the other side looking at me………
#2 is much smaller than #1 and less crazy. Less crazy meaning #2 isn’t slamming itself against the trap door to try to escape. I have to say that I am still not brave enough to pick up the trap and empty it, but I was less crazed than the first time I caught one. Who knows, by the time I catch #6 in my trap, I might be a real frontier man. I could live with the Laura Ingalls Wilder family on Plum Creek and trap my own food and drink water out of a stream. Who am I kidding? I’ll never be like that….and please God, don’t let there be 6!
The battle with Woodchuck was a short one. Within an hour and a half of setting my Havahart trap on Sunday, I came home to see the trap door shut and something was inside. By the force that this mystery creature was hitting against the door in hopes of breaking it open and escaping, I knew it was most likely my nemesis, Woodchuck. Since it was still daylight, I also knew it was most likely not a raccoon, a possum or a skunk. Although I was the victor, it didn’t all go down so well. This email was sent late Sunday evening, July 15, to a person that worked with us early this gardening season to get rid of whatever was eating my garden:
Subject: HELP!! Our Saddest Request For Services Yet
I’m sure you will enjoy this, but remember how I had called you and you found a firm that set traps and tried to catch whatever was eating my garden? I think it was like Enviro Care or Bio Care…something like that. Well, after they left at the end of a week’s time, the animal that was destroying my garden struck again a few times. Basically ruined my garden!! So I thought I could trap the animal myself and then remove it to somewhere far away. So I bought a Havahart trap and set it this weekend thinking I could catch the woodchuck (what I swear is eating my garden). I did just what the company you sent us did and put the trap into a contractor garbage bag so the critter wouldn’t know what it was and stuffed it with ripe cantaloupe. If I caught the animal, I was sure I could take it somewhere far away.
Well, I caught it. I caught something. I think it is a woodchuck, but can’t really tell because I can’t get the trash bag pulled down far enough to see it. I saw a paw only and that was enough to freak me out. It was a paw with yellow-like claws…sickening. I am not man enough to get the rest of the trash bag off and then take the trapped animal to a new place very far away from Glen Road. The paw, claw and the smell (a dirty smell; not a skunk smell at all) were enough to set me free. I can’t do it. Is it possible to call that company again and have them come get rid of the animal? I would like to get my trap back and keep setting it and then be able to call them to get rid of whatever I catch if that is ok with them, so let me know their number and contact information again after you call them.
Sorry for this, but I thought I was tougher than what I turned out to be. 🙂 If this company can come and remove the animal far away and then bring my trap back, that would be great. I’ll set the trap again so if I have their number I would like to call if I catch anything so they can come again and remove it. This will save them some time and help me grow a garden. Let me know what they say.
The trap picture above contains the critter. The person from the removal company did come back very early on Monday morning and moved the animal in the trap to a new location far away. He confirmed to me that it was Woodchuck. My trap is now reset in its same spot in case any Woodchuck family members decide to come and feast on my garden. You want to know the truth? While I am glad that my garden may be able to grow a little during the rest of the Summer, I feel bad about trapping and moving Woodchuck. Woodchuck was a part of Glen Road just like I am. Maybe he should have been able to stay?? I guess Woodchuck should have planted his own garden to eat and then things would have been fine….or would they have been?
DEAD OR ALIVE
Yes, it’s you I’m talking to Woodchuck. Your crime? Crimes against humanity. Crimes against a garden, it’s owner and all the vegetables and flowers you’ve destroyed. After what you’ve done while I was on vacation means that I have to take our battle up a notch. It’s me versus you. Man versus beast. One of us has to go and it’s not going to be me…..I have way too many things that I’d have to pack. I knew something was up in my garden and now I am keenly aware that it is not a slug problem. How do I know it’s you, Woodchuck? It all starts the morning after my return from Las Vegas and a walk back to the garden. These are the green beans that I saw and now grow. No slug could do this. I found the hole you dug under the fence and looked at all your destruction.
YOU GOTS TO GO!!
As someone who loves to garden, seeing my garden in bad shape was pretty devastating. I tried to stop the damage early, as many of you have read, and thought that I had been successful. Between the fence, the company that came and set traps and moved animals to another location and the various slug removal ideas made it look like I was beyond the destruction that had been occurring. I felt so smart!! Well, that is not the case anymore. I’m taking matters into my own hands. I am going to become my own Daniel Boone and catch Woodchuck on my own.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
How? I bought a woodchuck sized Havahart trap. I saw how the firm that came early this season set their trap up. They put their trap inside a black contractor’s garbage bag. Makes it look less like a trap and more like a dark little tunnel to those smart woodchuck critters. I can do that. They filled it with onions. I’m going to do one better….I have read a number of internet articles and I’m filling my trap with ripe cantaloupe, sliced onions and seafood flavored cat chow. I am going to put the food in the front of the trap, in the middle of the trap and then in the back so that when Woodchuck gets back there, it will trip the lever and the door will come down and trap it. I’ve decided that on Friday and Saturday night, I will not set the trap, but fill it with food. Woodchuck will come both days and eat the food and get used to the set up. Then I’ll set it on Sunday and hope that Woodchuck feels comfortable going inside the trap and then I’ll get it.
I WILL WIN!!
Right now, I’m pretty sure I will be able to remove the cage if I catch Woodchuck and open it far away from Glen Road so that the animal can get out. Well, let’s say I’m 75% sure I can do this. I have never really liked critters, so there is always the small chance I will need someone else to do it. I’m feeling confident though since I know that if I can’t do this, then my garden will be done for this season (if it isn’t already!).
DOWN WITH WOODCHUCKS
I’m more concerned about Woodchuck getting aggressive with me than I am about overcoming my fear of critters. I think I’m pretty smart, but reading on the internet about woodchucks makes me believe they are smart too. What if Woodchuck tries to trap me?!?! Here’s hoping I’m working against a dumb woodchuck versus a smart one. I’ll keep you posted…………..
It happens every year. You plant your garden and know deep down inside of you that there will be some sort of problem that happens before you even harvest your first vegetable. You get yourself ready for the disappointment. You think about what will be the type of bug that wipes something out. If it is not a bug, maybe some sort of critter. You look at all of your plantings and try to figure out which one will be affected. You vow to do your best to combat whatever it is that is hurting your garden. Then it happens. This year, I’m calling the problem “The Case Of The Murdered Cabbages”. I swear to you that three hours after planting my cabbage plants, I returned to the garden to find the little plants munched down to almost nothing by some sort of villain. The problem is that I just couldn’t figure out who the culprit was.
What would do this so quickly and thoroughly? While I was digging some cabbages up and replacing them with new plants and trimming the little arms of others, it dawned on me. It was a woodchuck. Why you ask? Well, the Notorious B. I. G. (Brooklyn Italian Grandmother) had mentioned that she saw a furry animal running around the back yard a couple of times during the week. Since raccoons only come out at night, I just knew it was a woodchuck she had seen and the same critter ate my baby cabbages. Remember, the fence around the back yard keeps the deer out, so my only logical solution had to be that a woodchuck had squeezed under the fence and ate my cabbages. Always having a flair for the dramatic, I quickly put a two-step plan of action in motion. First, I would put a small fence around my new raised beds. Yes, it is a fence within a fence. I quickly worked to build a small green plastic fence around my two new raised beds and then the new secured garden would have the deer fence around it as well for added protection. Second, I would call a local hunter that I knew from the area and have him lay a couple of humane traps. The traps would catch the critter and then we could transport it to a far away wooded area where it could eat dead leaves and weeds. That’s what a woodchuck eats for dinner…not baby cabbage plants. The fence was installed….the traps were laid……all was good in cabbage land.
Then it happened again! Nearly a week later. When I saw the little nibbled purple cabbage plants, I got weak in my knees. How could this happen again? After spending $200 on my make-shift fence and trapping a raccoon, a squirrel and some other type of critter that my friend told me I didn’t want to know about, the cabbage murderer was still stalking the premises. I felt violated. I felt angry. I wanted revenge.
It was off to the nursery for some more cabbage plants. I had run out of the ones that I grew from seeds under my grow light. At the nursery, I told my murder mystery story to anyone who would listen. One of the nursery employees told me that it sounded like a slug infestation. Slugs? Those little snail-like creatures without a shell? Could they do this much damage? Can they eat this much? I left with some new cabbage plants and some Sluggo, an organic pellet that kills slugs dead. I also put out two bowls filled with beer. Slugs like their booze. When they reach for the beer, they fall into the suds and then that’s it for them. They drown, but drown drunk, which is probably the best way to go in my opinion. So far the Sluggo and beer seem to be working. My cabbages seem to be growing.
I’ll keep you posted. Also, if you see the displaced raccoon, squirrel and the unnamed creature that I had transported to another wooded area, let them know I am sorry and I will pick them up and bring them back to Glen Road on Saturday afternoon. As well, let me know if you have any ideas (other than a slug) on what is eating my cabbage. Help me solve “The Case Of The Murdered Cabbages”.