Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Garden gadgets

About a year ago, Brian and I discovered that our eggplant crop was being poached by squirrels. The stupid rodents weren't even eating them; they were yanking the tiny fruits off the plant and then, apparently, realizing that they weren't nuts and discarding them. So we realized that if we hoped to harvest any eggplant this year, we'd need some way to keep the little varmints' mitts off them. We tried pepper spray last year, but it was kind of a hassle to deal with; because it washes off whenever it rains, which happens pretty frequently in the summer, we had to keep reapplying it several times a week (and it turned out to be too late to save any of our eggplants, anyway). So this year, we figured we'd see what we can do about creating some kind of physical barrier.

Introducing the Hudson SQ-X Squirrel Excluder. Basically, it's just a cage constructed of chicken wire, large enough to fit over two eggplants planted side by side. It's not foolproof, because the holes in the mesh are still small enough for squirrels to fit their paws through, so any eggplant that forms right next to the edge of the cage will be within their grasp. But my hope that they're either to dumb to figure out that they can reach through the wire, or smart enough to figure out that even if they did, they wouldn't be able to get the eggplants out. The plants are just beginning to form fruits, so we'll see how it does. If we can manage to protect the eggplants until they reach the size of an actual egg, I think we'll be okay; surely the squirrels should be able to identify them as not-a-nut by then.

And talking of makeshift gadgets for the garden, check out Brian's other new device: the Hudson SQ-SL Squash Sling. Our butternut squash plants already have good half-dozen healthy-sized squash on them (much better than what we got last year), and they were getting big enough to weigh down the vines and pose a risk of pulling them loose from the trellises. Mel Bartholomew, of Square Foot Gardening fame, actually says this hasn't been a problem for him—the stems just get bigger and thicker as the squash do, so they have no trouble holding up their weight. But Brian doesn't like to take chances, so he fashioned some sling supports out of something we already had a plentiful supply of: the mesh bags that onions come in. We'd been saving these up in a cardboard box, figuring that all this tough but loose netting was bound to be the ideal material for something, sometime, and now it's finally being put to use. So even if the slings aren't strictly necessary, they've at least served to justify our months if not years of bag hoarding.

Now all we need is some sort of system to keep the birds from eating all our new bush cherries, and we should be in good shape.
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