When one becomes a guerrilla urban gardener (someone who plants unlikely food items among the roses and hydrangea in city yards), it’s war, baby, WAR. Guerrilla urban gardeners must contend with overzealous lawn services armed with indiscriminate weed whackers and neighbors who invade your territory and trample your plot in an attempt to trim trees on property borders. If we ever want to enjoy the fruits of our labor, we must be ever vigilant against bugs and blight.
We also must contend with the swarming critter population, whose only intent is to snarf up tasty, home-grown grub like berries, tomatoes and pears before the gardener has a chance for harvest the veggies. I don’t mind small animals, but they are completely unsustainable. We can’t eat them, and they are not the most courteous dinner guests. They tend to take one bite and move on to the next tender morsel.
Here in my section of Royal Oak, the prevailing critter-pests are squirrels and chipmunks, with an occasional opossum, raccoon and woodchuck wandering through just to make urban life truly rustic. Fed Krispy Kremes by an elderly neighbor (dumb a**!), the squirrels have overpopulated my little block. A few weeks ago while getting an estimate for fence repair (like that’s going to help), at least a dozen pairs of squirrels scampered at our feet. They were procreating, but did they care that they had an audience? Hell, no. This particular invader is arrogant, my friends. One raced right over my foot.
Squirrels are resourceful and can break through screen windows if they see something remotely resembling food. (It happened to us.) Speaking from experience, it’s extremely difficult to dislodge a squirrel from a window rod. Having lived with people for so long, squirrels and their little chipmunk cousins have no fear of the human race.
They also have no fear of house cats and Boston terriers. (It would help if the cat had the requisite courage and the dog could see beyond the end of her nose.)
Fencing and netting does little to deter the animals. Besides, chipmunks are small enough to fit through most netting. Squirrels will plow through, not caring much if they are strangled in the effort.
I am tired of fighting the critter army, but am renewed every time I go out in the backyard and notice another broccoli plant sliced in half or a partially chewed strawberry. Critter dudes: I’d like to have a share in the bounty.
This year I decided to fight fire with small critter repellent. After all, the garden plot is bigger, I put in vastly more work than the squirrels did, and I’d kind of like to have something to show in the end. I don’t grow fruits and vegetables as a charitable mission for glorified rodents.
Be advised that all of the products I have tried have claims of being “organic.” So far, I haven’t died, so I’m guessing that part is correct.
Early in the summer, I tried the product Repels All, which claims to be effective on squirrels, dogs, cats, rats, mice, moles, shrews, beavers and the wandering-far-from-home armadillo. This product can be purchased in a spray bottle, or in a jumbo half-gallon container which can be diluted with water. Since very little seems to affect my rodent friends, I decided to use the undiluted formula straight out of the bottle. It’s messy, it’s liquid, and it doesn’t smell good at all.
I saturated the outer edges of my garden plot. Repels All is quite the nasty, organic product. It is made with dried blood, putrescent egg solids and garlic oil. It is enough to repel human beings and worked for a few days on my critter problem. However, it must be reapplied after three weeks, as rain will wash it away. The effectiveness wore off after a week.
Recently, I picked up a package of Plantskydd for Small Rodents. My local nursery had been bombarded due to a Detroit News article that featured the product and just received a new shipment. Plantskydd is made entirely from dried blood. It’s a dry product and has its own neat little shaker bag. (Word of caution when opening: Stand back. Way back. The granules will fly out at you.)
Plantskydd might be dry, but it also smells God-awful, bad enough for a person like me with an extremely weak stomach to throw up. The grains look like dirt, so it’s very hard to tell if there’s enough coverage. Plantskydd is supposed to last six months. (We’ll see about that.)
My third method of critter attack is the cheap, old fashioned way. (No, not the dog.) I decided to load up on jumbo boxes of cayenne pepper procured from my local Sam’s Club. I sprinkled the pepper over any plant that was even close to looking delicious.
So far, I’ve seen activity, but no lingering.
Under battlefield conditions, even the guerrilla urban gardener doesn’t want to linger for long.