A furry pest in the garden

I’m starting to think it might not have been the birds that ate our strawberries.

Let’s backtrack.

Perhaps you have heard of our family pet, Schnauzer Cheap.

We’ll call him SC.

SC loves to eat. The highlights of his day are breakfast and dinner. He also loves fruits and vegetables. He happily munches anything we drop on the floor: an occasional almond, a piece of carrot, bell pepper, a bit of apple, onion, cucumber, corn … loves it.

In fact, he gets almost as excited when he smells that we are peeling a carrot as when we are preparing meat. Sometimes we give him carrots for training treats, and he will eagerly perform his repertoire for a bite of veggie.

So, the other night, I was knitting on the couch downstairs. SC came thundering down the stairs. He stopped in front of me and looked at me proudly.

With a mouthful of green beans, freshly plucked out of our garden, dangling from the sides of his muzzle.

It was pretty funny. SC and I can communicate without words, and I’m pretty sure he was saying, “Look, ma — I’m doing my part to eat local! 100-foot diet and all!”

But of course, I was thinking, “My haricots verts! I didn’t even eat any yet!”

So, I took SC up and scolded him, took his beans away, and first thing in the morning we redecorated the garden to keep him out.

Also at that time, Mr. Cheap confessed that he caught SC earlier this year, with part of a pea vine dangling from his furry black lips. Thus, the lack of pea harvest just might be explained. Yeah, right: The “birds” ate the baby pea plants. The birds that SC obsessively chases out of our yard. Inspector Poirot, I’m not.

Some people have elk, we have an omnivorous schnauzer.

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Keep birds out of the garden

"snake"So you’re growing your own food. Great! Then the birds come in and eat your plants.

Not great.

Birds like to eat seedlings and fruit. I know of several methods to keep them away:

  • Use floating row cover for seedlings. Weight down the edges — you can use the fancy pins they sell, or just use dirt or rocks. When the leaves get to be 4″ or so, birds won’t eat most plants. (This is what we didn’t do soon enough with our peas … and the plants never lived to grow up. 😦 )
  • Use netting for trees. We got ours at a yard sale last year, via Craigslist. You drape it over the tree, and birds don’t want to tangle with it. Theoretically. (However, at a pick-your-own farm we went to last year, birds were INSIDE the net – not a pretty situation. They were scared AND eating the fruit. So use with caution.)
  • Use CDs a la Juliette Binoche (who used mirrors) in The English Patient. We have strung CDs (obviously, ones you don’t want back – the old, ubiquitous AOL CDs were perfect for this) on garden twine. When dangled over your garden plants, they sway and glisten in the sunlight — making the beds feel too risky for birds. (Pie tins can work, too — and it’s worth a try in fruit trees.)
  • Cut an old garden hose into 10-12″ lengths and lay it in the garden. Move it around when you are out. The “snake” might intimidate some of your feathered friends. (I just spotted what looked like a canyon wren — perhaps on its way to or from the mountains — prowling cockily around our lettuce seedlings and threw a couple of “snakes” into the garden — we’ll see if it works!)
  • Make somewhere else more worth their while. Put bird seed in an area far from your garden.
  • If you’re growing seed plants, like sunflowers, try covering the head with an old pantyhose so it can grow or dry, but birds can’t feast.
  • Get a dog or cat. It’s not THE reason to get a pet, but if you are considering it already, add it to your arsenal of reasons why. Our dog tears out toward the garden and scares the birds away, and between him and the neighborhood cat contingent, squirrels never venture onto the ground away from a tree out there.

What else works for you?