Repel, expel or fence well. Those are the three best, non-lethal approaches to preventing varmint damage in any vegetable garden.
Rox and I go into some detail about this in the Veggie CSI presentation we’re giving at the garden shows this year. You can hear the whole spiel, should you catch us on stage at this weekend’s Johnson County Home and Garden Show at the Overland Park Convention Center.
The takeaway: while trapping and using repellents work for awhile, fencing is the only sure-fire way to keep furry critters from stealing you blind of fresh produce, or making it impossible to even get to the picking stage by nibbling your plants down to the nub.
The type of fence depends on the varmint you’re trying to keep out. Were you to build the most fool-proof all-purpose fence, it would be seven feet high (to keep out the deer) and buried two feet deep, angled out at 45 degrees (to keep out the gophers). It would have chicken wire with holes no bigger than two inches strung around the bottom of the enclosure to keep rabbits from squeezing through the deer fence and there’s be bird netting stretched over the top of it to keep the squirrels from parachuting in.
Oh, yes, and you might want to electrify the whole thing just to be on the safe side.
Most gardeners are not that maniacal. Nor are most of us plagued with every pest. For instance, we’ve never seen deer approach Mike and Roxie’s Vegetable Paradise. Rabbits and squirrels are more of a concern — and occasionally opossums or raccoons. We’re not sure which went after our squash last year.
So we make do with a rabbit fence that I built several years ago. We have a pretty good sized garden, about 30’x50′. That’s why I went to a little more trouble than simply staking up some poultry netting, aka chicken wire, although that is an option for a small garden patch.
The wire fencing I suggest is 2 feet high and comes in rolls of varying lengths. I needed a lot of it for our garden, as well as plenty of framing lumber to create fence panels that can be taken down and stored for winter.
What I do is staple the steel netting/wire onto 2’x8′ frames constructed from 1″ x 2″ furring strips.
I use nails to attach the tops and bottoms to the sides and a center support piece of the frames. But if you wanted to get fancy you could use screws and brackets.
That way you might not have to do as much maintenance every year as I do. The bottom rails tend to rot away after a couple of years of contact with the ground, even if you stain the framing. Probably only a year, if you don’t.
The good news is that the fix is cheap. Home Depot was selling construction-grade 1’x2’s this weekend for 75 cents a piece.
How do I know this? Seeing as how we’re headed for what looks to be an early spring, I spent a good part of this weekend getting our rabbit fence ready for action.
I was tempted to toss all of them them out and start over, but that wouldn’t be the Mike and Roxie way of doing things on the cheap. Plus, it would have been wasteful.
So I ended up replacing most of the rotten lumber. Bought 18 of those cheap 8 foot furring strips at HD and wound up with only one extra, and I’ll likely end up using it, too.
It was tedious work, but it will be worth it come spring. My, how the bunnies look so sad as they peer through the fence at all the greenery they might have eaten, were it not for darn fence.
Posted by: Mike .