Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Fighting Over Food

Guest Post by Michelle Mather

Cam has shared many stories about the challenges that wildlife can present in terms of gardening. We keep our main vegetable garden loosely fenced with chicken wire. “Loosely” so that raccoons won’t attempt to climb the fence – if it were taut it wouldn’t keep them out. Deer could jump the fence, but luckily they don’t seem too interested in our vegetable garden at this time of year. We always see them or see signs of their presence in the fall when they make a point of going in and cleaning up the leftover broccoli plants or Brussels sprout plants, etc. By then we’ve finished with the garden and so we don’t mind them using what they can.

One winter day Cam happened to walk through the vegetable garden and saw red stains on the snow. He looked more closely and thought it might be blood! Then he took a closer look and realized that deer had been in the garden and had discovered a few beets that had been overlooked. The deer had dug through an inch of snow and into the frozen ground to gnaw on the frozen beets. Apparently they were still juicy enough to cause the red stains on the snow!

Our strawberry patch is located behind the house and is not fenced in. This year, just after we had picked the last of the berries, Cam noticed that something had been chewing on the leaves of the plants. We’d been competing with chipmunks for the actual berries, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t chipmunks eating the leaves of the plants. A few nights later we happened to spot a deer out back. It was a young deer and it appeared to be grazing on the grass back there. The next night the deer was back but this time Cam caught it in the act of grazing on our strawberry plants! He frightened it away and made a point of tying Morgan the Wonder Dog up in the patch the next few nights to keep the deer away.

Every summer as corn season approaches we have to keep a close eye on it. The local raccoons seem to have some sort of “corn radar” and they know the precise moment that the corn is ready to harvest.  Once again, Morgan earns his keep by sleeping in the corn patch during corn season. If it’s a rainy night though, we give him the night off, as I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to sleep out in the rain. One rainy night the raccoons had a party in our corn patch. We wouldn’t mind so much if they picked an ear of corn and ate the whole thing before choosing another, but they only take one or two bites from each ear before tossing it aside and choosing a new one! A couple of raccoons can go through a whole lot of corn at that rate!

The other morning I discovered a new threat to my plants. I had potted some small basil plants. I decided that I’d better water them and so I filled up my watering can and headed over to my plants. I happened to notice that one pot was missing its basil plant!

I couldn’t imagine any creature wanting to eat a basil plant – I’ve noticed that bugs have been nibbling on the leaves of the plant but they hadn’t taken out a whole plant before! As I got closer to the pot I noticed a pair of eyes looking back at me from the top of the pot.

It was a toad! A rather large toad had decided that my pot looked like a comfy place to sleep so it had dug my basil plant out and wedged himself (or herself) in!


After I had admired the toad and taken a few photos I gently relocated him or her to a cool, shady garden and repotted my basil plant. Deer, raccoons, chipmunks and now toads! It’s hard work protecting our gardens from the wildlife around here!

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3 Comments

  1. That is really funny! We have had something taking my cukes right out of the bed, eating the leaves and leaving the root. I should have replanted it, but I was so pissed off!

  2. John Sanderson

    Hi Cam and Michelle

    I’m trying my hand at growing potatoes this year for the first time. The plants in my potato box are looking fantastic but the ones in a row are being decimated by what appears to be Colorado Potato Beetles and little lady bugs. Picking them off seems effective but I wondered if you had encountered these little beasts and had found other alternate approaches to save the potato crop.

    Our only experience with crop loss otherwise has been one Roma tomato taken by a kid – a stern neighbour noticed this and cleared her throat with a gruff “ahem” from across the street and that limited our loss to one tomato.

    • aztextpress

      Hi John! Oh yes, we are only too familiar with the Colorado Potato Beetle. We pick them off and also keep an eye out for their eggs. They lay a patch of orangey coloured eggs on the back of the leaves. If we find them we remove that leaf and destroy it and the eggs. One thing that Cam has done successfully over the years is to plant an early row of “sacrificial” potato plants. We keep a close watch on this row and kill bugs as we find them. Then we plant the bulk of our potato crop much later and we find that if we’ve been diligent at getting rid of bugs from the early row we have much fewer bugs on the later ones….

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