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Jessica’s Garden: Keeping Pesky Visitors at Bay

As we turn more and more soil for gardens at the farmhouse, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that we have great soil quality here.  At our old home, we had builder-grade, lackluster, red clay soil that needed attention each spring before it could be planted.  The soil at the farmhouse, while unturned for likely at least fifty years, is rich and dark and teeming with earthworms.  While it’s healthy, it’s very rocky.  Not having been tended in such a long time, or possibly ever, there are endless rocks and pebbles.  And sometimes even a few relics; a piece of old glass, a tincture bottle or a hunk of rusty metal.

photo-1-1-225x300Many garden veggies do not mind rocky soil in my experience, and in fact some thrive in it.  My tomatoes, peppers and squashes have never seemed to mind.  But vegetables that grow under ground, such as potatoes, carrots and beets require rock- free soil.  As part of my Mother’s Day gift this year, I asked my husband to build me two raised beds for some of these veggies.  We have lined them with a couple of layers of landscape fabric to tame our Bermuda grass, my biggest garden enemy at this point.  They are to be filled with a compost and screened soil mix to give a healthy start to the plants.

The raised beds are small.  We decided to make them 8’x4′ to save on lumber costs, as lumber comes in 8′ sections. Each box required only 6 pieces of lumber.  My husband built them about 12″ deep so the carrots would have plenty of room to grow.  The next obstacle is proofing them against those adorable and pesky woodland creatures.  While cute, they will destroy new growth in a matter of moments.

Our main vegetable garden has a substantial fence around it.  We built a 10′ high fence last year since we were unsure of the deer situation at the new house.  Which apparently has turned out to be overkill as I have yet to see a deer. Just an exorbitant number of rabbits.  The bottom 2′ of the fence is rabbit fencing, and the top 8′ is a wider gauge fence, intended to keep out deer.

I have been asked recently how I handle rabbits on the property.  At this point, fencing has been key.  I’ve found that if rabbits are your issue, a 24-30″ tall wire fence, either chicken wire or something specifically for rabbits is effective and ideal.  It’s easy to work with and install and also an affordable solution.  But there are a couple of hacks that work as well.  I have hung chunks of Irish Spring Original Scent bar soap in pieces of stockings and mate-less socks at 7-10′ intervals around a garden edge.  Cut the bar of soap into 6 pieces; you don’t need much for it to be effective.

The same method can be applied but substitute the soap with human hair. While this admittedly sounds a bit disgusting, it works.  I sometimes save the hair from when I give my husband and son their haircuts.  It can also be saved and used from emptying a hairbrush. I have heard of people even contacting their local barber and asking for the day’s clippings.  To each their own, I’ll personally be sticking with my family’s hair.

photo-2-1-300x300There are also a few plants that work as rabbit deterrents.  When planted around a garden perimeter, both nasturtium and marigolds will help to keep rabbits from invading a garden.  Both will encourage pollination from bees and, as an added benefit, both are also edible flowers.  Grayson and I grew both this year with our Botanical Interests seed stash we picked up in the Spring; the marigolds are already blooming nicely.  And this week, we have our first hot pepper almost ready for the picking!

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. After 4 months of hard work, entire crop of chinese AA Toi (grows like lettuce) in 4 large pots 24″ high & 20″ in diameter were found & devoured by animal (suspect possum or racoon) down to 1″ of roots in spite of stockings filled w/Irish Spring & smaller pots of marigolds w/in 6 1/2′ foot fenced in yard. What else will help?

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