Gardening with Evelyn: What’s eating my garden?

Skunks are always looking for garden goodies.
(John Gastaldo/U-T )

Rats, rabbits, raccoons. If it’s green it’s great. Gophers, voles and moles, tunneling experts. Skunks, squirrels, possums even wild parrots. Oh deer! That’s right we do have deer in North County. Deer are cute until they eat all your roses. With so many munchers it’s a wonder you have any garden left.

First thing. Get rid of food sources. Bird seeds, dog and cat food. Fruit on the ground; they all attract a lot more than birds. Rats are everywhere this year. If your oranges on the ground have holes eaten into them it is likely rats. Palm trees? Motel 6 for rats. Store pet food in tight metal containers. Rat’s teeth never stop growing so the rat dentist recommends that rats chew on your metal and wood to keep the teeth under control.

Your car is another favorite Rat Motel. Traps let you actually know you were successful but they are scary to set. The experts say that once a rat identifies your trap it won’t touch it again. I believe it. We had a rat that routinely flipped the trap over. Sort of like thumbing his nose at us. There is new non-poisonous products called Ratx. Sometimes it works, other times not. With the winter cold, rats and mice will be looking to come into your warm house and garage.

Two kinds of pesky squirrels. The squirrels are cute in the story books but a real pest in your garden. There is very little you can do. Squirrels can jump fast and scamper around in the trees just waiting for you to turn your back so they can raid your garden. Ground squirrels are actually rodents. They make large round holes in the ground, munch on your plants and undermine banks and bluffs.

Gophers, moles and voles. Gophers will eat anything that attracts their attention. They are especially active in the spring. They can kill a mature fruit tree by gnawing all the way around on the bark. If you are trapping, look for a fresh moist mound of dirt then find the main runway and set traps going both ways. Remember that the gophers usually have a main runway and then make side trips to get to whatever choice there is in your garden. Don’t want to trap? I have had pretty good success with the Sonic probes. I know it just chases the gopher into the next door yard. Sorry! A hungry cat helps too.

Moles and voles make raised tunnels. Moles eat insects and grubs, voles eat your plants. Rabbits are cute little bunny rabbits but they love to munch on your pansies, other flowers and, of course, your vegetables too. They also love your lawn. Look for the little rabbit pellet droppings.

There are a number of deterrent sprays for both rabbits and deer. They stink but only for a day or two. The coyotes are supposed to be nature’s remedy for rabbits but sometimes there are more rabbits than the coyotes can catch. Raccoons are big, smart and vicious if cornered. They love your fountain for washing off food before eating. Take away the water, food and hopefully they will find a happier hunting ground. Possums love avocados and are such friendly creatures. They will come right up to your sliding glass door to say “Hello, How are you and thanks for the avocados.” Skunks, They dig up your best garden beds looking for grubs and other goodies Best deferrent is to use a non-toxic product called Beneficial Nematodes. This microscopic tiny worm-like creature finds the grubs that attract your skunk and destroys them. Use them when the soil is warm.