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Maybe They're Just Thirsty! Tricks To Keep Chipmunks From Eating Your Strawberries

Chipmunk with strawberry
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Small animals like chipmunks, squirrels, moles and voles will treat your vegetable gardens like a free, all-you-an-eat salad bar. Learn some simple, organic methods to combat their munching and keep them at bay.

Squirrels, chipmunks, moles and voles can wreak havoc in your flower and vegetable garden. These small animals can be controlled with a variety of organic methods, like spicy repellents and even squirt guns!

The best methods rally around prevention. With some planning, you can keep small animals far from your gardens and raised beds and remove the temptation for them to snack on your fruits and veggies.

One such technique is to think about their habitat. Mice, voles and shrews are all small creatures that need hiding places. Usually, those hiding places are tall grasses and weedy areas so cleaning up those areas near your gardens can help a lot.

Chipmunks like hiding places, though they prefer rock and stone piles and wood piles. If you can move those away from your garden, that keeps chippies further from your garden and the tempting fruits and veggies it contains.

Also, try to leave an area near your garden that is mowed. Chipmunks won't want to be exposed to hawks and owls and won't traverse that shortly trimmed grass next to your garden.

When it comes to the acrobatic critter, the squirrel, there isn’t a lot you can do. For habitat adaptation, you might try separating fruit trees. By moving fruit trees further apart, squirrels won’t be so easily able to jump from one tree to the other and eat your peaches and plums!

Baffles around the bases of your fruit trees can make it tougher for squirrels to scale the trees and snack on the fruits. Also, try removing nearby bird feeders that make for great squirrel launching pads.

As far as keeping mice and voles from digging up and under your gardens and raised beds, your best preventative measure may be to use hardware cloth.

If you have raised beds, put the cloth underneath them, then the rodents can't tunnel underneath and eat root vegetables and other tasty things growing in the soil.

Better yet, elevate your raised beds on stilts to keep the moles and voles from digging under them. This method of raising the garden beds will be easier on your knees and back!

That same hardware cloth can also help keep chipmunks out of your gardens. Dig the cloth down into the soil around your beds, about eight to 10 inches deep. This prevents them from tunneling underneath. For extra chippy deterrent, cover the top with chicken wire.

Another simple tip is to keep water out for small animals. When the weather is hot and dry, squirrels and chipmunks will often eat your fruits and vegetables because they're thirsty. Placing a small pool of water, a birdfeeder (as long as it's tucked away and can't be accessed by predators like hawks and owls) in your yard might deter them from your strawberries and your tomatoes!

And then finally, there are all kinds of different organic repellent sprays that can help. Some are oil-based sprays with strong-smelling and tasting elements that small animals don't like. The sprays can contain spicy stuff like peppermint oil, cinnamon, cayenne and garlic, or even animal urine.

Whichever spray you choose, the key is to use it early and often and rotate the different kinds of sprays, as small animals will become accustomed to the taste and smell and it will be less effective as a deterrent.

One last organic method is using an ultrasound device buried in your yard to repel small animals, though there is no real evidence that they work.

Q: I decided to just plant five Waltham butternuts to combat cucumber beetles and hold off on the zucchini and cukes to try to attract all the cuke beetles to these plants. Do they have a cycle, when there will no longer be any beetles reproducing, or do they exist all season long? - Anne Marie, in Pawlet

Cucumber beetles are ubiquitous but hopefully your plants will get big enough so they won’t decimate them.

Whether you're growing squash or cucumbers or melons, hang a product that looks like a yellow card coated with a sticky substance found at your local garden center.

Cucumber beetles are attracted to the yellow color and the sticky stuff traps and kills them. It won't get rid of all of them, but it will reduce the population.

Another method is to dust plants with diatomaceous earth. The beetles don't like the powdery substance, though avoid sprinkling the powder on flowers and wherever the honey bees are.

And growing cukes, melons and squash in an elevated situation like on a straw bale or even in a big container also works to combat cucumber beetles. They'll have a harder time finding the plants if they are higher up.

Q: My two birch trees on Lake Hortonia which have been infected with some insects that are dropping what look like tiny capers all over my deck, table, any surface under the trees. I have to broom and hose down surfaces every morning. Help! - Linda, in Sudbury

This is lymantria dispar dispar, formerly known as the gypsy moth. You may notice that the caterpillars are pupating now. Soon they'll start emerging as small brown moths. That is the adult form of the LDD caterpillar. The moths will start laying eggs on the trees and most any other surface in August and September.

If you find these brown masses of eggs from the LDD moth, destroy them now and that will reduce the population for next year.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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