Walking out to upturned plants and torn up dirt on your raised bed is worrying for any gardener. You can usually determine the creature in charge of taking a few moments to survey the scene of this offense. Figuring out the type of animal provides you the essential tools for maintaining the pest away so the damage does not occur again.
Moles and Gophers
Deep holes, particularly those with a mound of dirt built around them, are often the work of a mole or gopher. Gopher holes are usually smaller than binder holes; gophers form their hole in the side of the dirt mound instead of the top. Both animals may also plug in the hole with a thin layer of soil or plant material. Exclusion provides the preferred control system. Line raised beds with 1-inch hardware cloth and bury a strip of this hardware cloth 18 inches deep vertically around the bed to keep the insects out. Castor oil repellents formulated particularly for moles or gophers can also keep them out, but those goods require frequent reapplication and might not work as well as exclusion. Most repellents are nontoxic, come prepared to work with and also can be attached to a hose end sprayer, with 32 oz treating about 10,000 square foot. Follow label directions and safety guidelines.
Small rodents, like voles and mice, can also leave small but deep holes throughout a garden bed. Voles don’t create their own burrows; instead , they borrow the tunnels of other burrowing animals to reach plant roots. Other mice species will burrow and produce their own holes, either to achieve plant roots or for nesting. Placing 1/2-inch hardware cloth over the surface of the dirt keeps small rodents from digging around plants. If the insects are also feeding the aboveground portions of the plants, coat the plants with a repellent containing capsaicin to discourage feeding. Capsaicin products require dilution in the water, usually at the rate of 2 ounces of capsaicin concentrate per 12 1/2 gallons of water; add 1/2 pint of a surfactant to assist the product stick to plant leaves. Although capsaicin is safe for vegetables, the fluid product does cause eye and skin irritation, therefore wear eye protection and protective clothing and avoid the lawn until the product dissolves.
Tree squirrels and ground squirrels are drawn to the delicate soil in a raised garden bed. Tree squirrels usually dig in the soft soil to bury food or hunt out previously unseen caches, though they may also dig up plant roots for feeding. Ground squirrels dig burrows, dig for roots and dig up insects. Both types only feed throughout the day, so that they don’t cause holes in the night. Scare devices, like the ones that move in the end or motion-activated sprinklers, may frighten squirrels away, but exception is more reliable. Cover the bed with 1/2-inch hardware cloth to prevent digging. Capsaicin repellents can also keep them away from the rest of the plants.
Skunks and Raccoons
Skunks and raccoons are accountable for several night holes. Skunk holes go two or three inches deep and usually show visible claw marks on each side. Sometimes skunks dig so widely an whole bed may seem freshly tilled. Raccoons are cluttered diggers, usually pulling up chunks of soil and sod in search of grubs and other food. Skunks can not jump or climb, so elevating the raised bed sides can fully exclude them. Covering the soil with hardware cloth keeps both skunks and raccoons from digging up the lawn.