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A Call to Arms

May 25th, 2010

On Friday I spotted a baby groundhog in the garden. It startled me and I startled it. It ran down into the woods and got me thinking about protecting my crops from the groundhogs. I have everything protected with floating row covers, but groundhogs are crafty creatures and they’ll gnaw through anything to get at their favorite crops, in this case my peas that are just about to bloom!

I went out later in the day and spotted FOUR baby groundhogs in the garden. They are cuties, but not cute enough to let them mow down everything in the back garden. I knew then that we’d have to do something besides hope that they wouldn’t eat all of our crops. Every hour or so for the last 2 days I went out and scared them out of the garden area. Yesterday since we were at the cabin all day I couldn’t scare them away and they gnawed through my row cover in several places and ate all of the peas. This was a call to arms.

I uploaded some photos of the groundhogs to Flickr and someone asked if I knew of any “non-chemical deterrents” for goundhogs. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I come from a long line of hunters, I even had my hunting license in the 7th grade. So you can guess what our “non chemical deterrent” is. Yesterday I went out in the morning and spotted one of them in the peas again, I went inside to get the “deterrent” but by the time I went back out it was gone. So Mr Chiots and I headed down into the woods to look for it’s den. We’re going to put used cat liter down in the hole, which will often drive them away. Hopefully by the end of the week the groundhogs will be gone. Too late to save the peas, but at least they’ll be a good cover crop and I’ll replace them with cucumbers and zucchini.

Do you have problems with groundhogs in your garden? How have you dealt with them?

Spotted in the Garden

April 12th, 2010

One morning last week, Mr Chiots yelled through the office window, "hey you’ve got to see this HUGE slug". I looked out and saw it and decided I must take a photo, but I needed something for scale, otherwise it would look just like a regular slug. Since I happened to be working at my computer I grabbed the first portable thing I saw, my magic mouse. Mr Chiots said, "The highest life form and the lowest life form side by side."

This guy was the biggest slug I’ve seen in the garden so far. We mostly have small black slugs, I see them often around the gardens. They live under leaves and munch on plants. When I saw this big guy I thought, “Some toad is going to be so lucky to find him!”

Slugs are big garden pests for many people. People go through all kinds of trouble trying to get rid of them. I simply let them be and allow the toads that live in the garden to take care of them. This means I have slugs munching on my plants at times and I lose some foliage and a few seedlings. When we first moved in we had tons of slugs, they were eating everything. Then the toads came and now they keep the population at a decent level. So I’ve made peace with the slugs and let them be just like every other garden pest. Every year I spot big toads and little baby toads at different time of the year. I know that because I don’t kill slugs they will stick around and multiply!

I have a few boards in shady spots around the garden because toads love to live under them. Toads also love it if you leave a few piles of leaves around for them to hide under. place a few plant saucers in the garden filled with water and rocks (make sure to change water regularly to keep mosquitoes from breeding), this is beneficial for toads, salamanders and insects.

What do you do when you spot slugs in the garden?

Chipmunks, A Small Problem?

June 4th, 2009

The eastern chipmunk is the same size as the ground squirrel, but is found in more woodland or woodland edge habitat and has only two light stripes. Absent only from the northwest corner of Iowa, they inhabit neighborhoods with mature trees and shrubs, rock and wood piles and retaining walls. While they may live in holes dug in the ground, they are more likely to live in the retaining walls, beneath decks or even in holes in trees. They do not hibernate in the winter and, though they sleep for days at a time, can be seen raiding bird feeders on warm winter days.
chipmunk-on-deck
I’ve got a big problem, chipmunks, or grinnies as some people call them. They’re cute as can be really, but destructive little rodents for sure. They have been digging up my seedlings on the back deck and eating the seeds that I plant (although the ones that ate my castor beans seeds are taken care of).
cat-stalking-chipmunk
We used to have a pair of owls that kept the population under control, but I haven’t seen them this year. Aside from getting a pet falcon, I’m looking into easy ways to deal with my overpopulation of chipmunks. I’d love to get rid of them without letting my cats outside (I don’t want them to get worms or eat birds). I really hate to kill them, however they’re starting to dig holes around the foundation of our home. I’d rather not deal with drainage issues from that, so it’s time to wage war on the grinnies. I’ve heard good things about chipmunk swimming pools, anyone tried them?

Anyone have any great tips on getting rid of chipmunks?

The Balance of Nature: Bugs, Good and Bad

April 30th, 2009

The insects world is quite an amazing thing, there are so many of all shapes, sizes and colors.
yellow-spider
Insects can be good or bad; spiders are good, aphids are bad (I realize spiders aren’t technically insects, but we’re going to include them). The good insects are predatory and they feast on other insects, these are the kinds of insects you want to have around.
praying-mantis-web
Some bugs are very beneficial, but they creep us out – spiders are the main culprit here. I have made peace with all of the big wolf spiders that live around our home (and boy can these guys get HUGE). I have to remember that they eat tons of bad insects.
beneficial-insect-order
You can order beneficial insects from various dealers and release them on your property. Certain insects can really help deal with an infestation of another insect. For example: Ladybugs LOVE aphids. If you have an aphid problem, order some ladybugs or some green lacewings. Here is some great information about the best predatory insects for your gardens.
beneficial-ladybugs
green-buglocust
Insects are also beneficial to the gardens because many of them are pollinators. Pollinators are great in the garden because they increase your crops.
honey-bee-on-milk-weed
There are all kinds of pollinators you can encourage in your gardens without actually having to keep bees. The easiest way is to buy a Mason Bee house to encourage these little orchard bees to reside on your property.

Do you welcome bugs into your gardens?

The Balance of Nature

April 27th, 2009

I saw this ladybug in my garden this past fall, so I snapped a photo. I thought it would be a great reminder of how all things in the garden work together.
lady-bug
Our garden health is like our personal health: maintaining a healthy foundation limits problems now and down the road. When you maintain healthy soil in your garden you’ll have healthy plants and you won’t have too many problems with insect infestations or plant diseases.
four-lined-plant-bug
When bad insects come they are usually followed by the beneficial ones that prey on them. This is the balance of nature, and it’s important to keep that balance.
praying-mantis-web1
When we step in trying to fix things we perceive as problems with chemicals and quick fixes, we often only do further damage. Plant disease and insect infestations are often symptoms of a deeper problem. If we resort to the quick fix spray, often our problems will persist or multiply because we aren’t fixing the actual cause, we are only treating the symptoms.
yellow-butterfly
Even so called green, non-toxic, and all natural products often kill the beneficial insects along with the bad ones. So what are we to do if we don’t want to upset this natural balance? We’ll be exploring this all this week here at Chiot’s Run.

Are you an organic gardener, or do you use chemical fertilizers, herbicides & pesticides?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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