Squirrels 0, Green Acre – 1!

Any farmer that grows chem free and organically will tell you they hate bugs. Despise bugs. Bugs are bad.  Well, not really, or at least not all of them, but enough of  them are and those bad bugs can surely cause havoc on a farm. To make matters worse, as organic cultivators, we have a limited amount of firepower in our arsenal and we have even less if we garden aquaponically. The little bugs, such as aphids and caterpillars, although challenging enough to control, aren’t always the problem and sometimes its the big pests that can cause considerable crop damage and lost revenues. Big pests like squirrels.

Evil plotting squirrel

We’ve been waging a war against squirrels for quite some time but now we had to bring out the big guns. As we played a game of dodge with these little marauders, they had been content for a while just concentrating their efforts at the first rafts of the the three troughs nearest the front of the greenhouse. Although we weren’t pleased that squirrels were finding their way into the greenhouse, we figured that as we researched different squirrel deterrent options,  that those three rafts would just be our sacrificial lambs until we found an economical and viable solution. The squirrel fix was high on the list of things to do, but we’ve also had some other competing priorities such as installing a rocket mass water heater for the commercial system but the other morning as I eagerly headed out to the greenhouse to start building our heater, the squirrels had other ideas. Upon entering the greenhouse and doing my usual scan, something immediately caught my eye. Nearly the entire length of one trough had plants eaten or damaged down one side about one foot in from the edge of the trough. Squirrels!  It was quite obvious that they would only eat in as far as they could reach while still standing on the edge of the trough.  There was a definitive line that indicated they would not venture out onto the bobbing rafts of food but why should they when in the greenhouse alone, there is 600 feet of it within easy reach?

So we sat down and scratched our heads and discussed our options.  The sonic sound emitters seemed like tossing stones at these persistent pests.  We needed something that was going to stop them once and for all.  Bill Murray Caddyshack style.  We considered hand grenades and hot wire as the hot wire had worked on the pepper and tomato plants in the media bed but didn’t think it would work so well on the long troughs while contacting full, mature heads of lettuce which the squirrels could likely still reach anyway.  Hand grenades, hmm, no.  A scarecrow? After Christmas we had searched for some discounted motion activated animated characters that would move and sing and possibly scare away a squirrel but didn’t find any. We finally settled on securing the perimeter. Although there were a couple options for protecting the plants right at the troughs, we decided we wanted to keep these varmints out altogether.

So while Tonya raced off to Lowes, Ed and I started clearing any growth from around the perimeter of the greenhouse and dug down several inches below the sole plate.  Just as we finished up, Tonya returned.  In no time we were installing galvanized chicken wire on the greenhouse sides.  Take that you pesky squirrels!  Two days later, we are still squirrel damage free however we know they are out there, watching and waiting.  They are quite the formidable foe.  So in addition to our new perimeter defense, we have decided to

Sentry

implement another tactic to our defense.   Sentries.  We had lost one of our barn cats a few months ago and since Butter’s sad disappearance, squirrel activity around the greenhouse has noticeably heightened.   However with our mesh protected grow troughs and greenhouse that keeps our farm animals out of our growing area, we don’t mind having a couple more squirrel guards around!

When it comes to farming and pests, its always something or another.  This time, though, we won.

Squirrels – O, Green Acre – won!

About Gina Cavaliero

Gina Cavaliero is the Managing Director for Green Acre Aquaponics and is also the inaugural Chairman and one of the founders of the Aquaponics Association. Aside from managing the Green Acre farm and educational program and steering the AA, Gina is a passionate advocate about food security, food safety and for aquaponics as a sustainable alternative to the way food is grown.

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