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Garden Question
updated: Jun 02, 2014, 8:30 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

Some critter (rabbits? rats?) keeps breaking into our wood garden boxes and eating our lettuce at night. We have put little chicken wire huts (covered on top) over new lettuce plants and staked the cages into the earth with 6 " irrigation staples but the little critter(s) still manages to get under the cages and eat our plants. The critter does not seem to go for the arugula which has no cage around it. It also likes green curly parsley, but not the sage, basil or cilantro. Go figure. We have now lost 12 new green leaf lettuce plants and are really frustrated. Would appreciate any insights/suggestions.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 524476 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 08:51 AM

I am having the same problem. I have 1/4" chicken wire under my garden beds, and up the sides 2 1/2', covered the top with bird betting, and something is still eating the lettuce. I know it is not snails because I am familiar with the evidence they leave. I'm baffled.


 COMMENT 524477 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 08:51 AM

Chickenwire has such big holes, the only thing it could possibly keep out are critters strong enough to pull it up as they desire.

That said, lettuce is one of those plants that is beloved by dang near every "pest". Also, it may not be a mammal that's eating it. It could very well be earwigs, slugs, or other invertebrates!


 COMMENT 524478P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 08:52 AM

My guess would be chipmunks or mice. It would depend on when it was happening (dusk, dawn, dark of night...). You might need to make your wire huts out of hardware cloth, with smaller openings. You might also want to check for cabbage moth caterpillars which are the exact same color of the plants and can quickly lay waste to little ones and then move on. We found 6 or 7 in our little garden that ate all the lettuce we planted, the calendula, some of the radishes, and totally left the arugula alone. Good luck. I know how frustrating it is.


 COMMENT 524481P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 08:56 AM

476 - I tried the bird netting 2 years ago, and was mortified to have ensnared 2 snakes. One, a rattler, we were able to extract, and a huge gopher snake in another area that got so tangled, it not only pulled up the stakes, holding the bird netting, but the blueberry plant it was covering. Took about half an hour to cut him free. I promptly removed and cut up the remaining netting.


 COMMENT 524497 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 09:19 AM

It might be interesting to put a solar powered light next to the lettuce. That might deter nocturnal creatures, If you get up in the middle of the night you could see an invader. Dangling strips of foil work to deter some birds. I have heard that a pan of beer catches snails. The pan of beer might also catch the neighbor kid.


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 09:21 AM

I agree, chicken wire has holes too big to do much good at times. However, 476 has 1/4 in. wire (probably aviary wire) and still something is causing harm. Great mystery, if it gets solved please let us know. Aviary wire is good to put down under the garden to keep gophers out, little ones can get through chicken wire.


 COMMENT 524502 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 09:28 AM

I have seen rabbits (for the first time, ever!) in the street early morning on the west side south of Carrillo. Maybe the coyotes have vacated the north side of TV hill...?


 COMMENT 524511 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 09:49 AM

I found that my lettuce sprouts were being devoured by small green worms that look suspiciosly like hornworms. Strange considering how many tomatoe plants I have in my garden (10+). Ooops!, now I 've done it...I bet the Mother Sphinx moth heard that! Looking around the base and actual sprout early morning with a magnifier would help you spot anything like what I found.


 COMMENT 524516P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 09:58 AM

Yes, 478P. I agree with chipmunks. We were having the same problem and, like others here, tried several methods of protection only to have all of them fail. Until one afternoon while looking from my kitchen window, I spied the little thief! I even got him on video. Fast! Can we say lightening fast! He was in, under, out and onto the next and then gone! Cute, I must add, but so destructive. Thank goodness we have the farmer's market. Good luck!!


 COMMENT 524528P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 10:45 AM

Set up a night time camera...should be fun!!! Peppers and vinegar stops a lot of animals.


 COMMENT 524529P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 10:47 AM

481P. You are an animal lover after my own heart. Thank you for rescuing those snakes. Netting can be a death trap.

I would vote for mice or rats. They both eat primarily greens, if they can get them. If you see tiny black balls of excreta, then you've got some sort of caterpillars.

Now I have squirrels coming to my bird feeders. A result of the wildfires cum drought? Upper Eastside. Squirrels on my property are a first, and I have been here long enough to remember when there was parking on State St.

Once a little chipmunk came. I was so happy. The neighborhood cats must've got him.


 COMMENT 524536P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 11:16 AM

Maybe a cat could help, if the critters are smallish.


 COMMENT 524542P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 11:26 AM

I posted 516P. At the time I had 3 cats that were free to go outside. There was no way any of them could catch that chipmunk, it was too fast. I would not have wanted them to catch it anyway.


 COMMENT 524547 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 11:30 AM

Plant mint all around--gophers, mice, rodents hate it.
I also used hot peppers--habaneros-- tied them around the plants. They only ate part of one and left the rest. You can also try bar soap hung on a fence--it works for deer. Just don't get it wet or you'll have a mess.


 COMMENT 524577 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 12:03 PM

Think twice before planting mint... it is very invasive, but if you enjoy the tea, it might be well worth your effort.


 COMMENT 524609 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 01:18 PM

Last year I lost all of one variety in one night, something actually picked out it's favorite lettuce and ate all of them and left the rest. I had the pots on my patio...Glad some animal had a nice meal. With the drought this year, I'm just hoping to keep my roses and fruit trees alive.


 COMMENT 524611 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 01:25 PM

I caught a gopher with my bare hands one year and popped it into a bucket. I gave him a leaf of lettuce from the farmer's market before releasing him into a wild area at sunset and he chomped it all down but left the spine.

I always think of this when I am served chopped lettuce at a nice restaurant that includes the spines. Do I deserve less than a gopher from my salad?


 COMMENT 524625P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 01:55 PM

What's this I read about chipmunks being too fast for killer cats?

Neighbors cat just killed my last chipmunk :( - Wildlife Garden ...

What can I do to make my female cat stop killing chipmunks and ...

Cats killing chipmunks...neighbors complaining... - Forums at ...


 COMMENT 524659 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 03:43 PM

Something is doing the same to our kale and cilantro. I suspect skunks as we have many in the 'hood.


 COMMENT 524708 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 06:11 PM

Please visit animalrecueteam.net and see the great info that can help you under the Education section.


 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-02 11:37 PM

We've had the same problem, and it was birds--goldfinches, which normally like to perch and feed on seeds, not eat off the ground. But netting did the trick with them, so maybe this is something else. Good luck. So frustrating to keep losing plants.


 COMMENT 524740P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-03 06:31 AM

Once you get mint in you're never going to get it out. I've got a garden full of mint behind me. Try some vinegar around. I'm betting on mice. Try covering with netting and see what happens? But keep checking it. I've had snakes get caught in it. One I had to cut out and the other, a rattler, died. Very stinky. I actually felt sorry for it.


 COMMENT 524773 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-03 08:17 AM

Call WILDES 687-9980 or go to www.sbwildes.org for all sorts of great info (Wildlife Information Literature Data Education Services)


 COMMENT 524804 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-03 09:08 AM

Like MYNDRIVER, I found that it was a flock of those cute little finches that descended upon my garden at sunrise for breakfast. With all of them nibbling at my lettuce all at once, it only took them a minute or two to demolish the seedlings. They are small enough to slip through the chicken wire. Replacing the chicken wire with smaller mesh fixed the problem.


 COMMENT 524865 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-03 12:44 PM

You can get 1/2 inch cage wire with green coating on it at OSH in Goleta, they were getting to our stuff last few years and we surrounded our garden with a 2' high fence and dug it a bit in the ground, they stopped cause they couldn't get through. Maybe make a complete box cage of this stuff and be safe. We also put this along the whole property under the fencing and we don't get the critters we used to even keeps skunks out of the yard. Unless you're where tortoises can access, they'll just bite right through the wire. So, put the 1/2 " wire all around and I would also plant the arugula, cilantro, marigolds, etc. plants that they don't like surrounding and interspersed throughout your lettuces. See references from Square Foot Gardening, or No Work Gardening by Rodale, came out in the 1970's or 80's, very informative and I've used many theories through the years, theirs have worked. LTBL


 COMMENT 524962 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-03 08:29 PM

I usually go out with my dog at 11pm and check my veggies in our raised beds. The damage is done by many little pill bugs that I squish with my finger on the wooden sides of the beds or spray pepper spray on the plants, namely the eggplant. The squishing works best, but it is an endless job. Have to find another alternative spray. Will keep searching. Maybe soapy water will do it.


 COMMENT 525107 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-06-04 12:32 PM

Mint is an excellent companion plant to many garden plants. The secret to using it is to plant in buckets or wine cask. You get the benefits without the invasive roots spreading to the rest of your garden.

Rodents such as gophers, rabbits, and rats can and will chew through standard chicken wire. Hardware cloth is far stronger durable for garden use.


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