Thursday, February 5, 2015

Protecting Raised Beds from Rodents by Molly Niven

When the northern pocket gophers totally devoured the Easter Egg potatoes the day after I planted them, it was time to play hard ball.  I watched Gilpin County Master Gardeners line their perennial beds with hardware cloth and decided to get to work. 

STEP 1. Fence Garden
We have a 5-foot steel welded wire fence around the garden beds to keep the BIG critters out. Cost: $50 for 50’ roll.

STEP 2.  Bury fence 20”
With a pick ax, we dug a narrow trench at least 18” below the existing fence.  Chicken wire (1”) can keep the rabbits out, but since mice and voles can squeeze through holes a little larger than ½” I wish we had used ¼” hardware cloth instead of ½”.  I suggest 4’ wide cloth so that 20”+ is below ground and over 2’ is above ground.  Attach it to the existing fence.  Don’t forget to carefully put the hardware cloth below and above ground at the gate!  Cost is a factor:  ½” x 4’ x 25’ runs $68/roll.  ¼” x 4’ x 5’ is $20/roll. 

Step 3. Line beds with lath or hardware cloth
We removed all of the dirt from each bed.  To save money, we lined the bottom and sides of the beds with galvanized steel diamond mesh lath. We overlapped and wired the sheets together, then stapled them to the wooden landscape ties using fence and landscape staples. Cost: $8.80 for a 1” x 27” x 8’ sheet. 
Next time I will use ¼ ” hardware cloth instead of 1” lath inside the beds.  We have been successful keeping the pocket gophers out, although I still trap them with Macabee gopher traps within 20’ of the garden.  Remember they DO increase soil fertility by adding organic matter, increasing soil aeration, water infiltration and reducing compaction!

Step 4. Set mouse traps regularly

The rodent population went down SIGNIFICANTLY!  But they are persistent. Bait traditional wooden mousetraps with peanut butter, PB/oatmeal mixture or apples.  Some claim raisins are hard to steal.  At “Love Apple Farms” (an informative and favorite website of mine) they build simple little boxes that fit over and around the traps, leaving the front open.  The critter goes straight in assuring a clean kill.  Place them carefully at right angles to their runways with the trigger in the runway.  We catch a couple mice or voles every week all season long.

Step 5. Keep compost smelling clean!

Bears? Don’t put meat or sweet food scraps (fruit…) in compost. When you add kitchen scraps, regularly mix in dead leaves or straw to keep the brown and green ingredients in balance.  It’s not bear proof but for over 20+ years we have not had significant bear problems around the garden.

Read more:

·         Block Style Layout in Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens - CMG GardenNotes #713
·         Sample Planting Guide for Raised-Bed Garden - CMG GardenNotes #721
·         Raised Bed vs. Rows - Planttalk #1812

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