Last week I was telling someone (bragging) about my straw-bale garden—how the bunnies and other pests wouldn’t climb up on the straw bales and bother the plants. My straw-bale plants had tomatoes starting to ripen and I was anticipating the bounty. My granddaughters were over for the weekend and wanted to pick them, but going for the perfect “vine-ripened” specimens, I told them to wait just one more day.
The next morning, the girls could hardly wait to pick the tomatoes. We ran out to the garden, only to find 3 ripe tomatoes laying on the ground beside the straw bales, each with a bite taken out of it. I was mad and determined to find a way to keep this varmint out of my garden.
Since the tomatoes were up on the straw-bales, and from CSI evidence, it seemed that the most likely culprits were raccoons. Internet searches about keeping raccoons out of the garden suggested (among other things) sprinkling cinnamon and pepper around the plants. Although I thought it was unlikely to work, I had cinnamon and determination. The next morning I found only 1 mangled tomato on the ground beyond the cinnamon perimeter.
I reasoned that the raccoon didn’t like the cinnamon, but braved it to quickly grab a tomato. That night I doubled down, by adding more cinnamon and black pepper. The next morning, I found 2 more mangled tomatoes.
Getting serious about the fight, I went back to the Internet for more ideas. One article suggested bright lights. I went to the store for lights, but the really bright lights were battery hogs. I settled on bike lights—headlight and taillight set to “strobe”. For more reinforcement, I added a perimeter of deer & rabbit repellant (on the shelf in our garage for 10+ years). My escalation resulted only in another night of snacking!
I was getting very discouraged and thinking maybe I should just resign myself to buying produce at farm stands instead of growing it myself. One last idea that I thought had some merit was leaving a radio on all night to keep them away. I loaded batteries into an old radio, shrouded its its plastic bags to protect it from rain, and wedged it in at the end of the bales. I wasn’t sure if the music added to the strobing lights would scare the critters away or make them want to party. After so many discouraging results, I wasn’t overly hopeful, but to my surprise, I found no tomato damage the next morning! After so many unsuccessful trials, I was encouraged, but not willing to declare victory yet based on one night. Party night 2 had the same results!
So, I am tentatively saying that the overnight radio is the solution to keeping the raccoons out of the garden. I don’t know if this will be a true long term solution, but will keep it going as long as it works.
UPDATE Aug 16, 2015: this “trend” held for only 2 days before another incursion. With determination, I wrapped 4ft tall chickenwire around the straw bales with my tomato plants. It’s slightly inconvenient for me to have to reach over to pick, but it is working so far. The flashing lights and all-night radio stay. I need all the help I can get!