EARTH EDUCATION: Tree rats

McClatchy InteractiveAugust 4, 2008 

The squirrels are back.

Just about all of the tomatoes I photographed last week are gone. I still haven't picked anything from those plants, because they get eaten before they get ripe. The little horrors don't like the peppers as much, so I'm thankful for small blessings. Maybe I'll get one vegetable from all this effort.

Having read up a little on squirrel repellents, I went to my new favorite garden supply store, the one where people acknowledge their customers. I said, "Squirrels." He said, "The only thing that works is lead poisoning. And you need a gun permit for that."

Drat.

He did say he'd had some luck with trapping squirrels and releasing them some distance away, but my neighborhood is so woodsy that I can't imagine that would work for long, if at all. There are always more tree rats to move in if there's a vacancy. He also said that they go after the tomatoes for the moisture, and it might be worthwhile to fill a few pans with water and set them around the perimeter as an alternative. That might be something to try.

Lowe's, as expected, provided nothing new, and I've already tried the solution available at Home Depot. That actually seemed to work for awhile. The tomatoes had a chance to get nice and big before the little buggers pilfered them. So I'll try respraying that nasty stuff around and see if it helps. It'll probably work just long enough to get my hopes up, again.

The last place I tried was an Ace Hardware. I'd been looking for red pepper, which more than one Web site said was often used to repel animals, squirrels included. Ace was the first store that had a pepper repellent, and I figured it was worth a shot.

So now I watch and wait again, and hope my plants still have a few more buds in them. I'd love to get a tomato out of my garden this year. At this point, that's all I'm hoping for. Just a tomato.

I do not have my hopes up.

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