Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
October, 2001
Regional Report

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Harvesting grapes is one of my favorite autumn activities.

Dealing with Deer and Other Garden Raiders

Our forested property is brimming with wildlife, both welcome and unwelcome. I love the birds and squirrels, but wish the destructive deer, rabbits, and raccoons would go away. I've been pretty successful in deterring deer and rabbits by spraying the plants with a rotten egg, soap and red pepper solution. The deer are staying away, but the raccoons are having a field day. I hate to admit it, but I may have inadvertently attracted them to the garden. The smell of putrid eggs may be abominable to deer, but raccoons seem to find it irresistible.

Racoons Take Over

The masked marauders began by raiding the pond, reducing our fish population considerably and upsetting every water lily in sight. We repaired the damage as best we could and draped bird netting over the pond to thwart future raids. It worked! The pond was safe but the raccoons moved on to unprotected garden areas, systematically digging and scattering over 300 newly planted summer flowering bulbs. I salvaged what I could and replanted. Planting was easy because the holes were already dug. The rescued bulbs sprouted and bloomed, but the original pattern of great drifts of single colors was lost.

To keep the little beasts at bay I sprinkled generous amounts of black pepper around our vegetable plants. They apparently disliked the taste and odor, and left the veggies alone, although they did return occasionally to peel large patches of moss from between our stepping stones -- I suppose just to let us know they were still in the neighborhood. When the corn ripened, the raccoons were back in force, helping themselves to a single bite from each ear.

Protecting the Grapes

As the days grow shorter and the nights turn cooler I'm as busy as ever in the garden, harvesting the last of the summer vegetables and carefully guarding the grapes against nighttime raids. To protect our ripening crop from hungry raccoons, we've placed bags over individual fruit clusters. We used sturdy lunch-sized brown paper bags, and tied them securely to the grape canes. Bagging will work because grapes do not require direct sunlight on the fruits in order to ripen and develop good color. It's the amount of light that reaches the plant's leaves that governs the quality of the fruit. Bagging also helps protect the fruits from inclement weather -- excessive rains close to harvest time can cause the grapes' skins to split. Of course, bagging is not very practical for very large plantings. Wish me luck as I unwrap each cluster of grapes!

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