Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden now has ground squirrels. Sadly, ground squirrels carry diseases, so trap and release is not even legal. Dealing with them effectively is more involved than with gophers, and, of course, it requires carefulness not to injure or kill other animals – pets, birds. Read all about squirrels and their management at the UCANR page. The main thing is to trap immediately. A smaller population is easier to deal with.
The most sure is protected beds, above and below ground.
If you have only gophers, 1/2 inch hardware cloth barriers work well. You can put in an 18 inch to 2′ deep perimeter barrier, or dig out all the soil and install it across the entire underground area. Just be sure to bind the overlapping areas so the gophers can’t push their way between the layers. Immediately trap any that come in over ground.
If you have overland travelers, ground squirrels, sometimes gophers, birds, build raised beds but don’t fill ’em with soil! Cover them, leaving space for plants to grow tall! It even protects from cabbage moths if you choose a small enough mesh! From Empress of Dirt, this cover simply sits on top. Easy to remove to tend your soil and plants. A hinged cover is clever, but you can’t work on the side of the box where the hinges are, and eventually the hardware loosens.
Clearly, the days of long single row plantings are over. It works better to interplant 3 types of plants closely together in blocks if you have limited covered area. Plant no wider than you can reach to tend and harvest.
The bed below has a vertical barrier, but it’s harder to remove or access your plants, and doesn’t protect from birds. If you have strawberries, bird protection is a must!
For taller plants, try a hoop house! The sides can be conveniently rolled up when you want to work or harvest. Obviously, the perimeter needs to be secure at the ground when it’s down, or critters will sneak under the edge. Hoop houses can be huge or humble, tall or low, covered with clear plastic, greenhouse film. Be sure there is ventilation on hot days. Hoops may be PVC, aluminum, rounded or angled, totally your preference, may depend on materials available. Nice thing about hoop houses is they can shade your summer lettuces if you choose a shade cloth cover, or keep your summer plants warmer in fall, extend your growing season, and you can start your favorite summer plants in spring a tad sooner!
If building isn’t in your picture book, simply make humble wire covers. Get the size wire you want, fold it to fit your spot! Voilà! Instant. OR, buy what you want ready made, a pop up with box, cover and all! Just be sure there is easy access to tending and harvesting your plants, and ventilation. This one is about $50, perfect for a mini lettuce patch!
Bless us all, humans and creatures!