Saturday, February 4, 2017

New Plants & Opportunistic Raccoons

I hustled to plant several new acquisitions earlier this week in advance of the rainstorm predicted for Friday.  I managed to get everything planted, even though this involved removal of dead shrubs and some transplants.

Clockwise from the left, the new plants include: Metrosideros collina 'Springfire', Tibouchina lepidota, Agave titanota, and Aloe deltoideodonta.  The last 2 were received as pups from Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden.  I also planted 3 Iris germanica (not shown here).


Once again, we got more rain than predicted (yay!).  Delivered at a slow steady rate throughout the day, the six-tenths of an inch of rain caused no damage whatsoever in my area (yay again!).  Clean air and clouds greeted me this morning.

The view of Angel's Gate was partially obscured during the morning hours


The birds were singing.

and Mr. and Mrs Lesser Goldfinch enjoyed splashing in the fountain


But then I realized that the raccoons had paid me a late night visit.  I guess they thought maybe I'd missed them.

At least they couldn't upturn the Metrosideros, planted from a 3-gallon pot


It took me nearly an hour to restore order.  They dug around some established plants in the front garden but the little opportunists went to town in the soft fluffy soil surrounding my newest plantings.  Luckily, they caused no serious damage this time.

Some readers will remember that I have an ongoing battle with these furry grub-hunting beasts.  I've tried a variety of methods of stopping them, from non-toxic chemical deterrents to physical barriers.  Planting spiky agaves didn't faze them but I've had some luck with a mulch of prickly Magnolia seed cones.

Most of last year's fallen Magnolia seed cones were scattered around the Cotinus coggygria I planted in early fall, currently bare of leaves


However, the best defense I've discovered thus far are aggressive ground covers.

Three of the best ground covers I've used for their raccoon deterrent value are (from the left): Dorycnium hirsutum (aka hairy Canary clover), Helichrysum petiolare 'Silver Mist' (a virtual weed here), and Lotus berthelotti.  


Tell me, do you have any other effective methods of controlling troublesome visitors?


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

26 comments:

  1. We have had luck installing chicken wire over our ground covers. We use bent roofing nails to hold it down completely flat. The ground covers grow tall enough to hide the wire and the raccoons can't dig through it. They still dig small holes but do not rip up entire sections of the garden like they used to. It's hard work to install it but works pretty well.

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    1. I tried chicken wire in my raised vegetable planters. Even though I used metal stakes to keep the wire in place, the nimble raccoons still managed to pull up the wire and dig underneath but the addition of ground covers on top may have made a difference. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  2. Fortunately we don't have a raccoon problem. Do they eat parts of the plants, too, or is the problem from them digging for grubs?

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    1. They dig, I guess for grubs. Before the latest drought, I had a green carpet of baby tears that they dug up. (No more baby tears nowadays.) They will also tear apart bromeliads to eat the "hearts." When I used to have a fish pond, they would pull the pump out of the water and partially drain the pond. (They ate the water snails and sometimes the fish.) My husband sometimes sets up little water features for the sound of trickling water, and the raccoons have taken apart several of his creations. They even try to dig in the dymondia, which I have protected with chicken wire. They don't get far. And they are not scared of people, at least not me, so when I try to chase them away they just look at me. They are little punks.

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    2. In my garden, the raccoons seem to focus on grubs and snails but I've heard of them eating fish in other people's gardens. The squirrels here eat some plants, like Gazanias and something - I again suspect the squirrels - has eaten Crassula pubescens! Like Rachel, I've discovered they're not all that afraid of people - I've also had my fair share of stare-downs, although, out of the fear of the rabies they can carry, I usually carry a stick when I approach one and they always walk (not run) away when I wave that around.

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  3. Oh those little terrorists! I'm so sorry...

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    1. They were back again last night too. I guess I need to re-start my late night patrols, not that those are guaranteed to send them packing.

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    1. I'd been lulled into a false sense of comfort by their extended absence, I'm afraid...

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  5. Grrr. Those little demons would drive me nuts. Sorry you have to deal with them. The raccoons here don't cause problems, and I've shut the deer out completely, but I am still battling rabbits and voles. This year, the voles discovered a bed full of crocus and they've been going hog wild digging through it. I don't actually mind them eating the crocus bulbs, but I don't want them digging under small plants. I've got a trap set for them, but no luck so far. I've tried to catch the rabbits with a live trap, but so far I've only succeeded in making an opossum and a raccoon very angry with me. I'm just going to have to plant larger plants, at least when it comes to trees and shrubs, that the rabbits can't clip in half or defoliate. One of the neighborhood cats has graciously started visiting. I'm glad it found a way through the fence. I'm hoping we'll get more local raptors, too.

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    1. Oh, and cages, of course, until things are big enough to withstand the occasional rabbit nip.

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    2. I've never had to deal with voles but they sound terrible! Oddly, I've never had a rabbit problem here, even though I know they're present in the area, but I suppose I have the coyotes to thank for that. I've caged my smaller plants in the past - I guess it's time to haul those out again.

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  6. I am glad to see you are still getting some good rain! So are we. The lakes are filling up, and the drought is officially over. Your garden looks like spring! Other than a loud dog, I don't know how to deter raccoons, at least nothing that is legal. Neighbors wouldn't like the loud dog either! We have had raccoons, but armadillos are worse here. The earth looks like it has been rototilled after they have been through. I found that sprinkling pepper all over the soil deters the armadillos. They get it in their snouts and on their paws and go nuts and don't come back. I don't know if raccoons would have the same response.

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    1. I was surprised to learn you have to deal with armadillos, Deb, as I associate those with Texas but not your area of the country. I'm glad I don't have any! While I'd love to have a dog, my husband's strongly opposed to the proposal and, to be honest, I couldn't leave a dog outside at night here as the local coyotes have been known to attack them in packs. There was even a report of an attack on a Mastiff out with its owner here. Why the coyotes don't go after the raccoons I can't explain - it's as it the two have some kind of gang pact not to intrude on one another's territories. I will try pepper as a deterrent, though.

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  7. When I was a kid, our farmer neighbor had coon hounds (not a good end for the coon), but he had to protect his corn. Does spraying capsicum over things help?

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    1. Deb (above) suggested pepper too, Eliza - I haven't tried that but I will. It'd have to be sprayed or sprinkled on the soil rather than on plants as the grubs in the soil are the raccoons' principal focus - plants are just collateral damage.

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  8. So glad the rain has been good to you, Kris! The shot of the goldfinches is wonderful :) I'm intrigued that the groundcovers help; that sounds like a win-win situation to me. I've been known to use plain old Cayenne pepper for rabbits, but it didn't always work, besides the discomfort of occasionally getting it airborne and in my face!

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    1. I missed out on a photo of 7 or 8 lesser goldfinches gleefully splashing in the fountain, Amy - by the time I got back with my camera, I had to settle for the two. With respect to the ground covers, not all appear to have the same deterrent value - the raccoons have no hesitancy about digging up my creeping thyme, for example.

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  9. I like your new plants, it's good the raccoons didn't manage to do any permanent damage. I get moles who dig tunnels under plants, contrary to what some believe they don't eat the roots of plants but eat worms that fall into their tunnels. Sadly the tunnels often mean that plant roots lose contact with the soil and so die, often I don't see that there have been tunnels until it is too late; I've lost a couple of Leylandii trees due to this. Sometimes mice or rats are said to use the mole tunnels and they will eat roots!

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    1. I probably should count myself luck that I just have raccoons, skunks and squirrels to deal with, Christina - and coyotes but they threaten the cat, not the garden. Two nearby neighbors have had problems with gophers, which tunnel like your moles, but, thus far, they haven't shown up here.

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  10. Naughty raccoons! Glad to know at least they didn't do any lasting damage.

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    1. Planting larger specimens and more ground covers are the ticket to managing raccoons here, I think.

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  11. Racoons! Argh! Squirrels are my arch-enemies in my suburban neighborhood, when it comes to digging. Our sewer-dwelling raccoons are usually looking for water and forced me to give up a little water feature that became a bath tub. The squirrels dig up pretty much everything I plant. I've used chicken wire, but wind up cursing later when I want to plant something and have to break out wire cutters. My current go-to is temporary stone. It's not incredibly attractive, but I place stone around anything newly planted until it gets fairly established and/or ground covers grow in. The squirrels, and probably raccoons, are quite opportunistic and I think they smell the freshly turned soil. Their interest wanes once the soil settles and look for easier digging grounds.
    I've also left decoy areas in out of the way places with freshly turned soil, but nothing to destroy....

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    1. Decoy areas - now that's a new strategy, Tim! Unfortunately, I have few spaces I haven't tapped for my own purposes. I have added small boulders here and there - maybe I should designate a couple of those to move around as necessary until new plants are established. As to chicken wire cages, I share your frustrations there.

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  12. Lovely new plants. Those racoons are a pest, but much more interesting and exotic than rabbits and the neighbour's cats who use my garden as a public convenience.

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    1. Oh, the raccoons leave calling cards too - and I'm not just talking about scattering the sea shells in the fountain.

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