Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday (Late Edition): The Sad State of my Bromeliad Bed

In October 2017, I planted a shady area along our property's northwest boundary line with bromeliads, succulents and other foliage plants to create what I called a pocket garden.  It did alright for awhile but eventually my nemeses, the raccoons, discovered it.  They've dug it up many times since but the combination of heavy rain and renewed raccoon activity this past month has created a downright awful mess.

It appears that some of the plants edging the pathway have simply disappeared, or perhaps been buried



After nearly 48 hours without rain, the area was at least dry enough to pat the soil back in place around the plants that hadn't been ripped apart by the raccoons.

I took this photo after I'd cleaned things up a bit


The dwarf mondo grass I planted hasn't created the impenetrable ground cover I'd envisioned and the wood mulch I used to cover the bare soil didn't deter the raccoons from digging either.  In fact, after multiple rounds of digging, the mulch has been pretty thoroughly mixed into the soil, which, trying to put a positive spin on things, I suppose the bromeliads might actually appreciate.  Most of the bromeliads planted among rocks, even those planted as pups, are fine but the same can't be said for many of the succulents and smaller foliage plants. 

This cluster of bromeliads is relatively unscathed


Before I replant, I think I'm going to bring in more rocks to make future raccoon incursions more difficult.  I may also trade up the small plant specimens I initially planted for larger plants that might he harder to dislodge.

The Dracaena reflexa (aka Star of India) in the pot was suffering as a house plant and may appreciate spreading its roots here


While I'm at it, I'll replant the driftwood piece I covered in succulents over a year ago, as well as a pot I had nearby.

While the raccoons did some digging around the driftwood piece, I think weather is mainly to blame for it falling apart

This pot was in need of replanting when I moved it to this spot in October 2017 and cramming a haphazard collection of succulents into it didn't improve its appearance


I still dream that the area may live up to my aspirations for it - someday.

If you have an ugly area you'd like to come clean about, join Alison of Bonney Lassie for Tell the Truth Tuesday.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

30 comments:

  1. Sorry that the damned raccoons continue to wreak havoc on your garden. Your idea of using rocks as a deterrent sounds good and would be visually pleasing as well.

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    1. I'm envisioning a LOT or rocks, sort of a crevice-style garden for bromeliads.

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  2. There is a big path back and forth through the snow that we saw yesterday. It leads to an opening under a weeping evergreen behind the pond. Mark says he thinks it was made by a raccoon. Not good news at all. A raccoon visiting the garden is bad enough but if he is actually living here! Yikes.

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    1. I suspect our local canyons are full of them but, thankfully, I've yet to see any evidence that they've set up house inside the confines of my garden itself.

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  3. Aaaarrggghh! Stupid raccoons! I share your frustration over the havoc they wreak. I'm glad the Bromeliads are doing ok, maybe they've been spared because of their sharp edges, and their substantial size? Using rocks as a deterrent is a good idea. I wish you success with figuring out what will work in this bed.

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    1. Some of the bromeliads planted as pups are still quite small but I think their proximity to rocks helped protect them. The raccoons don't seem inclined to move anything too big or heavy.

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  4. You need to hire a vermin eradicator. Either that or you can sit in your garden during the evening with a rifle and take care of them. Darned Raccoons.

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    1. One of the nurserymen at the local garden center used to say he went after them with a bat. I usually carry a stick if I go after one I happen to spot but that's for my own protection. Since they prefer the cover of night, there's no way anyone but a complete insomniac could keep them away. They've been in these canyons for longer than anyone's lived here so eradicating them is impossible.

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  5. What a pain! You need a coon hound! ;) (Although the ground under any treed coon would be totally torn up by the dog, hehe.)
    I thought maybe hardware cloth buried under the mulch might deter them? You'd cut holes for the plants to grow out of. No matter what, the raccoons want the grubs in the soil. Is there a natural way to be discourage those?

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    1. As I couldn't bear to keep a dog outside at night when it might be attacked by coyotes, that solution isn't an option. Grubs CAN be killed off, temporarily at least. I'd assumed the grubs would be gone once our lawn was but, while there are fewer of them now, I haven't managed to reduce their numbers to zero. The silly raccoons continue to comb through the shells in the fountain looking for something that's never been there so I'm not sure they're geniuses as hunters to begin with.

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  6. That must be so frustrating. Best wishes for a solution to this problem. Those darn raccoons are doing so much damage!

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    1. I've no illusions about eliminating them. My goal is just to minimize their damage. Creating a new planting area full of fluffy soil seems to be akin to putting up a sign saying "dig here" so I have to be certain to factor barriers into any new planting scheme.

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  7. Those raccoons are very destructive. Fortunately they prefer a large mulched area near our deck for digging. Dwarf Mondo does take its time to fill in so an interim solution of more rocks is good.

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    1. I wonder if the topsoil and mulch I added to that area actually drew them in? What's odd is, when the area had nothing much more than weeds, I don't remember their digging there. But maybe that was because the areas with lawn were a greater attraction.

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  8. Would a Euphorbia with its sap discourage raccoons?

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    1. I can't say that any plant, including Euphorbias, puts them off.
      Their interference with plants is incidental to digging the surrounding soil to find the grubs hidden around and beneath plants. The latter are just collateral damage to the intensity of that search.

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  9. I've never had raccoons bother my plants before. Our culprit here is squirrels.
    Are they only bothering your succulents?

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    1. Raccoons go after any open soil they see here in their search for grubs and they don't differentiate between the plants they dig around or pull up in the process. They're notorious for digging up lawns as grubs seem to be especially plentiful there. I no longer have any lawn but, when we arrived, the garden was probably 2/3rds turf and unfortunately the grubs didn't all disappear with the turf. The raccoons seem to be able to detect any soil that's been recently dug up when new plants are put in so those areas are the most likely to get tossed. In contrast, the squirrels only dig occasionally to hide the unripe guavas they seem to confuse with nuts.

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  10. Another approach is chicken wire, at least until a ground cover or two has a chance to knit in. In its simplest form, this may be a cure worse than the disease, making every day Tell the Truth Tuesday. But using the green coated kind and adding some intentional structure, the enclosures can be made less obtrusive to look at -- also more easily removed for photos or visitors, stacked for storage, and re-used in other spots.

    Barriers work well against rabbits just set on the ground. With raccoons, some wire staples to hold things down would probably be needed.

    This might be the year where I put some real effort into taking my own advice and making some of these. Rabbits have become more of a problem in the absence of dogs. {wistful sigh} And this season's almost bound to get off to a slow start due to deep sogginess, even if the sun were to stay out for weeks at a time (currently hard to picture).

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    1. I'm wary of the chicken wire strategy but I've used both cages and empty plastic flats to protect some plants, keeping them in place with wire staples as you mentioned. While the flats are fine with small seedlings and plants like creeping thyme, they don't work with taller plants. Frankly, it just didn't occur to me that I was going to have this kind of a problem in an area that was free of problems until I planted it up - that fluffed-up soil must have a siren's lure. The cages I purchased were on the pricey side and there's a storage issue but maybe I can come up with a DIY version. Collapsible baskets would be the ticket - why doesn't anyone make those?!

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  11. Well, damn, your bromeliad garden looks like such a cool area! I hope you can get the rocks or other barriers to work. I am going to (but am nervous about) putting in a stock tank water element, as it will draw in the raccoons. I am HOPING a strong barrier will do the job...at least somewhat attractive or camouflaged...not sure how Fort Knox one would have to build it.

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    1. Good luck, Alyse! Raccoons ARE strongly attracted to water, that's for certain. The masked bandits routinely paw through my fountain, scattering the seashells in the upper tier despite the fact that they can't ever have found anything to eat there.

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  12. Raccoons are the worst. My method is certainly not ideal because it doesn't get rid of the raccoons but (so far) it keeps them occupied and away from the goldfish & out of my newly worked beds. Raccoons love dry catfood. I put a bowl out for them every evening in the far back. I'm hoping this easy meal continues to keep them lazy enough so they don't return to digging for dinner. I think your rockery will not only work but will look terrific.

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    1. I don't have any illusions about getting rid of raccoons, Sandy - after all, they've lived in this area longer than humans. Unfortunately, leaving food out for them would also attract feral cats, which in turn would bring in the coyotes, which I definitely don't want. (Coyotes are a huge issue here.) I think I'm going to stick with rocks and plant cages, understanding that tidying up after raccoon raids is going to remain a feature of my gardening activity.

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  13. One year I had horrible raccoon damage on my potted Bromeliads, they shredded the leaves trying to get to the water in the center cup. This was late in the summer when they must have been getting pretty thirsty because it was so dry. Just an FYI for the future...problems may occur beyond their messing with the soil.

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    1. The raccoons have knocked around my potted bromeliads a couple of times but, in seeking water, their focus has been the fountain in the back. I've never seen them lapping water but they do insist on pulling out the shells before either dropping them or carrying them off. I've no idea why they want to take some shells with them...

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    2. Probably just what beach critters wonder to themselves as people pick up shells by the ocean...

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  14. I think your raccoons are worse than any of the pests I have to deal with here, although the badgers are quite a problem; but at least they can only get in when the fencing is damaged (by them).

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    1. Raccoons are feisty - they'll stand up and try to stare you down if you confront them - but I've heard that badgers are downright mean. Luckily, we don't have any of those. The coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and squirrels are trouble enough!

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