You’ve spent hours digging, planting, mulching and weeding your vegetable garden only to walk out one morning and find that something has eaten chunks out of your butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata). Since butternut squash have a hard rind you’d think they’d be safe, right? But a lot of critters love squash as much as you do. Too bad your kids aren’t as enthusiastic about vegetables.
With the ability to leap garden fences in a single bound, deer are likely culprits to garden munching. Deer have to spend a lot of time browsing for food, and your garden is just the place to find an array of tasty treats with little effort. They will eat flowers, leaves, fruit and vegetables. It takes a 6-foot fence to keep them from jumping in, and they will push under fences that are not secure at the bottom.
Think back to your childhood and a tale of a certain rabbit that disobeyed and went into a garden. While that account is fictional, the truth is that rabbits love gardens. Their sharp teeth can nibble through tree bark and shrubs if they are hungry enough, so a squash is no challenge. While rabbits will eat almost anything green, they prefer the same veggies you like to serve your family. They are also able to dig or wiggle into gardens with ease.
Animals munching through your garden don’t have to be big; all it takes is sharp teeth to get through a squash skin. Mice, shrews and gophers usually live on grasses and other plants, but they also find things in your garden delicious. They will eat flower bulbs, fruits and vegetables. The tiny teeth that can make holes through walls to nest in your house in the winter have no trouble at all nibbling through vegetables larger than they are.
Squash has two levels of appeal for chipmunks and squirrels. First is the tasty, orange flesh of the squash to be enjoyed right on the vine. Inside are delectable seeds that can be eaten now or stored up for a winter supper. These intrepid gatherers enjoy berries and flower bulbs from the garden during the summer, and find seeds from flowers as well as vegetables for their winter larders.
A surprising candidate for garden munching is the skunk. Normally skunks are attracted to the garden by the insects that live there. Skunks love insects and grubs, so having them browsing can actually be good pest control in the garden. Just don’t try to get friendly with them. Occasionally they will have a taste of something other than insects, though. The tough claws and teeth used for digging out insects are also great for opening up tough skinned vegetables.