Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Who's Holes?

Recently I have been perplexed by something happening in my raised beds in the back yard.  I have started finding these broad fairly shallow holes that look like they have been dug from the top down.  Now some years ago we had experienced problems with the neighborhood cats using our raised beds as a litter box.  But these holes seem different and we have not found any fecal material near them.

For the last few years the beds were used for veggies and gladiolas.  Because of the drought I had not planted densely.  Last year there were only two tomatoes, two peppers, and my continuously growing garlic chives and onions.  The gladiolas had really started to take over.  At the end of the season I dug up most of the corms.  However like digging up potatoes, you never seem to get them all; this spring there were many sprouts from left behind corms.  There don't seem to be as many large sprouts as I recall there being before the holes.  Of note the four lettuce plants, two broccoli, onions, garlic chives and sweet pea vines have remained untouched.

We have never had a problem growing gladiola before.  We've grown them for years and just leave the corms in the ground over winter.  Somethings have changed in the garden over the years.  The trees in the neighborhood and surrounding neighbor's yards have matured.  We lost our little Westie to cancer a few years ago as well.  About a year ago we started seeing a tree squirrel visiting our bird feeder.  We had a squirrel proof feeder and the squirrel seemed content to eat the sunflower seeds that had fallen on the ground beneath the feeder.

This year there are three squirrels.  One has learned to brace his lower legs on the frame at the bottom of the feeder thus avoiding setting off the wire mesh that used to lower down to block the openings whenever he visited.  His buddies wait below as he always spills seed as he is feeding. This year I also spotted an opossum in the yard one night. We still have the visiting cats and birds, but no problems with turkeys or moles.

Now with the feeders full of sunflower seeds and a neighbor's orange tree trailing delectable oranges along the fence, I would think the squirrels would be pretty well fed at this point.  Perusing the Internet, some sources felt that squirrels would dig up and eat gladiola corms, although apparently they aren't as fond of them as daffodil and crocus bulbs.  Others felt that squirrels were attracted to recently disturbed soil looking for a place to hide their nuts or to find where other squirrels had hidden away their treasure. I did check the areas around the holes and didn't find any nuts or seeds.  But in my case the earth hadn't been recently disturbed.  These were corms that had wintered over and were sprouting.

So although I suspect the squirrels are the most likely suspect, I am not 100 per cent sure.  I have never seen them in the raised beds.  I spot them at the feeders all the time and my husband actually saw one eating an orange while sitting on top of the fence.  As they have not disturbed my vegetables (yet), I will just continue to observe for now. Several sites did suggest putting down a fine mesh, over the soil after you plant bulbs, to keep the squirrels from digging.  If the problem persists or worsens, that is probably what I will try.  If any of you have other thoughts on possible culprits, I would love to hear them.

Posted on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 1:57 PM

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