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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - August 04, 2011

From: Manchester, NH
Region: Northeast
Topic: Pests
Title: Varmints disturbing plants in NH
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I planted herbs and perennials, then put paper down and bark. At first an animal just disturbed the paper around the plants, exposing it. Today two plants are dug up and are completely gone. No sign of what was there. I am suspicious that it is either a squirrel, possibly a skunk but have not smelled one. Can you tell me what I can do to prevent varmints from disturbing my plants???

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to know exactly what is rooting around in your garden and why, but we can give you a little advice on how to deal with the situation.

First of all you will have to figure out what type of varmint is digging around and why.  Is it something like a skunk digging for grubs?  Is it a squirrel burying nuts or looking for ones he thinks you may have covered with your plants? Or is it a groundhog just enjoying a midnight snack? Although you do not mention what type of paper (and is it in layers or shredded?) you used under the bark mulch, it is unlikely that either is what the animal is after.

You'll have to figure out whether the critter is going for the plant or the insects in the ground but when all is said and done, you have to realize that you are trying to create a garden where these varmints do their "grocery shopping".  All you can really do is plant enough to share with them or introduce a "night watchman" that they consider a predator (a dog?) to scare them off.  That scenario could escalate and become much like that cinematic classic "Caddyshack"!

 

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