Innocence Lost

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Remember a few months back when I said something like, “Let’s stop using war mongering language against the critters?”

I can’t locate it on the site, but I know I said it. Somewhere. To someone. Was it you?

That was a kinder, gentler, more innocent me. That was me during the off-season when my thoughts are turned to planning new and fun gardening experiments and I’ve forgotten all about how maddening it is to discover a half eaten tomato laying on the roof like a cruel taunt.

Hey human, I took your precious tomato and I only ate half! Here’s the rest, all germy and covered in raccoon and/or squirrel saliva.

That was the me that existed before today when I walked out onto the roof garden to discover bits of the best ‘Black Seaman’ tomato of the bunch that I had been eye-balling with anticipation laying on the railing.

The raccoons and squirrels are out of control this year. They are taking far more than their fair share of the bounty and leaving almost none for me. Jerk faced jerks.

Everything is too much this year. There is too much rain and too much cold; too many wasps and aphids. But there are not enough tomatoes and the fruit I am getting are being poached while I sleep. Yesterday, my neighbour helpfully suggested that I hire Dick Cheney to come by each night and watch over the crop until morning.

Come winter I will look back on the positives of this gardening season and write lovingly about the discoveries that were made and the opportunity for experimentation this odd weather brought about. But until then I want a do over.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

34 thoughts on “Innocence Lost

  1. You know, as frustrated as you may be with everything, you know that this post provided comfort to those of us who have been equally unsuccessful with gardening this year. Stupid critters, stupid weather, stupid bugs! I seriously considered just having an herb garden next year.

  2. Ooooooh, watch out for that Dick Cheney remedy… once he gets in there and established, he’s liable to take over the darn whole place. (( Sorry, couldn’t resist! :) ))

  3. I, too, have had more than usual tomatoes lost to critters this year. RATS, ugh! They seem to go for the ones that are ripest, or at least closest to ripe (and close to the ground), so I have been more vigilant abut picking them at the beginning blush stage. Earlier than normal, but it is helping. Was gone for several days to the beach, and only seem to have lost 3 that reddened in my absence to hungry rodents. Luckily, I have had a decent crop overall here in the deep south. If it were possible I would share with you all!

  4. PS- the rats came from a school lunch room demolition/ construction site on a neighboring block. Nasty. Neighbors have to team up to get rid of them. We don’t normally have them running around.

  5. I know! I STILL haven’t had a ‘Purple Cherokee’ this year because something (squirrel, raccoon, cat, something) has chomped into each and everyone one of them!

  6. We are tomato woe twinsies! My Black Sea Man tomatoes have also been systematically pilfered by horrible squirrels and I have never felt so able to kill an adorable animal with my bare hands. I have gotten 2 smallish BSM this year though, which is a lot better than 0. But still! Argh!

  7. Huh…, they really are taunting, eating half and leave the half just to tell ” I was here!”, and to warn that he/she will be back for the other half. We are facing much smaller animals…, they don’t move fruits/veggies around but the damage.., huh, the same! ~bangchik

  8. I feel your pain. Normally, I’m a live and let live, but did they REALLY have to take my fig, the one I’d been eyeing for weeks, and eat half?

    I think not!

  9. LOL! Dick Cheney! that gave me a giggle about him getting established and taking over made him sound like the kudzu i have been fighting in my willow tree this year! lol! 4 beefsteak plants 0 tomatoes family of skunks been living near by out here in the boonies could be anything :(

  10. Which is worse, greedy vermin or the late blight? Be thankful you have tomatoes to share with the vermin. I had to pull out and trash 19 beautiful gorgeous amazing tomato plants this year because of the damn blight. At least vermin may leave you the spit-covered remains… the blight just ruins it all.

    (But yeah, when push comes to shove, if I hadn’t had the late blight and had those 19 tomato plants, I’d be TICKED at the vermin for snagging some of them…)

  11. I am having the same problem. They seem to especially like the Black Krimm’s. One bite, then they move to the next tomato and they take one bite, then the move on….. I don’t mind sharing but either eat the whole tomato for dinner or figure out you don’t like tomatoes already! Sigh! I feel a little better… well, a very little :-)

  12. Why do they only eat half? So annoying.

    I was growing ground cherries for the first time this year, and until I put a cover over them, something kept picking them off and taking nibbles out of all the ripe and semi-ripe ones! NIBBLES! If you have to NIBBLE on a ground cherry, you’re not hungry enough to bother my garden, you little twerp!

  13. Jessica: Ground cherries you say? Interesting… I’ve ever had problems with critters eating them but we’ll see this year. I’m growing a taller, larger cape gooseberry and the fruit is beginning to ripen.

  14. I gave up trying to grow tomatoes at my place this year, no sun. I did get some in at my grandma’s house – black plum and earliana. They’re doing better than I’ve ever had tomatoes before and the critters don’t really seem to be going after them. Maybe the overabundance of neighborhood kids keep the critters away.

  15. It’s a tomatilla stealing possum in my case- I have two huge plants covered in fruit and so far I’ve harvested exactly 6 tomatillas- two of those I picked up off the ground discarded with teeth marks. Every morning I come out to find any fruit bigger than a marble missing and the empty paper husks on the ground.

  16. We had a gopher or two that trashed a lot of our flowerbeds, and also ate all of our onions. I’m glad they didn’t eat anything else, they must have really had a taste for onions. Everyday I’d go out to the garden and another plant would be gone!

    My zucchini plants also had tons of some sort of beetle on them and made a mess of the plants…

  17. Meg: I feel your pain. Gophers/groundhogs are THE WORST. We’ve had one on and off at our community garden over the years… for some reason I never seem to talk about it on the site (I have during lectures) but the damage one can do is pretty devastating.

  18. i feel your pain. Something (skunk, I think) keeps digging huge holes in my raised beds. Apparently looking for tasty grubs or worms. Ugh.

  19. Invest in a bullet-proof vest prior to hiring The D.C……apparently he shoots more than just the 4 legged mammals……..

  20. It’s truly a sad thing—waiting and waiting for them to ripen only to come and see half a bite here, a nibble there. The worst was coming in the garden to see a squirrel nibbling on one with my german shepherd snoozing only a few feet away.

  21. It’s truly a sad thing—waiting and waiting for them to ripen only to come and see half a bite here, a nibble there. The worst was coming in the garden to see a squirrel nibbling on one with my german shepherd snoozing only a few feet away.

  22. Invest in serious netting. For the first time in about 6 years, I will actually get to harvest my beautiful seedless pink grapes. Once the raccoons discovered my vine, they would show up every year on exactly the day the grapes are ripe and strip the vine under the cover of night. They would taunt my dog, hanging from the vine and throwing denuded grape clusters down on her. But, this year, I really wrapped the vine up in bird netting and I’m going to pick my grapes today. I had deer to contend with too this year, and they can be incredibly destructive. I feel your pain.

  23. We found a tomato that had been hollowed out by what we assumed could only have been a mouse.
    The only way I can think of keeping them out is by taking the heads of the mice caught by the cats and putting them on little pikes around the garden.

  24. I’ve had a groundhog invade my garden many times this summer. I’ve actually caught him in the act. He stands up on his hind legs and looks at me as if to say “What? I’m hungry too!” It’s hard to get mad when you see that furry little face. :) However what does make me mad is when I come out and he knocks peppers (or anything) to the ground and they have one set of bite marks in it. Guess it wasn’t good enough to eat! He completely wiped out my zucchini and cucumbers. The only thing I have left is cherry tomatoes…and one lone pepper plant. Sadness…

  25. 2 days ago raccoons knocked over my tomato cages and ate all the good tomatoes on my plants! They left half eaten tomatoes on my plants and even broke one of my plants in half! I know it was raccoons because I saw a family of raccoons run across my backyard the night before my plants got destroyed. I want a do over season too.

  26. Gayla: Just now saw your comment to mine. My father and I were sick on-and-off for a month, and were barely keeping up with the garden. We never had problems with birds before that; not even on the tomatoes. (We have a very loud dog who loves to chase things but only paces the garden when we are there.) I think they were checking things out while they had the opportunity and decided that the ground cherries were worth nibbling on. We never saw any birds but there was a lot of bird poo on the tomato stakes and I think squirrels could get under the cover.

  27. My jerk faced jerk wiener dog does the same thing with my strawberries every year! Four strawberry plants and I’ve only gotten four strawberries in two years. That long dog is a ninja. Somehow each time I let a strawberry ripen just a little longer he manages to eat it. He even watched me inspect a prize berry once and when I turned away to tell my wife how great it was going to be tomorrow he promptly inspected it himself. I turned back to gaze at it longingly once more to discover that it was gone. Sigh…

  28. My backyard tomatoes have been roughly decimated by my backyard chickens. I’m comforting myself by repeating “they wouldn’t ripen this time of year anyway” and “that’s that much less chicken feed I’ll have to buy.”

    Greedy jerks.

  29. The chipmunk that lives under my garage has developed a taste for my cherry tomatoes. Luckily the plant is over 7 feet tall and loaded with fruit so I don’t mind sharing with him.

    I just hope that whatever animal that keeps knocking over my garbage can doesn’t discover the treasures in the garden. I imagine it would do much more damage than the chipmunk.

  30. I am blessed. We got most of our food in late, including the tomatoes. My father wasn’t even sure they’d ripen. In my “born-again-farmer” optimism I said, “of course they will!” Some of my babies may not fruit this year, but they are living out their life cycle with what help I am able to give them. It has been a struggle at times this year–I don’t want to kill anything. I work to help the balance as best I can. It has been an abundant year, and I am thankful for it. We have abundant food, insects, pest, water, large pests, herbs, the list goes on. We have a farm, with several gardens, so that is certainly an advantage, but that brings its own set of problems, especially when you have other jobs to pay the bills. Mother Nature insists that we seek balance–that is the greatest lesson I have observed this year.

    So, what are solutions? We have been picking tomatoes at the first blush. We tried diatomaceous earth, which may have helped more if it hadn’t rained so soon after it was spread. Staking would have helped, I’m sure, but our plant to labor/money ratio did not allow for that. If deer eat it, which is most things, it grows within a ten ft. fence or right beside our house, which I think only works if you are in the garden everyday, and even then, it’s still a chance. Nets seem to be effective for tree fruits, but I can’t speak to that, as we did not do that this year, because our orchard either did not get fruit or was abundant and the little ones were welcome to share in the abundance. We focus a lot on talking with the critters about what is their space and what is ours.

    Trust me, I hate going to pick what looks like a perfect fruit only to stick my finger in a gushy hole, but my teacher Frank Cook encouraged us to focus on our abundance. In this time of harvest, as we increase our food stores for the dark time of winter, so do the animals. Maybe that bird will eat those stink bugs that will destroy your crop. Maybe the squirrel will attract a predator that will help with the other larger pests. I don’t know, but I chose to believe in Gaia, and our place in the magical mystery.

    Happy early solstice to all!

Comments are closed.