Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Begun, The Piggie Wars Have

Back in December, I moved from a house to a rental unit. At the house, I had a full fence and no mammalian herbivores larger than a mouse. I was able to garden with nary a worry about keeping the varmints off of my produce. At the new place, this is very much not the case. I have seen rabbits, ground squirrels, deer, and javelinas, and who knows what else lurks at night. Ringtails, skunks and porcupine are certain to inhabit the area as well. Of all of those, javelinas are the worst threat. Javelina (pronounced hav-a-LEEN-a) is a local name for a collared peccary, which is sort of like a wild pig. Gangs of two to 15 or more roam my neighborhood at night, and occasionally during the day. Not only are they eaters of all things vegetable, but they are also known to be ornery and cantankerous, digging up plants they don't eat for just the heck of it and doing damage randomly for no reason. I have heard that if you do something that makes them mad, they will make a point to swing by and tear up your landscaping just to get even.

So when I decided to garden in containers at the new place, I knew some protection would be required. I encircled each container with a cylinder of chicken wire 3' tall. Some cylinders were better than others. The one around my greens was a bit loose and I suspected that they wouldn't have too much trouble getting under it. I was right, and round one went to the piggies. They also did some damage to my tomato plant, which had taken it upon itself to grow outside its protective barrier.

For round two, I raised the greens up, putting the shallow metal tub that they were in on cinderblocks. Javelinas are short and won't usually bother with things that are too tall. Plus, the extra height inside the chicken wire made it extremely difficult to get under the chicken wire and get anything useful. Well, it didn't work. They figured out how to push my chicken wire down, making an accordion out of it. They also finished off my greens, eating everything that was over 2" off the ground. In the same raid, they managed do much the same thing to my tomato plant, doing enough damage that the plant had to be removed. They also made a play for my beets. However, the chicken wire around that pot, a whiskey barrel, fit much tighter and while they were able to push it flat, they couldn't get any of my plants through it. Round two went to the piggies.

This past weekend I bought some 3/8" rebar, 4' long. Each of the central pots got 3 pieces of rebar, with each woven through the holes in the chicken wire on the way down and then pounded 1' into the ground. The ones on the edges got a 4th piece of rebar to protect the sides. This stiffens the chicken wire, making it a lot harder for the javelinas to flatten the cages. It also makes it harder to push the containers around because they are more firmly rooted to the ground.

As phase two of round three, I bought some garlic and hot chili powder. When I get a chance, I will crush two or three garlic cloves and mix them with a few cups of water. Then I'll add a tablespoon or two of the chili powder and a few tablespoons of vinegar. The vinegar will help the capsaicins from the chili dissolve in the water. Then I'll stir well and strain and spray on the pots and some of the plants. Yes, it is chemical warfare just the way Mother Nature intended.

In addition, when I planted the rest of my fall garden this week, I generously planted garlic in among the fall veggies. Not only will the garlic grow all winter, giving me a spring crop, but it will also provide an additional layer of living chemical protection from the critters.

While I was disappointed at the damage the javelinas caused to my garden, I must say I am enjoying the challenge they are giving me. We'll see how round three goes.


  1. I had always been warned about the "poisonous" tomato leaves. Obviously bad info, as the pigs regularly crop the tops of my potted plants. Had all of twp tomatoes from four plants.

  2. Sounds very much fond of planting. I think its listed as hobby? Is it so? Anyways, its a good idea. You should implement a pest control. Implementing pest control measures is necessary in order to gain appropriate crop production. Rodenticide, herbicide are some of the substances which help in controlling the pest population to a desired level.

  3. Allvira, I think you are missing the whole point of this blog. My goal is to figure out the natural working of things and use that to my advantage. Just dumping -cides on everything teaches me nothing about engineering with natural processes. In the case of the javelinas, my physical barrier upgrades have survived a number of visits so far with no damage to the plants.