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How to keep ground squirrels AND gophers AND tree squirrels out of the garden

DEAR JOAN: While doing research about ground squirrel-proof fencing, I stumbled across a blog item you’d posted several years ago about the topic. I am helping design a local community garden — a little more than 1.4 acres — and while I have used electric fencing with success to keep livestock in, I’ve never used it to keep small things out.

New Pet Pal LogoThe garden has problems with ground squirrels, tree squirrels and gophers. The gophers have been under control since using hardware cloth below each bed. The overwhelming problem is squirrels.

Do you think running electric wire on the top of the fence does reduce squirrels getting into gardens? We will be employing a multi-faceted approach with the fence, going into the ground and other control methods for those that burrow under, but if we can deter them somewhat, it wouldn’t be a free-for-all.

Jen Este, Bay Area

DEAR JEN: Oh, yes, I have a lot of experience trying to keep creatures out of gardens.

In 2009, I started a demonstration garden, Our Garden, with the assistance of the Contra Costa Master Gardeners. And when I say assistance, I mean they did and have continued to do all of the work. The garden was at the Contra Costa Times building in Walnut Creek, which is now the site of an indoor sports facility.

The Times had employee garden plots that had once been very popular, but that no one much was using. Shortly after planting our first crop, we discovered why. A hoard of ground squirrels roamed the field behind the gardens like a tiny herd of buffalo. They ate, to the ground, everything we planted.

We tried all sorts of things to keep them out — chemical deterrents, bird netting and finally fencing. But the only thing that worked with about a 98 percent success rate was the combination of things.

Ground squirrels burrow down about 2 feet, so when we built our fence, we also buried hardware cloth straight down to that depth. Our fence was 5 to 6 feet tall, but ground squirrels also climb, so we added a battery operated shock wire to the top of the fence.

We’ve since moved locations, but we have the same set-up.

The shock wire is different from an electric fence that keeps cattle from straying. It only delivers a mild shock and only when the squirrel contacts both the metal wire of the fence and the shock wire. Birds, for example, can perch on the shock wire and not be bothered.

The shock wire will also keep tree squirrels out, but only if they attempt to climb over the fence. If you have overhanging tree branches, the squirrels can use those to climb out over the fence and drop down into the garden. Because of the configuration of the fence and wire, they can climb out without being shocked.

The shock wire won’t stop gophers at all. They might climb a little, but they certainly won’t scale a tall fence. The barrier in the ground keep them out.

You also should know that ground squirrels never, ever give up. They will dig test holes around the perimeter, looking for weaknesses. They’ll find them, but you can quickly patch them and only lose a little of your bounty. We’re willing to share, but ground squirrels want it all.

Article source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/01/31/how-to-keep-ground-squirrels-and-other-hungry-critters-out-of-the-garden/