Why an enclosed garden ?
Not everyone needs an enclosed garden but for some of us it's the only way to actually have a garden. My last attempt with an open garden was years ago. After seeing the crows pulling up the few remaining corn sprouts to eat the seed I'd planted, I gave up trying. I've heard many others say they've given up as well because of one pest or another - but mostly the deer. You'll understand why when you read below about how much they actually eat in a year's time.
Last year, in 2011, I started again but with a resolve to take most of all the pests out of play. With over 80 cedar posts made from fallen trees in my woods and a whole lot of poultry wire I created a 960 square feet enclosed garden area. To stop the voles I dug a trench all along the bottom of the fencing and filled it with cement. This has stopped most of the pests, but not all though, the aphids and tomato hornworms still had to be dealt with after they got into the garden.
1st year, 2011 summer late afternoon photo (pumpkin vines growing up fast)
2nd year, 2012 late April photo (5 rows of potatoes in the center haven't come up yet)
Let's talk about some of the pests you can keep out.
Halifax County, Virginia has a deer population estimated to be between 15 and 30 per square mile. With each one eating an average of 7 pounds every day, we've talking about some 25,000 deer eating as much as 64 million pounds of vegetation every year just in this one county. This number was hard to believe but I calulated it several times to make sure it was accurate.
You can keep deer out with fencing but must know that White-tailed deer can jump almost eight feet high. I used fallen cedars for posts spaced 8' apart to get the poultry (chicken) wire fencing high enough. I've always wondered about what I'd do if one of them would try to jump in and got stuck on the top. What then?
Unlike deer, rabbits have many preditors inluding fox, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, house cats, minks, raccoons, skunks, and weasels. "In most years, 80% or more of adult cottontails are killed." Yet, there are multiple-millions of these cute furry creatures in Virginia - they have 3-7 litters a year and they like vegatables!
"Squirrel's belong to the order "Rodentia", with 1650 species, it is the largest group of living mammals. It also comprises forty percent of all present day mammal species." One estimate of population for just the grey squirrel is 600 per square mile. For Halifax County's land mass of 830 square miles, that means we have nearly 1/2 million to contend with.
Voles vs. Moles
"Other than having similar sounding names and both causing havoc to yards, voles and moles have little in common. These are two entirely different pests, yet they’re often confused. Moles seem to be much better known, but it’s really voles causing much of the damage chalked up to moles. It’s important to know which pest you’ve got because effective mole control and vole control depends on targeting the right action to the right animal."
- moles eat worms and grubs
- voles eat bulbs and roots
You can keep some of the voles from burrowing into your garden by putting a barrier around the garden. This can be digging a 6 to 8 inch trench around the fencing and filling it with rocks, cement, or chicken wire.
"To get rid of groundhogs from your garden, fencing is perhaps the most humane form of pest control. This is probably not the most reliable strategy for those trigger-happy individuals who want their groundhogs gone now. Fencing should be used primarily to keep groundhogs out of specific places, like your lovely garden. 1"-3" chicken wire or wire mesh fencing should be sufficient, so long as it's buried at least 12"-18" below the surface and about 2' above the surface. Remember, you're dealing with a creature that can dig, so the more fencing you lay below the earth, the better." Link
Deer Facts & Calculations:
- "There may be twice as many deer in Virginia today – nearly 1 million - than when Jamestown was settled." Link
- Under optimum conditions, deer populations can nearly double in size annually. Link
- The estimated deer population for Halifax County is between 15 and 30 per square mile. Link
- Halifax County is 830 sq. miles. = nearly 25,000 deer population.
- 7 lb per day times 25,000 =175,000 lb/day or 63,875,000 lb/yr
- They eat between 3 and 5% of their body weight every day.
- Bucks (males) range over approximately 600 acres, while does may use 200 acres. Link
- In 2011 there were 4824 deer killed (havested) in Halifax County ~17% of its population. Link
- For those alarmed and skeptical of the statement "There may be twice as many deer in Virginia today – nearly 1 million - than when Jamestown was settled." I suggest reading some of the following - (links included):
| " . . . Indians over-hunted, respectively, the buffalo, the white-tailed deer and the beaver. All these species were used aboriginally for subsistence, and after contact they continued to be sources of subsistence food at the same time as they provided market commodities. Krech thinks the commercialisation of deer and beaver hides lead to their overexploitation, but he also believes Indians were wasting buffalo even when the species was being hunted only for subsistence - Link
"In pre-colonial times, the extensive mature forests of the South did not provide optimum habitat diversity necessary to maintain high density deer populations. Deer were locally abundant, in areas where lightning fires and other factors had opened up the dense forest canopy. Natural enemies of deer, such as the cougar and timber wolf, also played a significant part in regulating deer numbers and in keeping them in relative balance with their habitat. As colonial settlement, extensive agricultural production (cotton), and market hunting grew, these factors severely limited deer populations and herds began to decline drastically." - Link
Evolution of Deer Hunting in the Eastern Woodlands From Archaic times to the early historic period, societies occupying the eastern woodlands depended heavily on white-tailed deer exploitation. Link
This short essay is intended to inform and assist those like me that had given up on the idea of ever having a small garden in Halifax County. Whereas large vegetable farms have the luxury of losing a percentage of crops to the pests, the small grower can lose it all very quickly.
Dan Shaw April 25, 2012