What's eating my garden?

Hello,
I live in southeastern Virginia. I've got your basic house vegetable garden with Tomatoes and Peppers. I've also planted a couple of Eggplant and some Pattypan Squash (acorn squash to some). The Pattypan has fairly large leaves with little spikes on them, as do the stems. But I came out yesterday and something had eaten most of the leaves of one plant, and some off the other. Some of the leaves were down to the stem (which is cylindrical and hollow). The Pattypans themselves were not eaten (though something has chewed on a couple of them a bit).
Also, oddly enough, I had some sunflower seeds that I noticed sprouting, so I went ahead and put them in the ground. They've been growing well (the largest is only about 8 inches tall though). But today I just went out and something has eaten the leaves off them as well.
I'm sure we have rabbits in this area, though I've never actually seen any in my neighborhood. I live on a wooded marsh and I do have Raccoons (I've seen one trying to get into my bird seed container). Rabbits I would think would eat the vegetables!!! I would think the marks on the Pattypan came from rabbits. But do they eat the leaves? I mean, I know rabbits will eat grass and lettuce when you feed it to them, but those spiky leaves off the Pattypan?
If not rabbits, what other animals might do this? I wouldn't expect a Raccoon to eat leaves - or even a Fox, especially when there's some other things like half-ripe banana peppers and green tomatoes around, not to mention the close to ripe Pattypan itself. I've had things get eaten in the past - but always the fruits of the plant (these by the way are not bugs I imagine - they've been sprayed with insecticide, and that's a lot of leaves for one night!), not the leaves.
Any thoughts, TIA Steve
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Steve Latham wrote:

If it's just the leaves, it could be slugs (or snails). They can devour an awful lot in one night and I'm not sure how effective insecticides will be with them. Have you mulched around the plants? You can go out after dark with a flashlight and you might find the buggers crawling up the plant for the dinner buffet. Or lay out a tray of beer near the plants...if you find slugs in there after a day or a two or so....then that's the culprit.
..
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Well. don't want to waste the beer until absolutely necessary! I'll try the flashlight manouver first. I have not mulched though. I did last year and didn't have this problem, so that is a possibility. What about diatomaceous earth if it is slugs?
I wasn't crazy about mulching if I didn't have to. Moisture retention is not too bad, and I've been able to stay on top of weeds. I think last year I had some cutworms or something that ate the stems of the smaller pepper plants and killed them, so I went out and bought some aromatic cedar mulch and that seemed to keep most things away (including the ants that were around). I just wasn't crazy about it being mixed in the soil when I turned it over at the end of the season - though this year it appears to have pretty well been assimilated. Since I've had those green monsters that eat the tomato leaves (and fruit) and the little black bugs that make lace out of the eggplant leaves, I thought I'd go back to the Bug-B-Gone.
Thanks - more advice always welcome - I'm still at the stick 'em in the ground and see if they grow stage, so If I can pick up things little by little I still feel like I'm getting better at it!!!!
Best, Steve
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Steve Latham wrote:

DE would work but rain or a heavy watering would wash it away. It can get labour intensive and expensive.
Mulch is still an good option. When you think about it, it is imitating nature which doesn't permit plants to grow with nothing but clear soil around it. If you're concerned about too much water retention, then create a wide border of mulch that doesn't go right to the plant - just surrounds the area. You can check at night to make sure no slugs have been trapped inside (or splurge on the beer for traps). The insecticide will probably work for the other buggers, but as I noted, the slugs are not around when you spray.
I also don't turn in all the mulch at the end of the season. I rake off what I can, turn in what's there and either reuse what I've raked off or use it on a pathway. The mulch is just more compost for the soil. It shouldn't hurt it.
..
Zone 5a in Canada's slug-infested Far East.
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Steve Latham said:

In my experience, rabbits don't bother squash much except to eat the flowers, sometimes.
But groundhogs will munch squash leaves down to stems. And they will munch on the fruit.
Deer will go after squash plants, too.
Bugs and slugs will usually leave tattered, lacey leaves behind rather than complete anihilation of leaves.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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Well, that's what I was thinking. Those leaves (and stems) are kind of "spikey" - I quess they're "hairs" but they're pretty rigid, and for instance make it uncomfortable on your forearms to reach in there.

Hmmm. Now that sounds like a potential culprit. One of the kids across the street said they had a groundhog in their yard. I didn't believe him, but maybe I should consider this.
Now, how do I keep a groundhog out?

We do have deer, but they're getting rare. Used to be country and fields and is now suburban sprawl. Deer are rarely seen across the highway (where they used to be prolific) so I'm leaning towards the GH.

That's what I was kind of thinking too. It didn't seem like insects to me - though one never knows.
Thanks Pat.
Steve

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Steve Latham said:

outward under the ground or by large concrete blocks running along the perimeter (makes a good mowing strip). At the top, some electric fence lines or an outward flop of chicken wire (so that when they climb the fence, they either get a jolt or they flop over and fall off).
Groundhogs will climb, but they perfer to go under. And they tend to dig right at the base of the fence. If they can't dig through there, they don't think to back up a foot and try again.
If they can't go under, they will climb, so the top of the fence has to be protected, too.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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Steve Latham wrote:

It sounds like rabbits to me. They are somewhat nocturnal, so you may not see them unless you are up looking early in the morning. The whole world is their salad bar, but they seem to prefer your prized plants.
Here is a few things that I know they've eaten out of my gardens this year: tomato plants bitten of at the ground, Broccoli, brocolli and more (climbed over a fence). Beans, peas, beets, greens. Blueberry bushes. Branches from small cherry tree. Marigolds. Sunflowers. Zinnas. Aster. Various other anual an perennial flowers.
I don't often see them. I have a dog who loves to chase animals, but usually sleeps inside... or under the deck.
I have tried all the usual things. Small fences are the only thing that works. Sometimes you can take the fence away when the plants mature. Sometimes you think you can, but find destroyed plants the next morning. Lots of luck. I wish there were more free roaming cats around. gf
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Well they would be the most likely suspects. But Pat's groundhog idea has gotten me thinking.
They are somewhat nocturnal, so you may

Pat seemes to disagree. I wouldn't put it past them, but Pat's description seems to agree with what I'm seeing. This is like total defloration to the stem - I kind of expected rabbits to do a little more sporadic munching. And those leaves are awful spiky.

I know they will munch these things! Just seemed weird with these squash leaves as they're so prickly.

Well, we've got some cats, but those lazy b%$#&* don't seem to be doing their job! - too concerned with the free meals at the trash cans! I think I'm going to have to fence. Maybe I can just do one of my plots though.
Thanks, Steve

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If I had your problem I would put some cantlope rinds in the garden. They are groundhog magnets and should be 100% consumed the first day if you have groundhogs. I purchased a HavaHart trap which I use to catch groundhogs, coon, possums and the like. If you have those critters it is $60 well spent.

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snipped-for-privacy@vt.edu (Jerome R. Long) wrote:

There are also recipes for said critters on the 'net. ;-)
--
Peace!
Om

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a Son of a bitch"
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