Help solve our garden mystery and win.....

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....our everlasting thanks.
(Sorry about that but I really wanted to get your attention)
Something is rooting around in our mulch and digging in our beds and, in the process, uprooting new plantings and those with shallow roots and we *really* want to stop it.
Here are the clues/observations:
It happens at night. If we leave before it gets light, we return home and notice plants laying on their sides. Sometimes, the mulch/dirt is just pulled away from one side of the roots. Sometimes, as in the case of a couple of nice Selaginella we planted this season, it's not even noticeable that it's now sitting *on* the ground rather than with its roots in a hole *in* the ground until you get down and check.
Whatever is doing this isn't interested in the plants. The roots and leaves aren't touched. The plants are just the collateral damage of a hunt for something in the mulch / dirt.
It's not deers. We live in a wooded lot in North Carolina and we have had more experience with deers than we want to remember. We've had deers pull a "deer resistant" plant out of its hole only to remember, "Hey! I don't like this!" and drop it back on the ground. But there's always a sign they've tasted it. And one of the beds -- with a lot of hostas in it -- is completely enclosed with a deer netting that is secured to posts and staked into the ground. On a couple of occasions when a branch has fallen on the netting and ripped it from the post and deer have been able to get a head in, they've munched nearby leaves but not done this kind of disruption to the mulch.
And the mulch *is* disrupted -- it looks like something is rooting around in it for something. It's something in the mulch. This has nothing to do with the plant -- it's happened with hostas, a rosemary plant, summer snapdragons, etc., etc., etc. Only the established plants are safe.
Since this looking for something in the mulch is happening at night, I assume whatever it is has a powerful sense of smell that it relies on. So, after replanting a couple of plants and cursing this critter, I thought, "I got something for your powerful sense of smell!" I bought the cheapest big tin of ground black pepper I could find and sprinkled a mess of it around the edges of some of the most frequently uprooted plants -- can black pepper hurt plants? -- and along the edge of that bed with the netting.
So, any thoughts? More importantly, any suggestions on deterring it?
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Skunks will come out at night and root for grubs. See/smelled any evidence of skunk?
Priscilla
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Priscilla H. Ballou wrote:

So will Racoons.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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How about setting things up as best you can to get some footprints? Remove the mulch from an area, flatten the soil with a board, and gently mist it. Compare the results (if any) with the tracks on a site like this:
http://www.bear-tracker.com /
If it's a normal animal, maybe a Havahart trap is in order. If it's an abnormal creature, like someone's useless, stinking obnoxious little dog, then you know what to do, I assume. BAM! :-)
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Or a neighbors stinking obnoxious little chickens.
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Do they die quietly? :-)
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Stay up a few hours after dark and keep a flashlight handy and your eyes peeled.
--

Travis in Shoreline Washington


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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote in

Others have mentioned skunks, raccoons, etc. Opposums are also a good bet. Try scattering some bloodmeal around, that should keep them away. Repeat regularly and after rain.
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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I would tend to stay away from bloodmeal & bonemeal also. I think cottonseed meal or something from plant sources will lesson the "wildlife" encounters. I know birdwatchers like to use moth balls to mast their sent when visiting nest trees. The animals we're talking about are curious by nature, especially of unusual scents.
One fall about 20 years ago, I planted about 500 tulips in a client's garden. I was judicious with the bonemeal, careful that each bulb had its allotment in its perfect position. The next day I came by to do a little tidying up. To my amazement, every bulb had been dug up and lying close to its hole. A day's labor for naught. Further investigation revealed footprints matching the neighbor's Labrador retriever!
--
Baine



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Respectfully, I don't know why you would say that. Bloodmeal is a very effective deterrent against all rodents, as well as deer, racoons, and opossum. They abhor the odor and shy away from any area where it is laid.
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
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David
That's the difference between you and I. I speak from experience, you're showing your ignorance, especially when you included rodents in your claim.
I recently visited the northeast VA/ DC area to quote a project. I usually visit the local garden shops. Several do carry bloodmeal, some with other ingredients. Seems like it hasn't done much for the rats in that area.
--
Baine



"David Bockman" < snipped-for-privacy@floopbeyondgardening.com> wrote in message
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What a pleasant thing to say. Good day to you.
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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My guess would be squirrels looking for nuts. We've seen both in our yard, especially in spring when the plants are new and the nuts are few. Squirrels bury nuts all over then root them out when they're hungry. Cats trying to get moles will do this, too. I'd think a possum or raccoon would dig a larger/deeper spot. What to do? I don't know. I'd think you could make a million if you can figure it out. Raleighgirl
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I second the squirrel suggestion. Squirrels have done this to me on many occasions.
For some reason my local squirrels especially have a thing about strawberry plants; one year I had the little suckers dig up all *50* the night after I planted them. They were lying neatly on the ground, untouched, right beside the holes the squirrels had dug. I replanted them the next day and they dug up about a dozen of them again. I ended up losing several plants because of the roots drying out and being damaged from the repeated planting and digging.
I knew it was squirrels because I kept finding acorns in the bottom of the holes when I replanted the plants. Have you poked around in the soil beneath the hole for acorns or nuts? :-)
They dig in my flowerbeds and gardens all the time, especially right after I've planted, removed plants, or otherwise disturbed the soil. I am forever pulling up oak seedlings.
OTOH, my squirrels practically never disturb established plants... I guess they look for spots where the digging is easiest. If you can find a way to protect your new plants for several days to a week, maybe the squirrels (or whatever is digging up your plants) will leave them alone thereafter.
HTH, Laura

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On 6 Jul 2005 11:56:11 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Is it possible it's skunks? That's the only nocturnal animal we've had experience with! They look for grubs. Marie
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

We also live on a wooded lot in North Carolina and have had the same problem. The main culprits were raccoons, with perhaps a little help from gray foxes. They only seem to dig in new plantings and fresh mulch; I assume they are looking for grubs in the recently turned soil. Scattering red pepper around keeps them away for a few days. After the first good rain, they seem to ignore the new plantings, perhaps because it no longer smells new.
Several people mentioned skunks, but skunks don't seem to be very common in NC. I've lived hear for six years and have smelled perhaps one the entire time. Previously, I lived in two places that compete for skunk capital of the world (eastern PA and southern MI), so I am very familiar with their odor and habits.
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Are you sure it is happening at night? You did not enter enough information. You leave in the dark and when you return the plants are uprooted. Did you check the plants when you left and are sure they are still in the ground? You say they are uprooted when you return but do you return before light or after? If you left and returned in the dark then something did uproot them at night. If you left in the dark, but did not check on the plants and returned when it was light then you don't know if the uprooting happened in the light or dark.
If you left and returned in the dark then it is a possum, raccoon, or some other night creature. If you left in the dark but did not check and returned in the light then it is squirrels or a neighbors dog.
Or one of your friends playing a practical joke.

No ground pepper cannot hurt plants, but red pepper would be better.
Let us know if you do find out.

--
Wes Dukes (wdukes.pobox@com) Swap the . and the @ to email me please.

snipped-for-privacy@www.spam.com is a garbage address.
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Squirrels don't dig at night. I came out one morning early to find a raccoon digging in my garden. Just holes. Lucky me. He was not digging up my plants. I would have done more than chase him away.
The local skunk has been caught in my squirrel trap at least four times and he doesn't dig up my plants either. He just likes peanut butter!
I vote raccoons.
--
Dana
www3.sympatico.ca/lostmermaid
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I still don't for sure know if it is happening at night. The poster said that but the scenario given did not confirm it.

--
Wes Dukes (wdukes.pobox@com) Swap the . and the @ to email me please.

snipped-for-privacy@www.spam.com is a garbage address.
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snipped-for-privacy@fw.private.neotoma.org wrote:

Yes -- I'm sure it's happening at night. A few mornings as I left as it was just starting to get light, I checked and found the ground torn up and the plants uprooted. (While I usually dress fairly casually, day before yesterday, I was dressed for a meeting with some bigwigs and found myself kneeling on a piece of a cardboard box in a futile attempt to keep my knees clean while I replanted some things.)

I'll give that a shot -- or a sprinkle -- next.

Will do. Stayed up "past my bedtime" couple of nights ago but didn't spot anything.
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