How to keep raccoons from harvesting your garden before you do
’Tis the season when the raccoons visit to see how well you’re doing on your garden this year. There are a lot of people enjoying the mid-summer harvests meaning these hungry, and clever, little bandits are right there with you. Got sweet corn? Not for long if the raccoons find it first. Same with peas, melons, berries, and even fruit off of your apples, pears, and plums. While it’s not easy to discourage them, there are ways you can baffle their best efforts.
Corn – A regular fence won’t do the trick when it comes to excluding raccoons since they can go up and over just about anything. Rely on electricity to keep the raccoons out of the corn patch, which is another good reason (besides pollination) to plant your corn in a large block. A terrific investment is the energized netting many people use for chickens, but if you don’t want to drop a lot of money on this type of fence, you can easily make an effective barrier placing a electric wire about 8 inches above the ground and the same distance from the top, just in case they try to climb. This doesn’t permanently injure the raccoon, but they are sensitive to the zap and are discouraged. Just don’t forget to turn it on at night!
Melons and squash – It’s discouraging when you go to pick a perfect melon and there’s a big hole in it. Once again, an electric fence is the optimum means of protecting your garden, but if you only have one plant or don’t want to take the time to set up the fence, another option is to put panty hose over each melon to discourage them. This may not stop the most determined raccoon, but it’s a simple and non-toxic method to save the fruit and worth a try.
Fruit trees – If you thought squirrels were bad, wait until the raccoons go to town on your ripening fruit. If the trees aren’t in a group where you can run a line of electric fence around them, you can place baffles on the trucks to discourage raccoons from climbing up and stealing your fruit. There are a number of different types ranging from what looks like an inverted “cone of shame” (Elizabethan collar) inverted on the trunk to metal or PVC covers making the trunk to slippery to climb. Also be sure to cut back your limbs so they can’t jump and access them from the ground.
A lot of people use lights or radios as deterrents to shoo away raccoons. While they initially might work, it doesn’t take long for the raccoons to understand that these are simple mood lighting and music to munch by. This is the same with strong smelling repellents. They might work at first, but probably repel people more than raccoons.
Trapping is a last resort, but sometimes you are outnumbered and at your wit’s end. Unless you are proficient with live trapping and releasing the animals in a legal and logical place, you might want to call in a professional. Raccoons might look cute and cuddly, but they are downright mean when cornered. They also can carry a number of parasites and other nasty diseases, including rabies, so handling them is not something to take lightly.
Raccoons are undoubtedly one of the most interesting animals to watch, as long as its not in your garden. When it’s you versus them, pull out all of the stops to win this battle.
This lovely image of the raccoon in the garden is by Jim Dubois via shutterstock.com.