The 2016 Garden: the Plan to Defeat the Procyon Pests

Winter is normally spent contemplating and planning for the next spring’s plantings, but this winter, I had to do an extra measure of planning. Last summer’s garden was seriously damaged by masked varmints: raccoons found the luscious ripening tomatoes, ravaging every plant, from the Black Krims to the sweet cherries, chomping the fruit and ripping down the stems. (The raccoons also did a bit of damage to the renovated breezeway, making a few small tears in the new, lightweight screen. Apparently, though, the fruits of the garden were much more attractive to the mischief-makers than was the food-free porch.)

I’d dealt with squirrels and successfully kept out rabbits in the past, but this was the first time I’d had to contend with the clever Procyon pests. After consulting with other gardeners, as well as my best friend—who lives in the country and deals with raccoons almost every night—I learned that I would need to do more research in order to find out how I might be able to keep the raccoons out of my 2016 garden.

The raccoon is an example of just how perfectly able animals are at adapting to almost any human-altered environment. When considering the “enemy,” what first comes to mind might be their forepaws, which are almost human-like in their ability to grasp and manipulate everything they grab. The raccoon’s sense of touch is its most important: not only are the front paws extremely sensitive, nearly two-thirds of the sensory area of the brain is dedicated to interpretation of tactile sensations. The raccoon “hand” only lacks an opposable thumb, which gives humans the advantage in that regard. The raccoon’s brain is also very adept, with excellent problem-solving and memorization skills.

My having opposable thumbs, however, did not give me an advantage last summer against the clever nocturnal garden invaders; I did not get to enjoy more than a very few of the fruits of my tomato-gardening labor.

Building a raccoon-proof wall—no guarantee there—around the vegetable garden is not practical. If I want to plant tomatoes and other succulent vegetables this spring, I would need to come up with something more practical, reasonable, and affordable. Winter investigations proved that for many, the first choice of defense was electric fencing, using a high-voltage, low-amp charger to deliver intermittent pulses to keep out the pests. For several reasons, this was not a solution that appealed to me.

Fortunately, I discovered that there are simpler, less expensive alternatives. These range from battery-operated sprinklers, to solar-powered “predator control” lights, to the simplest of all, a portable radio, set to a talk radio station. (Which leads me to wonder whether a station dedicated to “discussion” of the current Presidential candidate debates would not only drive animal pests away, but perhaps kill the plants.)

Spring 2016 has just arrived and while I haven’t yet decided on all of my vegetable plantings for this year, I feel much more confident about my choices, knowing that I have a number of good possible solutions for my raccoon rivals….provided they aren’t politicians.


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