DEAR JOAN: Your column last week mentioned building cages for excluding rats. They also keep out other animals and birds.
Our garden bed cages are used year round. We have a tall one for tomatoes, and with moderate effort, the tall cages can be moved to whatever bed the tomatoes are in, which, of course, we change year to year.
The cage for the fruit tree is up only when there is fruit. It is made with panels that are bolted together, and this unit can easily be taken apart for storage. One panel is hinged to provide an entry door.
As you say, these cages are expensive, but they are very effective. We cannot justify their cost in food, but we view the money spent as the cost of enjoying the gardening process. One can easily spend a lot of money on nonproductive activities and hobbies. Gardening does have some tangible return for money spent.
The one problem we have not solved is that something, probably rats, is chewing on the irrigation tubing, thus requiring weekly repairs. We are trying pepper spray but the tubing is all over our yard and keeping up is a challenge.
Phil and Sue Grover, Concord
DEAR PHIL AND SUE: What a neat setup you’ve got, and while I’m sure it was costly to acquire and took some effort to build, it’s satisfying to have it in place and ready to go. It’s certainly easier on the blood pressure as fighting the rodent wars can become an all-consuming bundle of frustration.
I have a couple of ideas on protecting your irrigation lines. The first is to bury them under the soil or beneath a layer of mulch. This might end up being a temporary fix because rats or squirrels intend upon getting to your lines will dig them up. You also might have irrigation lines that aren’t suitable for going underground, and this could result in clogged lines.
The rodents are chewing on the tubing for a couple of reasons. One, they’ve discovered the lines have water inside, and they’re thirsty. Two, rodents need to gnaw in order to keep their teeth from growing too long.
You might be able to spare your irrigation lines by providing the rodents with another drinking source — a shallow bowl of water — and something more substantial to chew on, such as old beef bones, antlers or a salt block.
Conversely, you can try to discourage the rodents from visiting by getting rid of food, water and shelter, which isn’t easy because rats and squirrels aren’t picky, and they just don’t know how to take a hint.
DEAR JOAN: I let my hummingbird feeder soak every time before I put out fresh refreshment.
Recently I had four or five birds flying around the feeder, and three or four were on it for the first time ever. Do hummingbirds remember people who feed them every year or year round? I feel like they do.
Franchesca Campos, Windsor
DEAR FRANCHESCA: Thank you for being a friend to the hummingbirds. I don’t know if they recognize faces, but they do remember all the feeding spots, including keeping track of the blooms they’ve visited. Their memories are astounding.
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