Critter eating my zinnia buds & more

CurlyJennyJuly 23, 2014

Went out to the garden this morning to find that something is pigging out on my zinnia plants, the three on the row perimeters. Munched all of the new bud heads right off. I've had insect problems on some of these plants, but I don't think a Japanese beetle could do this type of damage. See photo.

In another bed, something is also eating my ripe tomatoes, baby zukes and zuke leaf stems, and my brussels sprouts leaves. Whatever is doing the zinnia damage has to be fairly tall as some of the zinnia and brussels leaf damage is at least eighteen inches high. We did see a ground hog run across our backyard about a month ago. However, I live in an urban neighborhood with fenced yards, so I don't think it could be deer.

Last night I sprinkled coyote urine around all the beds, but either it didn't work or rain this morning rendered it useless.

The zinnias are surrounded by cayenne and jalapeno plants, which were of course untouched. This reminded me that some people use pepper spray to deter animals. Anyone had luck with this? I know you have to re-apply after rain. Homemade? Store bought? I'm willing to try anything!!! I would like to enjoy my zinnias, which are just starting to blossom.

For reference, I have herbs in the same bed as the zinnias--parsley, sage, oregano, basil--all untouched by animals.

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Hi CurlyJenny,

Deer can jump a fairly tall fence, but they have sharp hooves that should leave recognizable tracks. About that groundhog, would your fence contain him? He probably would be standing up on his hind legs to reach 18 inches. Groundhogs are excellent diggers, so look for any evidence of something having dug under your fence. And sometimes groundhogs operate during the day, so you might see him doing some damage. Look around for a possible groundhog den, in case it lives on your property. Come to think of it, deer sometimes do their damage during the day, too.

But if you look out your window and see a deer or a groundhog in your yard, what are you going to do? Sounds like you are in town, so shooting the critter is not an option. And some Animal Control units limit themselves to dogs or cats. I would suggest you talk to your neighbors, to see if they have been having any damage. On the other hand, Animal Control might help you. Perhaps they could set a trap. Or find deer tracks. Keep us posted.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Thanks, Zenman. I'll inspect for holes. And Animal Control could be a good idea. Meanwhile I've sprayed everything with pepper spray. No luck so far. All it's done is burn what remains of the zinnia leaves. Whatever is eating is making fast work of these plants. So sad as they are just starting to bloom beautifully. Animal has started in on the parsley. I'm starting to think I'm dealing with several pests: rabbits or a groundhog doing the zinnia and Brussels sprouts damage. And squirrels eating my low-hanging ripening tomatoes. Unfortunately my beds are blocked from my view from the house by a shed, so i cannot watch for their comjngs ans goings. But its definitely frequent thru-out the day. I've read on other forums about liquidfence and human hair--anyone had luck with either of these? Otherwise I may have to resort to a chicken wire fence.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:06AM
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Hi CurlyJenny,

"...Otherwise I may have to resort to a chicken wire fence."

That probably won't deter the squirrels -- they are good climbers and jumpers. And a groundhog can dig under a conventional chicken wire fence in a matter of minutes. The chicken wire fence might stop the rabbits, though.

"Unfortunately my beds are blocked from my view from the house by a shed..."

That is unfortunate. But look on the good side of this. If your zinnias were blooming beautifully, you wouldn't be able to see them anyway.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Edited to remove a duplicate post.

This post was edited by zenman on Sat, Jul 26, 14 at 11:21

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:08AM
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I have the same problem with my zinnias. I suspect its deer. They are in my yard all the time, yet I never find hoofprints, just see them out there snacking away. There are many good deer spray repellents that will work - Hinder, Deer Off, Deer Away, Liquid Fence, etc. If however, you have a woodchuck the deer repellents won't stop him at all. You need a woodchuck repellent and most of them don't work either. The only one I've found that works (and I've tried many kinds) is in a red bottle, I think its called Ground hog stopper or something like that.. HD sells it and its pretty good. Woodchucks will eat just about anything, they can really destroy a garden in a very short time.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 9:03AM
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My husband and I spotted the culprit yesterday morning: a fat little groundhog. I also saw where he is coming and going--under a 6-8" gap below the fence between my neighbor's and my backyards. I had put blood meal out the night before and he seemed to be a bit confused. Hesitating on the perimeter of the garden before I shooed him away. But that could have just been wishful thinking on my part. The blood meal didn't deter whatever is eating my tomatoes. I think it's chipmunks. At any rate, I can at least block off the fence gap, though as ZM says, the groundhog may just dig under if he's determined enough. I will also look for "ground hog stopper," hpny2. The zinnia/herb bed is on the side of the shed, hence the partial view of Freddie, the nightmare groundhog, through the honeysuckle bushes. Thanks, all!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 10:54AM
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You named the groundhog Freddie? Cool !!! Keep us posted on your ongoing experiences with Freddie, the Nightmare Groundhog. This could be an epic adventure. I wonder if Freddie has a den in your neighbor's yard. If so, you may be seeing some young groundhogs as an addition to Freddie's family.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 12:19PM
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I had the same problem...something eating my veggies off at the ground, and then eating my flowers off my eggplant and even eating pepper leaves. Not deer, too close to the house. Not rabbits, my veggies are in raised beds and unreachable to them as far as I know. Then one day we found a rats nest inside the bbq grill. Yep, we think that was the culprit. Light enough not to leave any tracks and agile enough to climb into the raised beds. I tried pepper spray and that didn't work. I finally used Plantskydd critter repellant. It has dried blood in it...I think...which creates a flight response in animals. That seems to have worked, though the strawberries I had planted that kept coming up and then getting eaten finally gave up completely. Good luck. I know how frustrating this can be.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plantskydd critter repellant

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 6:56PM
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I name all my woodchucks Chuckie. They are determined little scamps. I even found that a baby one managed to squeeze through my chain link fence, along with his little buddy, a baby bunny, and they proceeded to gobble up all my kale and cucumber plants. We solved that by putting 2 foot chicken wire around the perimeter of the fence. Chuckie also came up on my deck to devour my petunias. And I have 2 potted strawberry plants on the deck that the resident chipmunk comes up each day to check on the ripeness, if they are ripe enough to his liking, he grabs them and scampers away. Aren't rodents cute?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 3:06PM
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samhain10(5a - MI)

I could loan you our platoon of feral cat scouts. Meet Fearless - no rodent is safe in our garden when she's on duty! :)
Seriously, you will need to check all around the perimeter of your fence and patch with chicken wire. I have yet to find any product that keeps rodents from chewing plants. When I grew corn, I used to sprinkle dried hot pepper, but I think they just thought we were serving Mexican food buffet.
- Alex

This post was edited by samhain10 on Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 21:14

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 9:10PM
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Please send the feral cats, Alex! I fear the two or three that roam my hood are outnumbered by this year's bumper crop of chipmunks. We have now spotted them in the veggie garden. They will not be stopped. At least not by the methods I've attempted so far.

The blood meal seems to only have deterred the ground hog(s) from what's left of my zinnias - but not the chipmunks from the tomatoes, zucchini or brussels sprouts. I have tried 3 pounds of Bonide All-Animal repellent (contains dried blood, putrescent eggs, and garlic oil among other things). Nada. Then I tried slices of Lever deoderant soap - a friend of my mother's recommended it. The munks don't give a damn.

It's tempting to try the PlantSkydd, grandmamaloy, but I may be applying these scented tactics too late for this crew. They now have a taste for tomatoes that will not be stopped!

I thought the tomatoes growing higher on the vine were safe, but not so. So far (knock on wood), the eggplants are a little too tough for them to bite through. And they have not touched the flowers. Meanwhile, I have been picking the untouched tomatoes a bit early and letting them ripen on the windowsill. They're still pretty sweet.

Next up, my neighbor gave me a couple of rolls of mesh - stiff plastic and metal. We'll see what we can devise.

The saga continues!!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:44PM
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