Before we bought our house in 2009, we had a vegetable garden for a few years at my parents house. Their house is situated near farmland and isn't fenced in at all. We grew a variety of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melon, eggplant, peas, beans, and other edibles in the garden and had a pretty good success rate. We'd harvest pounds and pounds of tomatoes during our twice weekly visits during the growing season.
When we were looking for a house, we had a lot in mind for our backyard. The major thing was a fairly decent area for a garden. Our house had a nice size backyard for our area, but it was on a slope. We set to making raised beds and bought in nice blend of soil and made sure everything was healthy.
Our first growing season (2010), was off to a good start. Our tomatoes shot up and grew tall and prolific.
Then, one day we noticed the leaves started to curl up and wilt. The next day they took a yellow and brown appearance. The flowers stopped blooming and no more fruit was produced. We picked maybe 8 tomatoes from those plants before they died off completely. What was the cause of this? Blight? Wilt?
We took a leaf sample and went to our local nursery to talk to the experts. While they couldn't say for sure, they did ask us if we had any Black Walnut trees close to our property. We did. Our neighbors have two Black Walnut trees which are maybe 7 feet from where our tomatoes were. Evidently, these trees have a chemical called juglone that can be toxic to certain plants, especially tomatoes. There wasn't much that could be done at that point as we were told you'd need to plant the tomatoes 25 feet away from the trees and even that might not work.
Despite all this tomato devastation, we planted a new round this summer. We love the idea of growing fresh vegetables right outside our door and decided to plant them in a bed even further away from the Black Walnut tree. Everything was going well until a few weeks again, we noticed the "Walnut Wilt" reappearing. We didn't panic, we could still get some fruit off the plants if they succumbed again to juglone.
However, we didn't plan on animals attacking our tomatoes constantly. The other day, I walked out to check our garden and found this:
This tomato was about the size of two golf ball and we were eagerly awaiting the day to pick it. But something else got to it first.
So we decided we needed to fence the bed in. We had some chicken wire left over from a previous project so we used that. The holes we a little bigger than we wanted, but we figured it would still keep out the critters eying up our produce.
We were feeling good about this until the following morning:
Obviously we were dealing with a smaller animal or a bird. We have a family of chipmunks that live in our neighbors yard (or ours it seems), so I leaning towards chipmunks. (They dig holes all over our flower beds and we can't seem to get rid of them.) We have since bought new chicken wire with incredibly tiny holes, so nothing can possibly get in through the holes. So far, so good (fingers crossed). However, we did witness a hungry squirrel running around the fenced in bed trying to figure a way to get up. Luckily, he got frustrated and jumped around frantically before running his usual exercise course along our fence and taking off to another yard.
If only critters and Black Walnut trees attacking our tomatoes were the only gardening problem we have.
On Friday morning, after Kinsey got back from his morning run, he checked on our garden and everything was fine. Less than 40 minutes later, I went out to water before we left for work and was met with complete pepper massacre:
In all, our two tallest and most flowered pepper plants were snapped in half, two more were pulled straight up from the ground, and the remaining six were fallen over and trampled on. We have no idea what happened. A little chipmunk (our usual garden suspect) couldn't have done this massive work. A squirrel doesn't seem likely either. A rabid raccoon? A skunk? A bear? (We haven't seen any of these in our yard ever. I doubt the bear, but there have been bear sightings in the boro we live in about 5 times in the last 18 months.)
So we're down to 8 peppers still in the ground (we started with 13 at the beginning). I'm not sure how damaged these remaining ones are, but hopefully we get a pepper or two. This bed will obviously be fenced in immediately.