JoAnne Skelly: Critters pose a challenge to Nevada gardner

Gardens often need protection from troublesome animals such as squirrels.

Gardens often need protection from troublesome animals such as squirrels.

Gardening successfully in Nevada is never easy. Soils low in organic matter and high in salts, low humidity and high winds, lack of precipitation and fickle weather all challenge a Nevada gardener. I can deal with all of those. However, it’s the critters that drive me crazy.

I was working in the yard recently and saw a ground squirrel up in the apple tree eating the blossoms. It’s bad enough that the untimely freeze killed most of the flowers, but then the squirrel has to go and eat the few healthy ones remaining. One year, I had a zucchini planted in a completely caged garden. Even the top of the garden was covered. In the morning when I watered the plant, it looked great. At lunchtime, I noticed it was wilted. Thinking that was odd after receiving water only a few hours earlier, I looked to see what was going on. A squirrel had dug under the railroad ties framing the bed, under the wire-caged sides, up into the bed, eating the roots and lower stem off the plant. He then went on his merry way under the ground and out. Caging the sides and top wasn’t enough. I should have lined underneath the bed with wire mesh.

Then, there are rabbits. Oh, cottontails are so cute, aren’t they? Until they eat all your veggies, flowers and lawn down to a nub. The deer aren’t much better. I don’t mind them so much, because they are rare at our house and seem to eat only the crabapples. However, they devastated the Carson City Community Garden last year and people all over town groan they can’t grow any flowers or garden plants because of deer. In addition to ground squirrels, rabbits and deer, I have had people complain about the quail eating all their seeds and seedlings. Don’t get me started on voles.

What’s a gardener to do? Exclusion is the most effective option. This includes fences, netting, mesh, chicken wire and even walls of water. What exclusionary tactic you select depends on the critter, the plant, and your time, energy and financial resources. I now garden in very large pots caged with mesh. They aren’t attractive, but they work.

On a more positive note, May 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. Cooperative Extension will present “Beekeeping” as part of the free Grow Your Own series. Call 775-887-2252, or email to reserve a seat. Gardens often need protection from

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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