the skunks vs. margaret, round 1

skunks-at-workGARDENING WITH SKUNKS isn’t a phrase that rolls off the tongue, the way “…with deer,” or “…with rabbits” might. But here at A Way to Garden, outsmarting awakening skunks is one of spring’s first challenges. These omnivores especially like grubs and worms, and root around in search of a good meal. Didn’t anybody tell them soilless mix, fresh from the bale, doesn’t contain any? By now I’ve learned not to actually put the pansies in the pots the first few nights, but simply the soil…and let them have at it. Next year I’ll go one step further, and do my prep on a tarp, to make the annual skunk cleanup easier. Live (with skunks) and learn.

  1. leslie says:

    What a sensible idea!

    Now if only there were a way (beyond skipping the bonemeal) to keep them out of the fall-planted bulbs I’d be completely happy.

  2. Andrew says:

    Wow, what a mess! A useful tip, however — thanks for posting. A friend of mine who lives near Tufts University deals with skunks on an surprisingly regular basis for a somewhat urban location, so much so that her dog gets “skunked” three to four times annually. The first Skunking of ’09 happened just this week.

  3. chigal says:

    That’s adorable, though obviously frustrating. I’m presently working out a plan to keep my tomatoes safe from the squirrel who discovered them last summer.

  4. Johanna says:

    Your plan sounds very reasonable. Anything you can do to offer them a calm, quiet opportunity to see there’s nothing to eat and move on elsewhere! The last thing you want is a po’d skunk, especially if those pots are anywhere near your house. Yech!

  5. Jan says:

    I have the same problem. I plant a little over 30 containers each spring and have learned to barricade them with all kinds of contraptions for the first 2 – 3 weeks. Once the soil settles and no longer smells “fresh turned” and the plants start to grow, they leave the pots alone and I can remove the goofy looking barricades. Our outside farm dog gets spayed once every early spring when the skunks come out of hibernation. It’s like she has to re-learn about them every year.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Jan. The oddest thing in all these years of this annual ritual: They sometimes dig up every fritillaria bulb, systematically, in the beds near the house. Now if you grow fritillaria you know they *smell like skunks*. So odd that the skunk would root around with its snout to pop all those out of the ground, just as they were emerging. Nature.

  6. Linda says:

    They try moving into my house every spring. The basements are warmish, but they are also wettish so the skunks have so far moved on to other basements within a day or two. Thank god this hasn’t happened to me YET, but I’ll be forwarned.

  7. Donalyn says:

    Now that is a good idea. Usually I just figure I will have to replant – they don’t usually do a lot of damage to the plants. This looks a lot smarter :)

  8. Tammy says:

    Oh my goodness, and I thought I had problems…. with rabbits. (They pull up the tulips and sit there chewing on the bulb like Bugs with a carrot.) I will count my blessings:)

  9. Squirrelgardens says:

    I had to read the story twice. Distracted by the stonework and paved walkway. Nice work on that. Oy I get off subject. Sorry about the skunks. Do you ever think that we are gardening in a Walt Disney movie? See you on Twitter.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Squirrelgardens. I love that: “Do you ever think that we are gardening in a Walt Disney movie?” I often invoke “Animal Planet,” but you are right, it’s Disney, isn’t it? Which character will show up next? Oh, dear.

  10. Scarlettm says:

    Happened to me last week – dug up an entire hypertoufa of sempervivum (three times) – which had been outside all winter. I thought it was racoons.

  11. margaret says:

    Welcome, Scarlettm. Now raccoons are another of my unfavorite neighbors…those devilish clawed hands and their voracity for any and all edibles. Here they usually show greatest interest in the garbage can (which they like to unpack item by item, inspecting each item carefully for edibility then tossing it across the road if not yummy). They also *love* catfood, as do the skunks, so poor Jack has to come in to eat in my house (his house has a cat door so I cannot leave him kibbles or water there, or everyone else in the ‘hood goes inside to get some). A friend tells me I do a very good raccoon impression, by the way. Probably better on video than in comments. :)

  12. Scarlettm says:

    Thanks for the welcome Margaret. I am searching (in vain) for a photo of some very odd looking skunks we spotted in one of our perennial gardens last year. They had what I can only describe as bouffant hair-dos. Unlike any skunk I’ve seen before. Due to a new external back-up drive, the photos are temporarily “lost.” Once I recover them is there a way to send them to you? Since you are such a fan of skunks :)

  13. BeBe says:

    Hi Margaret,
    Sorry to hear of your recent troubles with those pesky skunks. Here’s a tip I was given years ago by our animal control officer and it works for all critters. Soak some rags in Lestoil or Pine Sol, place in a bucket where activity occurs and the nuisance night stalkers will move on! I once had a ground hog nesting under my garden shed and he and his family vacated the premises immediately…never to return.
    We met on your recent book tour when you came to Cohasset, Massachusetts. I am so happy the weather has turned ! Hope you are well.
    Duxbury, MA

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