… share a slogan: Dig We Must.
For Consolidated Edison (the NYC energy company), it was a slogan from the 1950s, asserting the company’s need to excavate under city streets to install power and gas lines, to create a better city.
For the squirrels around my Ramona St. condo, it describes their relentless drive to dig in the nice loose soil of my container gardens, to bury the nuts they find in the neighborhood, leaving devastation in their wake.
The Ramona St. Squirrel Squad used to ply their trade on my front patio — until everything had to be moved off that patio (and onto my back patio) so that workers could set up scaffolding to use for destroying two dry-rotted balconies above my patio and then constructing new ones. A nasty, noisy, dirty process, still going on. But from the squirrels’ point of view, it was all a simple story of dispossession: we took away all their nut-buryland.
I assumed that all those plants on the back patio would be out of range of the sciurid menace, but then I was thinking that the creatures would have to travel around the block, through pedestrian and automobile traffic, to get to the back patio (the way I would, on foot). But all they had to do was climb up three storeys of wall to the roof, over it, and then down the other side. A snap for a squirrel.
But they’d have to know that this was the way to go. I’d never had squirrels on the back patio before, but somehow they sussed out that there was fresh nut-buryland out there. And they’ve been digging up a storm. Most spectacularly, digging a 5-inch deep hole in a pot containing a coleus slip that I was trying to root — and tossing the plant off onto the patio to make room for a nut.
Dark, evil anti-sciurid thoughts fill the air.
So how do you discourage squirrels from digging in pots? There are a few effective techniques. One is essentially 100% guaranteed to work, but it has a serious drawback. You install a coyote, and the squirrels will never bother you again. But then of course you have a coyote to cope with.
Other, less dramatic, but generally effective techniques: convering the surface of the soil in the pots with large heavy rocks; or covering it with squirrel-proof mesh, like small-gauge chicken wire (both have to be well-anchored). Other techniques rely on squirrels’ antipathy to various organic materials: bone meal, blood meal, human hair, even rabbit fur (or so I read), fox urine, human urine. These have to be renewed after rains or watering, and (without special treatment) some are chemically too strong for plants in pots, though they’re ok in open gardens.
I know from experience back in Columbus that cayenne pepper really works. But it has to be fresh, it has to be renewed regularly, and it costs a lot, even if you buy in bulk.
So for the moment I dither, and just patch up the holes.