Losing the Garden to Ransacking Raccoons

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops her new container garden being attacked by a raccoon mother with babies.Barking, yipping, screaming, the dog and I defended the new vegetable garden against a ransacking raccoon, for as long as we could. I banged and kicked the sliding glass door mightily as the little dog went ballistic by my feet, and the ‘coon retreated to its place under the deck, but not for long. It popped out every so often, eyeing the garden, and then I’d storm outside, stomping, roaring, waving my arms frantically, leaving the dog to carry on hollering inside. This continued for most of the holiday weekend. Which is why I didn’t finish writing my blog about healing with fresh lettuce.

It was my first vegetable garden. A container garden. My friend had planted a galvanized steel bucket and two horse-sized water troughs full to their brims with kale, six different types of lettuces, spinach, basil, various herbs, and one tomato plant that’s supposed to yield a hundred cherry tomatoes. We built it on my deck, to be close and easy to manage.

It turns out the area under and around my deck is prime real estate for woodchucks, fox, raccoons, skunks, and muskrats. They take turns each year fighting for their nesting spots. They usually avoid the shallow boardwalk, lined with large windows and doors, that cantilevers over the pond. The perfect place for my salad garden, I thought. Until the first day. Right off, one of the resident woodchucks devoured most of the single cilantro seedling. I should have realized then this would be like inviting a whole kingdom of wild creatures for a free smorgasbord.

If my son were home he’d shoot every critter. Friends offered to help trap the offending beasts and carry them off far away. But I’m convinced the raccoon is a mother with babies. After all I’ve been through, how could I shoot or separate a mother with babies?

So I’m camping out by the garden. A lot. With camera, my book (Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale), pacifying mugs of hot mocha with Kahlua, and a water-hose. The dog, now sleeping exhausted on the other side of the sliding door, takes turns with me (from inside) guarding our healing herbs and lettuces. But we are ready to quit. Life’s too short to be picky over who gets to pick the vegetables. And we’re learning to pick our battles. Time to go hiking instead.


What did you lose over the long weekend? What do you favor – baby lettuce or baby raccoons?



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6 thoughts on “Losing the Garden to Ransacking Raccoons

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I agree. Life’s too short. This year, I surrendered to a much smaller no-till garden with a few raised beds, 3 tomato plants (there was a time I grew 3 dozen), and an excellent sturdy tall wire fence. My son who loves gardening designed the new garden where the old large garden used to be. Slugs are happy enough in raised beds, but raccoons, deer, and chucks can’t get through the fence. Setting it up took time, Anthony’s generosity, and additional man power to get the fence in place, plus I just hired a garden savvy friend of Anthony’s to help with weeding vegetables and flower beds.I don’t grow any flowers eaten by critters larger than butterflies. We’re all more peaceful this way–especially the dog. Good luck. Gardening like all else in life can be a heart-breaker.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yup, Elaine. Life-saving, heartbreak-avoiding gardening tricks. I’m learning slowly. It would definitely be easier with someone around who could build fences. My own son would rather shoot the critters than build me a fence. Plus, he’s in California pretty much all the time now. But I do have a lovely young woman helping me with the weeding and planting. It’s taking me forever but I am discovering which flowers and plants are especially appealing to these wild creatures. I will no longer plant cilantro or straw-flowers. As for the lettuces, I figured out that I could plant a few more next time – some extras for the raccoons. That way maybe we can still all live in peace.

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Robin, I could identify with your struggle. I am having a problem with a groundhog creating havoc with my front porch and sidewalk. I think you’re making the right decision to stop spending your life defending the garden.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      The worst part, Lynne, is that I’m afraid to let the dog out on the deck. I know she’ll chase right after the woodchuck or coon or whatever she finds out there. And I shudder to think of what one of these creatures can do to a little dog. Luckily, for my garden, so far the raccoon has been very gentle with the plants. She very politely only nibbles on one plant at a time, leaving me quite a bit left for my own needs. As long as she is reasonable in her approach like this, I think we can share the garden amicably. But I will try the idea of playing music that another reader suggested. If I can move her with music, well – that’s all the more cilantro and black simpson lettuce for me.

  3. Stephanie

    Hi Robin, I can relate to Racoons especially Momma & her babies ….here is what we did & it worked.
    You get a Battery Operated Radio, put it near your Deck/Patio at NIGHT, turn on and play Music ALL NIGHT. This worked after 2 night she vacated on her own.
    Night noise hate it …..takes me back to those horrid nights of pumps – alarms – call buttons in Hospital.
    Good Luck.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Stephanie. And welcome to my site. I like that idea of playing music for the raccoons. I mean – to get them to abandon my garden. I wonder what sort of music I’ll play for this. I don’t believe I’ll have the same aversion to night noise as you. Definitely hospital alarms and call buttons would drive me crazy too, but probably not just playing a bit of light rock for a few nights. Cheers!


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