Sunday, August 14, 2011

Garden Pest

I mentioned in one of my last posts that I had been recently dealing with a particularly challenging garden pest.  It's actually been more than a year now.

I have spent hours dealing with the aftermath of this pest's activity.

I have had to remove plants and move plants.  I have had to accept plants being in less than ideal condition.  I have had to regard 11 years' worth of work in my garden in a totally different light.  It's no longer a case of it being enough that something pleases me to be included in my garden.  I have to ask myself:  does it still belong here, is it resistant, will it survive?

This has not just affected the softscape of my garden but the hardscape as well.  We had family guests this past weekend and my sister-in-law, a fellow gardener, came back from a stroll around my garden and asked me, 'What are these strange metal things everywhere in your flower beds?'

I had hoped that maybe they looked like miniature garden sculptures.  They certainly took as long as an art project might have.  I spent at least two days carefully cutting 75 squares of fine chicken wire, wrapping each one around a copper pipe so that it maintained a circular shape and then attaching them throughout the beds of my backyard garden.

Are you starting to feel a little worried that maybe your garden will be victim of this horrific pest next?  It sounds more challenging than aphids or slugs or squirrels, doesn't it?  I wouldn't be too concerned about this pest's activity in your garden.  I'm pretty certain that a good fence will keep it contained in mine.

Would you like to see some photos?

Meet my garden pest.  His name is Meeko.  He is 17 months old and he is a soft-coated Wheaten terrier.  Isn't he cute?  On some days, his cuteness is his saving grace.

Those 75 miniature garden sculptures?  They are armour for my irrigation system.  Meeko systematically chewed 25 (one third) of my sprinklers this past spring.  Imagine looking out the back door and seeing this fluffy fellow joyfully bounding by with a sprinkler in his mouth and the tubing trailing behind...25 times.

And that is the key.  His joy. 

It is hard to remain angry too long.  In the end, it's my problem isn't it?  I either need to teach him not to do it or to deter him.  Spraying the sprinklers with tabasco only worked for a short while.  Being beside him constantly could work, but that's ultimately impractical.  In the end, it was up to me to figure out a way to protect my irrigation system while I taught him not to chew it.  The ugly chicken-wire armour is working for now.  Plus, I now know how to repair our irrigation system and can add that to my long I-Fixed-It! list in my back pocket.

When I planted my garden initially, I was thinking about making it safe for toddlers and, as the years passed, I became less concerned about the toxicity of plants. If it was beautiful and it suited my soil, light conditions and zone (which is complicated enough, right?), in it went. Since Meeko's arrival, I have moved my lily-of-the-valley to our front yard and I have fenced in our tulip and daffodil plants.  I've positioned other fences in a criss-cross fashion to curb his back and forth runs through my perennial beds.  I've trimmed the berries off of my holly bushes and plan to either plant them in the front or give them to a friend.  I have removed my autumn crocuses and have been plucking out all morning glory vines as they reappear. 

Last summer, when he was a young puppy, he couldn't pass by a plant without taking a biteful. This summer, his garden activity is, in many ways, calmer.  With time, I can see that the plants will be less of a concern although I think I will always have to content myself with a less than perfect garden.

In an article in The New York Times last summer, Ian Dunbar who is a noted U.S. veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer said, “Dogs look at things in the garden, and they have two questions: can I chew it or can I pee on it? That really is the depth of their philosophy. And they’re happy with that.”

As for me, am I happy with my new gardening partner and his simple philosophy?  He's challenging but yes.  I love him dearly and wouldn't trade him for anything.  And things are getting better.  This morning, as I mulled over writing this post, I thought 'At least he hasn't dug any holes lately.' 

And then, not too much later, he ran in from the backyard with his muzzle covered in dirt.  The joy of the moment wins again.


  1. Oh my goodness!! He's so cute! Turbo has chewed on three sprinklers and he asked me to send Meeko his greetings and say 'hola' :) I read a book by Ian Dunbar before we got Turbo and loved it.

  2. Meeko sends a big 'bonjour' to his sprinkler-chewing buddy Turbo! If he lived closer, he would love to hang out with him.

    I read one of Ian Dunbar's puppy books too. It was very helpful and I enjoyed his humour.


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