I like the taste of garlic and hot peppers, but I’m betting that chipmunks don’t.
A family of these cute, furry rodents has taken up residence in our yard. For most of the summer, I liked seeing them scamper around. But then I noticed that tomatoes that were just getting ripe were getting chomped on.
It took me a while to adjust my thinking away from woodchucks, our usual garden culprit. When I baited traps with slices of banana, I found the bait gone and the trap unsprung, so I concluded that chipmunks don’t weigh enough to depress the lever. And chipmunks can get through or over just about any fence.
I tried creating multiple barriers, and even attached old carpet segments to fencing with safety pins. I imagine the chipmunks laughing at my efforts while climbing up the rugs to claim their treats.
I considered getting smaller traps designed for chipmunks, but there are so many of them that even if successful, I’d be constantly catching and disposing of them.
So I picked a hot pepper and mixed it in a blender with two cups of water and two garlic cloves. I let it steep for a few hours, then strained it and put in a few drops of oil and dish detergent. I put the noxious mixture in a spray bottle and sprayed it on the bottoms of the tomato plants, figuring that would deter chipmunks from climbing them.
No such luck. I found more bites taken out of the ripening tomatoes, which had to be picked immediately and used for soup or fried green tomatoes. That’s when I concluded that I had to spray the tomatoes themselves, and so far that’s protecting them from predation.
We peel tomatoes before canning or saucing them, but I don’t know what we’ll do with the tomatoes we slice and eat fresh. Will rinsing remove the spray residue or we will too be deterred from the seasonal delight of eating fresh tomatoes? As for the cherry tomatoes, they’re probably goners.
I remember liking chipmunks when I was a boy. In fact, when I was 8, I wrote a poem about them, and dug it up in an old family album. It begins, “At sunrise, like a praying priest/Sits the happy chipmunk beast.” I remember reading comic books about two chipmunks named Chip and Dale.
That same year, 1958, one of the most popular songs was by a group called The Chipmunks, and featured speeded-up voices that I guess people thought sounded like chipmunks. The record sold 4 million copies in just a few weeks (click here to hear it, if you dare). They later became cartoon characters. Even today, I sometimes get one of their tunes stuck in my head and can’t get rid of it.
But I hope to get rid of chipmunks in the tomatoes, if not with garlic-pepper spray, then by some other means. Any ideas?
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