Many gardeners experience the satisfaction of planting a vegetable garden. Many of those gardeners, however, have also experienced the disappointment of the seeds that didn't come up, the sprouts that disappeared overnight and the ripening produce that becomes more tattered every morning until it vanishes. Protecting produce doesn't require armed intervention, but it does require some planning and extra effort to guarantee that those greens end up on your table. The time to start is before the first seeds go in the ground.
Protect Against the Elements
Locate your garden where it won't flood during spring rains. Higher rain totals and spring storms can literally wash or blow seeds and seedlings away.
Build a cold frame to protect tender veggies with 2 frames of two-by-four-inch lumber hinged on one side with heavy door hinges. Cover the top of the box with clear plastic or fiberglass. The frame will shelter tender shoots on cool nights; as days get warmer, prop the top up to allow heated air to ventilate.
Arch half-inch PVC pipe or concrete reinforcing wire over seeds between a frame of two-by-fours to form a garden cloche. Drape plastic or muslin sheeting over the arches to shelter growing plants. Pull the sheeting back to ventilate the cloche and remove it when the weather gets warm.
Protect Against Varmints
Erect a fence around the vegetable garden with deer fencing or chicken wire, depending on whether your creatures are great or small. Build the fence inside a frame of railroad ties or cedar logs and staple the bottom of the wire fence to the frame; rabbits and voles simply go under if they can't go through.
Cover your garden with bird netting, which is commonly sold to cover fruit trees. Drape it over a fence to get it off the ground. Use a cloche frame for bird netting or nylon screening to discourage aerial attacks all summer.
Hang shiny aluminum pie plates or tie colorful streamers from the fence around the garden: critters don't like the fluttering movement or light.
Simulate a predator by posting a plastic owl on a post but move it frequently so the mice and squirrels don't figure out that you're bluffing. Sometimes a simple milk jug on a fence post can accomplish the same objective.
Cook up sprays with garlic or wormwood to discourage seed-damaging insects. Use onion, garlic and cayenne pepper to discourage marauding mammals from mice and squirrels to larger animals who knock down fencing. Remember to spray after every rain.
Plant seeds of "companion" varieties to vegetables in your garden to repel unauthorized visitors. Plant onions with carrots, lettuce, celery and other plants; garlic with just about anything and geraniums and marigolds around the margins. Garden pests detest them all.
Scatter dog or cat hair from your pet's grooming brush about to discourage mice, voles and rabbits.
About this Author
Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.