Each spring nesting birds claim their territory, often in the same yard as the year before, even after months away on migration. I feel like I’m the same way with the garden, each year having to reclaim it after months of hibernation when the only back-yard forays were to tromp through crusty snow to the composter.

With the delayed spring, it seems even longer since the yard was “ours,” and the other denizens of our space behave like they have squatter’s rights for having braved out the winter there. Squirrels act as though they’ve secured drilling rights and are trying to dig for oil under every single coral bell. Rabbits clearly found plenty to eat in our yard, sampling anything that wasn’t cordoned off. On the plus side, they saved me the task of trimming back a wayward spirea (which might make it easier to dig up and bring to the May 18 plant swap...) . On the down side, the rabbits treated our raised beds and brick pathways as a latrine. Not my favorite spring cleanup job.

It isn’t just the year-round wildlife that looks at us as though we’ve crashed their pad.  I caught a brief glint of red in a trellis not far from our garage door a few weeks ago and realized it was a female cardinal, giving me the stink-eye from her nest in the tangle of last year’s clematis leaves. Since that clematis is the kind that comes back on old growth, I hadn’t bothered to remove the leaves last fall, leaving an attractive nuisance for our returning cardinals. We traveled  the long way around the house for a week, trying to avoid disturbing Mama cardinal any more than necessary. Luckily, they apparently fledge in just a few weeks, and it will take me at least that long to clean up other garden areas.

Fauna isn't the only thing trying to take over our yard; green grass shoots are thriving in garden plots, blurring the lines of what's yard and what's not. So far I’ve pulled enough leaves and debris off the garden that I’m starting to reclaim its shape. The pathways look like they go somewhere again.

Now to reclaim our raised beds from the bunnies. Even the area protected by netting has turned into bunny heaven, since late last fall a tiny rabbit found it could chew a hole just big enough to give him access to a prime salad bar. Over the winter, the hole was enlarged enough to be the equivalent of a rabbit freeway entrance, so reinforcements need to be deployed. I'm now searching for the best way to do something attractive with chicken wire.

What's your favorite way to protect plants? Or do you just decide to share and share alike with the wildlife in your yard? That's why I plant twice as many tomato plants as I should need, so when the squirrels take half, we get the rest.