When my sweet potato slips arrived in the mail near the end of May, they were sad-looking little things, all pink root and almost no leaves. I quickly planted them in a raised bed that had been covered with black plastic to create a nice warm home for the little plants.
A couple weeks later, I was delighted when they finally started to take off — just in time for a vicious attack by the resident rodents.
I suspect it was a chipmunk that got in the bed early one morning last week, digging down to try to rip the plants out by the roots. Fortunately I had decided to take a quick tour of the gardens around 7:30 a.m., and heard the outraged squeak of the guilty party as it scurried away.
Two of my treasured plants — I only have room for four sweet potato slips in thisbed — were laying on the plastic, one torn from the soil, the other grittily hanging on by a thread of root. Seething, I replanted both and built the makeshift defense you see here, using heavy pieces of broken pottery and bits of limestone.
The sweet potatoes weren’t the only victims that morning. Two sedums that had been placidly waiting for a new home for more than a month had been thrown out of their pots. A vine in a pot by the front door was missing (I think squirrels got that one, despite the chicken wire I’d put around the pot to deter them until the plants got bigger). And two little kale plants that were just starting to take off had been mowed off at ground level, their leaves left lying limp on the soil.
Cutworms, I suspect.
That last one was my own fault. I usually put newspaper collars around new plants to prevent cutworms from getting to the annuals when they’re tiny, but I’d gotten complacent. Ironically, these plants were encircled by wire mesh to prevent browsing by the rabbits, but it was not the bunnies that killed the kale. Instead, they had chewed on the moss roses and tiny iris.
I put a wire shield over the annuals, repotted the sedums and decided to go without a vine in that pot by the front door. I didn’t replace the kale either, since I had more planted on the other side of the garden. I put a toothpick in the soil next to the stems of those kale plants, just in case the cutworms decided to try again.
There’s a bird feeder near the sweet potatoes that I will not refill until later this summer. Will the lack of seed drive the chipmunks away? I don’t think so. But it might lessen their urge to bury seed in my sweet potato bed, and maybe they’ll spend less time in that area looking for mischief in the garden.