Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kitchen Scraps & Raccoons

Anyone who has tried sheet composting knows that it increases worm population greatly.

This spring I was digging and preparing the garden beds. In one bed that had fava beans growing in it over the winter, I counted about 2 worms per shovelful.  In another bed I threw kitchen scraps on it over the winter (California winter, no snow).  This bed had about 12 worms per shovelful.

It has always seemed to me that burying or sheet composting scraps is an efficient (i.e. easier) way to use them compared to normal composting. Especially after digging up roots and seeing worm holes lined with vermicompost over a foot and half deep. The only problem is racoons and rats always dig them up.

On a gardenweb board, david52 mentioned he used chicken wire over a bed to deter racoons.

Well inspired by that here's what I've been trying:

Take out a gallon of scraps to the garden bed at a time.

With garden glove on, brush away mulch and scoop a hole about 4-5 inches deep, dump scraps in. 


 Cover with the dirt and wood chip mulch. The put a 1' chicken wire square on top and secure.
Each side of the chicken wire square is cut to have sharp points (no smooth surfaces). This deters raccoons from trying to dig in from the side. To secure it, a pepper plant cage was cut up in 3 sections. Each section has one wire ring & 3 legs.

So far, this has worked great. Evidence of racoons prowling around but unable to get the scraps. Have 3 holes so far, no problems. Having 4 of the "wire" setups should allow enough time for the scraps to rot enough in the oldest hole so a raccoon wouldn't want them. Then I can rotate the wire setup to a new hole as more kitchen scraps are available.  
Using this should improve my soil considerably and is easy to implement. Previously I never sheet composted during the summer b/c of rodent problems and normal composting took too much time and required more "browns" (leaves, grass, hay,...) than I had.

Having only a 1'x1' square wire mesh protection, will allow me to place scraps in between plants during the summer.

In the winter time I'd rather not go out to the garden every time we generate 1 gallon of scraps. So the plan is to fill up a 5 gallon bucket which is kept right outside the house. When full go dump it on the garden and rake wood chips over it. To keep racoons away a leftover piece of chain link fence (5'x5') is thrown over the bed. Tried this once and the raccoons could only paw a few small holes through the fence trying to get the food. They left it alone after the first night.



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