Who’s Eating In The Garden?

Skipping happily along the paths in the garden during a lull in the cold rain, checking for signs of spring or anything that might catch our attention, we went by the Fairy Gazebo . The small pots at the entrance housed crocus bulbs and some elfin thyme with a small bit of found treasure for each one.
Oh no! What happened to the crocus, it has been snipped down to nothingness. Who could have done such a thing?
The other pot holds a little piece of crackled glass found in the soil. We are always finding broken glass in the soil, the remains of beverage, medicine, beauty or food bottles thrown into the yard long ago with no thought of future diggers. Care is taken to not be injured by sharp bits with the use of gloves and tools to do the digging. The crocus was planted in bud, just like it’s mate on the other side.

It was also hit by the mysterious chomper. Such vandalism. The thyme looks good, it must not be part of the diet of the eater.

The newly planted sedum ‘Ogon’ has no nibbles. The grazer seems to prefer flowers.

Could this be the culprit? Mr. Turtle and his clan are found all around the garden, high and low but they are probably safely buried in the earth to keep warm for now. Aren’t they carnivores? I know more about biology than zoology. But I do remember being bit by a snapping turtle as a child while trying to feed it some lettuce, it preferred my finger.

Not the right season for fellows like this either, the caterpillar of the saddleback moth, I believe, but they are plant eaters.

He enjoyed the feast of the black millet leaves.

So very pretty, the caterpillar of the pale tiger moth, I believe, but don’t touch those stinging hairs, another lesson learned through experience. They don’t want to be stroked like you would a cat or dog.

He has chosen the perfect color leaf to enhance his photogenic qualities.

One of the most common eaters in the Faire Garden, the caterpillar of the eastern black swallowtail, I believe, we try and satisfy his hunger with lots of fennel, dill and parsley. The bronze fennel has volunteered all over, one of the main reasons we leave it to grow, and throw a wrench in any pretense of a design to the garden, is the butterflies it attracts. I’ll take those living flowers over good design principles any day.

It is a good thing there is lots for them to eat, then can clean the foliage and stems off a large fennel plant in a day.

Now to the heart of this story. While looking around near the pine trees at the end of the property last year, a noise underfoot sounded like a child’s squeaky toy. A couple more taps of the toe caused the same sound each time. Looking down, there was some fuzz amid the pine straw. Lifting the leaf litter here is what was found……

A pair of tiny baby bunnies, nestled as close as two peas in a pod. I was so surprised to find these as the source of the squeak, realizing it could have been something much more menacing and angry at being uncovered, it was a relief when this discovery was made. Where was mama, watching from afar, or off on her own to let her offspring fend for themselves.

They were of fending age it seems. Later in the week this one was nearly stepped on, blending so well with the gravel. He was poking around under the garage deck. It is sort of dark under there, he could have been caused to squeak once again by the misplaced boot.

We have seen the rabbits hopping along between the arborvitae and chamaecyparis, the wonderful area for this year’s potager. But there can be no beautiful vegetable patch if there are no vegetable plants, only stubs of stems. This is the solution, fence posts, plastic chicken netting and boards to protect and offer climbing opportunities for the sugar snap peas already planted. A row of onion sets are in the ground as well, a supposed deterrent to browsing bunnies. Once the plantings have grown larger, this barricade will be removed to allow for more lovely patterned plantings. We love the wildlife that shares our space here, really we do. We will find a way to coexist and still give all enough to eat, to everyone’s satisfaction.


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39 Responses to Who’s Eating In The Garden?

  1. tina says:

    how sweet!

  2. Jean says:

    awwwee so cute and great pics

  3. Dave says:

    We had two turtles that popped into our yard last year near the compost bin. They were munching on a piece of old cucumber! I joked to my wife that we ought to keep them. They were just box turtles like the one in your pictures.

    We’ve got a bunch of those bunnies all over here. As a gardener you have to accept that wildlife will enjoy your garden as much if not more than you do! Nice pictures! How did you get so close to that bunny to get a good picture of it?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I let out the girliest squeak when I saw the baby bunnies in the nest! How cute! But, we can say from experience at casa de brokenbeat that those herbivores can clean you out of precious veggies in record time. Beans were planted, germinated, flowered, then turned into 1″ sticks poking out of the ground. Broccoli dissapeared in 2 days when planted small, and strawberries were plucked-but ONLY when they were ripe to our dismay. We’ll have to see how the companion planting goes this year, or we may just opt for the plastic netting fortress of faire garden…
    love, mashley

  5. Benjamin Vogt says:

    Wow, wildlife! I can’t wait till my garden gets visitors (or, actually, maybe I CAN wait seeing as I am fun of my geraniums). We had THREE squirrels yesterday, a rare thing. When we moved in not one, a few month slater one, now 8 months later three. OF course, it is nearly spring (is it—really????).

  6. Kylee says:

    So sweet and I’m sure so soft to touch. But I know they can clean a garden out in no time, too.

  7. Frances says:

    Tina…they were super sweet little beings.

    Jean…Thanks. Cute but hungry.

    Dave…I love stumbling upon the turtles, one never knows where they will appear. The bunny was so scared and cornered under the deck. I happened to be taking pictures so had the camera at hand. They freeze when you are close to them.

    mashley…I think I squealed also when I uncovered them, totally unexpected. But the veggies must be protected. Now I worry about the newly planted strawberries. Bird netting for them.

    Benjamin…That is good you are a wildlife lover, but be prepared for the downside of that as well.

    Kylee…Sweet as pie, but baby plants are no match for their appetities and must be protected.

  8. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    Frances, I just knew that it was a bunny, but I didn’t expect babies right now. One year, we had a large nest, and I photographed them each week. It was fun to watch them grow. I know the silly things are a menace, but I still think they’re cute. Another baby got into the fenced garden, and I caught it, and the children petted it before I let it go OUTSIDE the fence. Thanks for the reminding me of them.~~Dee

  9. Frances says:

    Dee…While the rabbits were probably the culprits with the crocus, those photos were from last year some time, I didn’t date the photos so I’m not sure of the time, likely spring. Sorry for misleading you!

  10. Robin (Bumblebee) says:

    I adore the butterflies and just plant lots of extra dill for the swallowtails. Some for them, some for me. But boy, they are hungry, aren’t they?

    Robin at Bumblebee

  11. Jim/ArtofGardening says:

    The bunnies are too cute and look polite enough. I’m betting the elves ate the bulbs.

  12. Frances says:

    Robin…We have tokeep every body well fed.

    Jim…Politely hungry, but who knows about those elves, what do elves eat?

  13. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    I could tell from the photos of the damage that it was rabbits! You’re too easy on them. I’d have been tempted to stomp up & down when I heard the squeak. (Crazy maniaical laughter.) No mercy, no quarter – that’s my motto. I say keep the fencing up until the rabbits move to easier pickings at the neighbor’s garden.

  14. Jan says:

    What great pictures – esp. the bunnies. With the babies already here, Mother Nature seems to be saying winter is definitely over.

    Jan Always Growing

  15. J says:

    Oh, Mrs McGregor’s Daughter, you have a mean streak. I like it!

  16. jodi says:

    What a charming post. I gotta admit, I let out an “awwwwwwww” when I saw those tiny bunnies. Easy for me–they’ve never been a problem here–well, we have hares, not rabbits, but I guess the coyotes keep them down as I’ve never had problems with them.
    Cute story. One time where I lived, there were domestic rabbits that had escaped and gone wild. One day Nermal, the best cat ever, came out of the basement of the house we were renting, talking worriedly…and carefully carrying a baby rabbit. Mumma rabbit had been hit by a car, we found out, and Nermie found the nest, and brought all the babies to me. Two of them were dead when he brought them up, but the other four were fine. we named them flopsy, mopsy, dingbat and transister (for some weird reason, my son was quite young) and kept them for several weeks til we found someone to adopt them all. Nermal would get in the box with them and wash them, and sleep with them. He was the best cat ever…

  17. Frances says:

    MMD…Oh you wouldn’t! Not the dear little babies, adults maybe, but not the wee little ones. The fence will be kept up as long as necessary. The rabbits seem to find other food later in the season.

    Jan…You and others seemed to think the rabbit babies were just now discovered, I didn’t make it clear and have changed the wording to help with that. Spring is almost here, it’s true, but the baby rabbit find was from last year, as were the caterpillars and turtle.

    J…Another point of view expressed! ;->

  18. Frances says:

    Jodi…Talk about awwww, that Nermal rescuing the baby bunnies is the stuff of legend. Truly the best cat ever. One of my offspring used to raise rabbits and some went wild and would come back and visit, they are fascinating creatures, even if they want to eat the garden.

  19. Robin's Nesting Place says:

    Baby bunnies are so adorable. I was thinking rabbit too when I saw your crocus. I love the way you decorate in the garden.

  20. Frances says:

    Robin’s Nesting Place…Thanks. The babies were incredibly precious.

  21. Blackswamp_Girl says:

    Awww… 🙂 That’s great, I love that you are working with the bunnies.

  22. kate says:

    Your garden is a fascinating place to visit – the turtle shell is beautiful. So are the caterpillars.

    The baby rabbits are cute – I have some friends who raise rabbits and they are entertaining creatures. I’ve not had them eat in my garden, though. If you can keep them from eating your new veggies, that would be great. I want to see more of that chard!

  23. Ewa says:

    so sweet to find bunnies in the garden… owwww…

  24. Sue Swift says:

    Lovely to find someone who encourages the wildlife of the garden even if it does mean losing, or having to protect plants.I feel much the same, but have one weak point. Please, please can someone tell me how to love red spider mite … The only strategy I’ve found so far is to think that in a future life I might be reborn as one 🙂

  25. Frances says:

    blackswampgirl…Thanks. We are fairly soft hearted here by do get angry at the squirrel for eating the bird’s food.

    Kate…Even the big bunnies are cute, they just eat more! Thanks, I can lose myself working in the garden, it is just spread out enough to not be able to see it as a whole, making for more mystery. Oh and you will see more chard, it is still germinating in the pots even though other seeds have been planted in them.

    Sue…They add to the nature here, for sure.

  26. Wurzerl says:

    Hi Frances!
    What a charming story, what a great post!! I love your story and the photographs. It’ s not so easy for a gardener to live together with Bunnies but the little babies are so sweet. I hope you and all animals will find enough to harvest the whole year!
    Have a nice weekend

  27. Frances says:

    Wurzerl…Thanks so much. We try and coexist with all, there should be enough to keep the bunnies well fed anyway!

  28. Frances says:

    Sue Swift…Thanks. We do try to not harm any thing, but we do spray the evergreens with hard shots from the hose nozzle to deter the red spiders. ;->

  29. Sherry at the Zoo says:

    Ahhh…love the baby bunnies. We have a pet turtle and we feed him meal worms.

    GREAT pictures btw….

  30. Frances says:

    Sherry…Thanks. We love turtles, don’t really know what ours are eating, they are elusive in the garden.

  31. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    It read like a thrilling whodunnit and now we know! It’s those pesky wabbits again but awww they are so cute. What to do? I’m really glad I don’t have to deal with wabbits in my veggie garden, I just have slugs and snails in vast quantities instead. 🙂

  32. Frances says:

    YE…Thanks. I think that the slugs and snails, we have them in high numbers just like you, are much worse than the rabbits. At least fences will keep the little bunnies at bay, but much harder to isolate the plants from those nasties.

  33. Diana says:

    Cute, cute bunnies. We had a garden fence just like yours at our last house. It took three plantings of green beans before I realized I had to keep them OUT! Here, our yard is smaller and the dogs keep them out of the yard pretty well. Sometimes they come through in the night and eat along my rock path. The deer tromped through my yard night before last – i love watching them around here, just not in my gardens!

  34. Frances says:

    Diana…We are lucky to not have deer here. Most but not all of the back is fenced in some way. The rabbits, skunks and the occasional oppossum traverse the paths. The rabbits live across the street and down in the ravine that is a wild area. Housing is being built on some of those areas, one or two at a time. We shall see how that affects our wildlife population.

  35. Annie in Austin says:

    The squirrels are the main wildlife here – with an occasional possum or raccoon…and fences don’t help with those critters.

    Diana has rabbits? We had rabbits and groundhogs in Illinois but I haven’t seen one since we came to Austin. I don’t miss them one bit, Frances, even though your bunnies are very cute.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  36. Frances says:

    Annie…They are cute but if we did not have them, they would not be missed.

  37. Becca says:

    What a sweet post. I love it. I too grow lots of fennel for the swallowtails and have quite the abundance of lovely shots of them. I did just learn this year that fennel will inhibit the growth of many other plants. I’ve seen enough photos of your garden to know that’s not a problem. Just thought I’d share that tidbit with you!

  38. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I just knew there would be wrascally wrabbits at the end. Those you showed are at just the right stage for hors d’oeuves for Luna.

  39. Frances, says:

    Becca…Thanks. I didn’t know that about the fennel, thanks, but it’s neighbors here must not be affected, mostly echinacea and blue fescue.

    Lisa…We could use a good dog like Luna around here for squirrel snacking too!

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