Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dealing with chipmunks and other issues

When it comes to high calorie gardening we often face issues.
Disease, insects, rodents, etc.

A typical example is below posted by a woman trying to grow potatoes.
“I would love to have success with potato planting! My husband and I have tried twice, and yet they all get dug up and stolen by chipmunks and the like. Any suggestions? We have tried container planting also, but those rodents are persistent.”

A key to high calorie gardening is to never put more calories into growing the crop than you get out of the crop. Another key is to grow what is easy to grow. So in the case of the chipmunks the answer seemed easy but was not.

There were many possible responses to this issue.

1.      Kill the chipmunks was a number of response. It was interesting that many Americans were ok with a cat killing chipmunks but were not ok with live trapping chipmunks. So this type of solutions involves legal issues as to killing chipmunks and social issues as to how acceptable is it to kill or remove chipmunks.
2.      Give up growing potatoes. However, there is only one constraint at this location to growing potatoes. It is very unusual to find a high calorie crop that does not have a single issue that can impact its growth. In this case it may be as simple as growing enough for the chipmunks and the people. Generally this type of problem is worse early in the growing season. The chipmunks can take all the seed potatoes. If one provided a alternative food, say whole corn for the chipmunks the impact on the potatoes may be less. Potatoes are planted in the early spring when other sources of food may still be scarce. It is not uncommon for rodents to survive in spring by eating root crops.

3.      She said that she tried growing potatoes in containers. I have had a similar problem with chipmunks. They got into the chicken grain and stored it in all my 55 gallon pots. I have spouted grain coming up in every single large pot I had. The first thing I did was to stop the chipmunk raids on the chicken feed. The second thing was to put chicken wire around my large growing containers. In the worst case one can put electric netting around their area. No chipmunk is going to take on electric netting.
4.      Finally the chipmunks are taking the potatoes to eat. Soaking the potatoes in water with ghost peppers would make a world of difference. Just use gloves and plant a ghost pepper with each potato. Chemical warfare against the chipmunks!

Now let us assume that one of the above methods actually works for the lady with the chipmunk problem. We than have to ask, is it worth the effort? A peanut is a great high calorie crop that I have not gotten to yet. My grandmother raised a peanut plant in Alaska. It was an amazing thing to do and it required a lot of effort and a special window box with a heater and grow light. In all, she got a handful of peanuts. So it can be done, but just because you can does not mean you should.

The point of high calorie gardening is to produce calories that can be consumed. It is assumed you have limited land, money, and labor. So the focus is on that which is easy to grow and trying to have no more than 20 percent of your calories in any one crop if possible. This is in case something happens to one crop the others will still carry the day. Just think of the Irish potato famine. If you have resources left over than you can think of other crops that you can grow. However, I would tend to devote my resources to foods that complement the high calorie crops such as herbs and spices. Carrots, celery, and onions complement many of the root crops.

So that is it for this posting please leave your comments.