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This Year the Rats and Squirrels Will Not Eat My Basil Plants

From Matty Rhoades. Email him at matty[AT]borderstan.com.

We are among those lucky Borderstan dwellers with a small back garden. It’s mostly flowers in boxes and baskets, with an occasional tomato plant, depending on my mood that summer. Plus there is the long-lived rosemary plant that lives in a pot, hanging on and somewhat decrepit looking now, but still producing plenty of sprigs for my needs.

urban, gardening, vermin, basil

For about $10 you can build a wire contraption to protect your basil plants from urban vermin. (Matty Rhoades)

Then there is basil. I like having a basil plant or two growing in the back garden to put on the tomatoes I pick up at farmers’ markets (heirlooms, please!). However, during the last two summers, either rats or squirrels — or a combination of both — totally destroyed my basil plants within one to three days after I planted them in pots.

This year, I decided to fight back. I enclosed my basil plant pot with the contraption pictured here. All it took was some chicken wire from Logan Hardware on P Street NW and some of those plastic zip-fastener-thingees. Yes, there is a “hinged” top.

As a friend pointed out, what about the bugs? So I asked Frank Asher, owner of OLD CITY green for a few tips on protecting my summer plants from urban vermin. (It’s the only locally owned garden center left in the neighborhood, at 9th and N Streets NW.)

Here is what Asher advises — a few pointers if you want to keep your basil edible, your collard greens clean or your roses pristine:

  1. Simple wire to surround your plant(s) certainly keeps out rodents of any species.
  2. Hanging a mirror or two in your garden not only catches light, but also scare birds that might want to eat your blueberries. Little aluminum pie pans can still do the trick, too.
  3. There are also natural oils that detour squirrels and rats. They hate pepper, cinnamon, clove and rosemary oils.
  4. Last but not least, bugs, bugs and more bugs… you want the good ones! Lady bugs and Praying mantis.

And Asher notes, “We carry these products and the lady bugs, too!”

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Rhoades has lived in the Borderstan area for 17 years. When he’s not writing about the area he loves, he follows politics, tends his garden and spoils Lupe, the world’s cutest and smartest dog. Find him on Twitter @mattyrhoades; email him at matty[AT]borderstan.com.

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