Hawbaker: Stop raccoons from swiping all your sweet corn

2013-07-13T20:00:00Z Hawbaker: Stop raccoons from swiping all your sweet cornBy Stuart Hawbaker - For the Herald & Review Herald-Review.com

Anyone who has ever grown sweet corn knows that raccoons love sweet corn just about as much as people do. Plus, I imagine that these gardeners have lost more than one crop to these midnight bandits.

Apparently, raccoons can tell by the smell of the tassel or the ear when the sweet corn is ready to pick. So they gather up their clan and make a late night visit to your sweet corn patch. They rip back the husk and take a bite or two and then go on to the next ear. Plus they probably knock down several stalks trying to get to the ears. They don’t have the courtesy to eat the whole thing but just take a nibble or two. People have been searching for years how to keep raccoons out of their sweet corn patch. Here are a few suggestions from sources I checked with:

* An electric fence is undoubtedly the best way. Place one wire 2 inches above ground outside the patch. Then place one wire 2 inches above ground inside the patch, followed by another wire about 6 inches and one more about 12 inches, at the edge of the patch. You can use either a battery operated electric source, a solar source, or hook the charger up to a 110-volt source. This system needs to be installed before the corn is ready to harvest or it may be too late.

I have watched a raccoon slide under a gate with only about a 2-inch clearance, so the lower wire is needed.

* Some people plant cucumbers, squash, or pumpkins between the rows of corn. Raccoons do not like to walk over these to get to the corn stalks.

* Some still think that human hair from the barber shop spread all around the patch will repel raccoons. Not everyone agrees. Dog hair from your groomer will probably work better.

* Walk your dog around the patch for his daily constitutional. Make sure he marks his territory several times. Some people tie the dog out all night to guard the patch.

* Hook up a radio inside the patch and tune it to a station that plays hard rock

* Old-timers prefer a shotgun, but you can’t do this in an urban setting

* Environmentalists prefer using a live trap and relocating, although many states prohibit this without a permit

* Some people actually wrap the corn ear with duct tape so the raccoons can’t pull the husks back. This could work for a small patch.

* As a last resort, buy your sweet corn at the super market or roadside stand

Now is the time to:

* Enjoy some sweet corn

* Watch out for poison ivy

* Put cages around tomato plants

* Wrap them with chicken wire to keep groundhogs and squirrels from slipping under cage and eating tomatoes

* Keep watering and weeding garden

Call of the week

Q: What are those darn insects that attack your face, eyes and ears when you go outside? Is there any way to control them?

A: They are either fungus gnats or fruit flies. Males often swarm and are the ones that usually bother people. Most of them don’t bite, but some species do, like no-see-ums or black flies. About all you can do is apply a pyrethrin insecticide before you go outside.

Stuart Hawbaker can be reached at jmatherly@herald-review.com.

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