You’ve Got WHAT in Your Garden? and picture #5

It’s time to talk about garden pests.

In moving from New York (hardiness zone 6) to Alabama (zone 8), Lifelongnewyorker expected some differences when it came to gardening.  Longer growing seasons (mmm … tomatoes in June!), more insects, different plants.

What she didn’t think about was the difference in four-legged pests.  On Staten Island, planting bulbs was like putting out a “dig here” sign in neon for squirrels. And while one could surprise an unwary possum or raccoon from time to time on the deck or front porch, at least they didn’t dig in the garden.

Armadillo 1

Note: We encountered the armadillos seen on this page in Louisiana, NOT in Alabama.

What could we have in Alabama that we hadn’t encountered in New York?  Wild boars?  No. The problem in the South is decidedly more hard-shelled.

I first learned about it during cocktails at a colleague’s house.  The conversation had meandered from hummingbirds to various shrubs when my host leaned over and asked, “Are you having problems with armadillos?”

Not if I don’t see them, I’m not.

Turns out the plated mammals (yes, mammals) entered Alabama in the 1940s. Experts offer the usual explanation — accidental releases from nearby Florida, hitching on trucks and trains from Texas.

As it happens, we’ve never seen an armadillo here in Montgomery,  probably because we have a six-foot brick wall — with proper footing — around the garden.  ‘Dillos live in burrows and dig for grubs and insects.  Besides general garden damage, they fancy excavating under patios, driveways and even foundation slabs.  Since few houses here have basements, it can be alarming.005

But mention armadillos in company, and the stories start. “Oh, yeah … they’re digging up our yard something fierce,” one person will say.  Another chimes in, “They can take out your foundation.”

Other than building a solid wall that extends at least one foot underground, there’s little else to do but toy with their sense of smell.  According to various websites, the lion’s share of an armadillo’s brain is devoted to its olfactory powers.  Liberal applications of vinegar, ammonia or pine sol may deter the critters.

We encountered these armadillos at dusk in a bayou in the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana about five years ago.  We’re keeping an eye out here.

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