Gardening

DIY: How to Keep Rodents Off Of Your Melons

How to keep hungry rodents from eating your sun ripened melons - www.tyrantfarms.com
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Are rodents eating the watermelons and muskmelons (honeydew, Crenshaw, casaba, and cantaloupes) in your garden? Keep reading for a fail-proof way to keep rodents off of your melons. 


How to outsmart and keep rodents off of your melons

*Note: This post is NOT meant to help attractively curved women reduce unwanted affection from creepy men. However, if you’re looking for useful gardening DIYs, please continue reading…

Are rodents eating the watermelons and muskmelons (honeydew, Crenshaw, casaba, and cantaloupes) in your garden? Keep reading for a fail-proof way to keep rodents off of your melons. #tyrantfarms #rodentprotection #diygardening #growfood #gardening #organicgardening #growingmelons #gardeningtipsandtricks

We LOVE melons. There are tons of delicious varieties of heirloom melons that can be grown in our area of the country (southeast USA), many of which we’ve never seen in a grocery store. Eating a vine-ripened melon on a hot summer day is as refreshing as jumping into a mountain lake, but you usually don’t have to towel off quite as much after eating a melon.

One recent summer, we encountered a serious problem with our melons: they’d pollinate, and we’d excitedly watch them grow day-by-day. However, before they’d fully mature, we’d come out to find them partially eaten with the tell-tale sign of rodent savagery: two small incisor teeth markings where the flesh had been carved out by the furry villains.

After losing quite a few melons this way, we became extremely agitated. We didn’t know exactly what type of critter was eating our melons, since we never saw one in the act. However, we have squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and groundhogs, all of which are potential vole villains.

What we DID KNOW was that we needed to figure out how to keep rodents off of our melons!

Experimentation: Trying to keep rodents off of our melons

We began experimenting with various remedies to see if we could outsmart the rodents.

Trellis system 

First, we trellised some of our melons to keep them many feet off the ground. This method proved ineffective and we grew more agitated at the thought of the creatures eating our melons while enjoying a better view.

Bird netting 

We reluctantly tried bird netting. (“Reluctantly” due to a previous unpleasant encounter with a trapped king snake that we had to untie by hand.) 

Bird netting didn’t work either and we became even more agitated as we imagined our rodent nemeses flossing their teeth with the nets after gorging on our melons. Before we had time to experiment with any other solutions, we ran out of summer.

Inspiration strikes! Melon cages…

That winter, inspiration struck and we devised a new rodent prevention plot: wired melon cages.

Benefits of melon cages:

  • allow needed sunlight in,
  • never wear off or wash away (like a garlic spray might),
  • can’t be chewed through by teeth, and
  • can be reused year after year.

We’re delighted to say that we’ve never lost another melon to rodent attacks since devising melon cages.

Step by step: How to keep rodents off your melons with melon cages

So, here’s a simple, step-by-step method to ensure you never lose any of your melons to rodents again.
Update August 2015: We still haven’t lost a single melon to a rodent when we’ve used these cages. We absolutely swear by them.

1. Get hardware cloth.

First, get 1/4″ – 1/2″ hardware cloth. Make sure you also have:

  • wire snips/clippers that will easily cut through the wire, and
  • thick gloves so you can handle and cut your hardware cloth without getting scraped or poked.

2. Cut square-sized pieces of hardware cloth large enough to complete encircle your mature melons.

Depending on the size of the melon you need to protect, cut out a square of hardware cloth that will be large enough to wrap around the fully mature melon and still fold up on either end.

A moon & stars watermelon is going to take a lot more wire than a cantaloupe.

3. Secure a cylindrical shape with metal string.

How to keep rodents off of your melons, by Tyrant Farms

The start of a rodent melon cage.

Fold your wire square into a round cylinder shape by bringing both sides together. Using metal string for ties, tie together both sides of the wire square to lock the cylindrical shape in place.

Our hardware cloth came with metal string wire inside it, but we’re using metal string we had left over from another project.

4. Create your wire end folds.

Making metal cages to protect your melons from rodents

Once the wire cylinder is made, it’s time to make cuts to both ends to allow them to fold in.

Once you’ve cut the wire square in half and secured it in place, cut 3-4 straight lines on each end starting from the outer edge of each end.

The goal with this step is to create folds/flaps that will fold up on each end of the wire cage to protect the melon on both sides.

5. Close one end of your melon cage.

Making melon cages to keep rodents off of melons.

Closing up one end of the melon cage, but leaving the other side open so the melon an be inserted.

Next, fold up all the flaps on ONE side of your melon cage and secure the flaps together with metal string wire. Make sure to leave the other side of your cage open so you can insert your melon into the cage through the opening.

6. Cage your melon.

Keeping rodents off of your cantaloupes and watermelons by Tyrant Farms.

Putting the final touches on a melon cage for a cantaloupe.

Insert your melon into the open end of its melon cage. Fold up the last set of end flaps and secure them with metal string wire while being careful not to damage the stem of the plant attached to the melon.

How mature should your melons be when you put cages on them? We’ve had rodents eat our melons very early in development, so the sooner the better. 

7. Watch, harvest, eat and share!

Keeping rodents off of cantaloupes using melon cages by Tyrant Farms

Perfectly vine-ripened cantaloupes smell so good! Every rodent within a 5 mile radius probably wanted to get their teeth on these, but the cages protected them.

Keep an eye on your melons as they grow inside their wire cages. If it looks like you’re going to grow a “super melon” that might outgrow its cage before it ripens, just make and install a new, larger wire cage.

Once your melons are ripe, untie one end of their cages, harvest them, and enjoy! You can compost your melon rinds, pickle them, or if you’re a kind-hearted soul, put the rinds out near your garden as a peace offering to your defeated rodents.

You can use your melon cages year after year, so you’ll never have to worry about how to keep rodents off of your melons again. Victory! 

2019 melon cage update

If you don’t feel like making your own melon cages or you want a more flexible wiring, we’ve got great news…

We recently started using vole king mesh wire baskets to keep voles from eating certain tuberous plants in our yard. Well, the vole king baskets work GREAT on melons as well! They slide on and off super easy, don’t poke you, and last forever. 

Vole king wire mesh basket on one of our toadskin melons. Bring it on, rodents!  Stop rodents from eating melons.

2 gallon vole king wire mesh basket on one of our toadskin melons. Bring it on, rodents!

Recommended basket sizes: 

Nope, vole king baskets aren’t a homemade DIY solution to keep rodents off your melons, but they still work great.  

Enjoy melon season! 

KIGI,

 

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Noah
    February 25, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    I can’t even get to the fruit stage. The b*stard$ eat my plants down to the nub: cantaloupes, watermelons, even tomatoes and pepper plants. They don’t care for Swiss chard or arugula at least. Any suggestions?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 26, 2021 at 7:38 am

      Sorry, Noah! I feel your garden rodent rage. There is a solution for any rodent out there, but that solution is going to depend on: a) what type of rodent is eating your plants, and b) physical features of your garden, namely how large it is. So let’s start there: do you know specifically what type of rodent is eating your plants? And how large of a space are you trying to protect? A few raised beds? Large in-ground rows?

  • Reply
    Adrienne Urban
    August 21, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Hi there. So we just grew our first 2 melons (yippee) but some terrible animal got one of the first 2 when they were just about 2.5 inches long last night. I’m not sure what is best to do b/c of course they are TINY! Which would you recommend? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      August 22, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Adrienne! I’d go ahead and get some Vole King cages as linked in the article. You can use them for years and they’ll keep every mammal imaginable from eating your melons now and in future years.

      • Reply
        Adrienne Urban
        August 22, 2020 at 4:10 pm

        Thanks. I did a DIY softer cover last night and now the hungry animal ate a bean plant (mostly the leaves it looks like!) . I’m getting very very upset after all the work I put in and very little yield, and now this. I’m afraid I’m needing to address this in a more aggressive manner, but the cages seem like a great option. I guess I’ll need to figure out a good size.

        • Aaron von Frank
          August 25, 2020 at 11:32 am

          Sorry, Adrienne. Another option to consider is summer-weight row cover. It’s designed to keep pest insects out but it can just as easily prevent deer, rodents, and other pests from having access to your beds.

    • Reply
      shelley kramer
      October 25, 2020 at 2:27 pm

      I have been trying to use chicken cage covers for a couple of years in my 24″ raised garden beds. But the small iguana “dinosaurs” are getting through the chieken wire and demolishing my vegies. From Gardners Supply. They do not work for me, not sure if these baskets would help either. I am going to start spraying with strong coffee all over the growing areas and see if that helps.Almost ready to give up on growing certain vegies in the boxes.

      • Reply
        Aaron von Frank
        October 26, 2020 at 3:43 pm

        Hi Shelley! Sorry to hear about your garden pest problems. Do you know the specific pest you’re having trouble with? You mentioned iguanas, but we assume you’re kidding? There’s a remedy for any pest out there, so we’d be happy to try to help you come up with a good solution.

        • Jeff
          August 10, 2021 at 3:40 pm

          I just visited for the first time and appreciate your posts. Just FYI, iguanas are vegetarians, and they absolutely can invade a veggie garden in places where they live. 🙂

  • Reply
    Artsyhonker
    April 22, 2020 at 1:57 am

    Oh, thank you so much for this! I got an allotment in December and have gone a bit overboard with ten types of squash seedlings… but when I was looking around other people’s plots, I did see a lot of squash abandoned that had been chewed up. I’m really excited to try the Vole King baskets for the smaller specimens (the large baskets are very expensive in the UK for some reason) and make my own for the big ones.

  • Reply
    ZipTx
    July 12, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Huge thanks for the 2019 update. I made a few of your cages last year … and so much work. Definitely excited to try something already made to work. Thanks again.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 14, 2019 at 12:34 pm

      You’re quite welcome! Best of luck with your melons this year.

  • Reply
    Anjali
    August 27, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Gave this a try today! Definitely got stabbed many times (even with gardening gloves) and after struggling with the wire ended up using zip ties – but I’m optimistic our melons will be squirrel-free and I’m glad we can reuse these next year.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 6, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Sorry about the garden injuries, but glad to hear your melons will be squirrel-free! These cages will make your melons and other cucurbits invincible to rodents. Good luck!

  • Reply
    Christine
    August 23, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Thank you! We’re growing some heritage watermelons in what has turned out to be horrible soil, so if we want seeds next year we can’t lose anything. I will have to try this

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      August 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Glad it was helpful, Christine! If you want to quickly build the biology of your soil, here are some great worm castings we recommend: http://amzn.to/2g5qt11. That’s an Amazon affiliate link, but we know the company, have seen their lab testing results, and have used their castings to great success. Anyway, good luck growing melons and melon seeds!

  • Reply
    ER
    February 29, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    This is great since I had a bunch of winter squash eaten. I’ve also used the same wire fence for beans at the stalks at ground level against small voles.

    • Reply
      Aaron
      March 3, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Thanks ER! Yes, a couple years ago, voles were chewing through the bases of some of our bean plants in our beds down near the forest. We put small wire cages around the base of the remaining plants, and that solved the problem.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      January 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Sorry, ER – our commenting systems was broken so my original response to your comment might not have showed up:

      “Thanks ER! Yes, a couple years ago, voles were chewing through the bases of some of our bean plants in our beds down near the forest. We put small wire cages around the base of the remaining plants, and that solved the problem.”

      • Reply
        ER
        January 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm

        Thanks!

  • Reply
    Paul Freeman
    September 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Awesome article. I was involuntarily sharing my tasty cantaloupe with a large rodent. This article saved the rest of my cantaloupes for the season. I bought 1/4″ and 1/2″ hardware cloth. The 1/4″ is definitely more protective, but also more work (cutting, folding, securing, etc). I used outdoor (black) zip ties to secure everything together. The 1/2″ hardware cloth worked fine as long as the melon wasn’t resting against a side of it. The rodent was able to chew away at that part of the melon leaning against an inside wall. Either use 1/4″ cloth or make sure that your melon is centered inside the cage. Thanks again for your article!

  • Reply
    Paul Freeman
    August 18, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Awesome!……I came across this while trying to figure out a way to save my ripening cantaloupes from one particularly pesky rat that has really developed a taste for them. I will be heading to Home Depot tomorrow for the hardware cloth.

    You wrote this two years ago, so I’m happy to be the first to comment (I think) on it and say “Thank You” and job well done. Amazingly simple, and simply amazing. I think you’ve given my family hope that we will enjoy more than just the couple of cantaloupes we’ve picked so far.

    Paul

    p.s. and i’ll even leave a peace offering….can’t blame the rat, i guess….they’re large sweet cantaloupes!

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