Feed Those Critters

By Nikki Tilley | September 19, 2022
by Nikki Tilley
September 19, 2022

I don’t grow a vast crop of vegetables as I once did. My family has downsized considerably since the kids are all grown and have moved on with families of their own. But I do plant a few here and there amongst my herbs and ornamentals. And they’re not always for me. I like to add vegetables that wildlife eat too.

Planting Late Summer Crops for Wildlife

Typically, by fall, I’m done for the season. I simply enjoy my fall blooming plants and wait for the cold winter air to take over. But when I do plant a fall crop, it normally consists of kale, lettuce and spinach. I do love my greens!

Leafy green vegetables are not only good for you, but they’re dependable growers for the most part. I always include them in the garden. I eat kale like it’s nobody’s business and I’m the only one that will in my family. They have no idea what they’re missing. I’m also a big salad eater. Whether it’s harvesting leaf lettuce, spinach or edible weeds, I’m always down for a big bowl of salad. The kids and hubby laugh that it’s “rabbit food” and pass when offered a bite. Oh well, their loss.

Beyond greens, which I also grow in the wildlife garden for the critters, I will sometimes plant a few other late summer crops, again aimed at wildlife. Deer don’t visit much, but I include veggies they like, as well as those my resident bunnies, racoons and possum enjoy. I’ve been known to mix in some broccoli, carrots and peas in the wildlife area. You might find a potato plant or two, as the raccoons like the spuds. Hairy, the opossum, is more favorable to sweet potatoes. He can have them too. I find them disgusting. If I grow midseason corn at all, it’s also for the critters. I just let the plants grow and allow the animals to harvest. 

While I’ve always heard rabbits love carrots, like Bugs Bunny, this isn’t the case in my garden. My bunnies prefer chowing down on the carrot tops rather than the root. That being said, if I take the time to slice the carrots and set them out, they’ll eventually get devoured. And FYI, it’s usually the wild birds that enjoy them. Who knew, right? This year I’m putting in some more radish. I just found out my chipmunk enjoys them, which is why I didn’t get any – he took a bite from each of the bulbs. The little bugger could have saved me one. This time I’ll plant enough for us both, mine near the house and his out back.

I think the one fall crop they all seem to like is pumpkin. In fact, post Halloween I make sure to put out my pumpkin leftovers for the wildlife. Of course, my dog loves these too and she gets her very own pumpkin each year. This is why I try to plant at least one pumpkin vine every season. And sometimes I don’t even have to. The garden does it for me, or rather seeds from previous years or those leftover from tossed out scraps voluntarily grow. And I don’t mind at all. Neither does the wildlife. These veggies usually end up growing better than the ones I plant anyway.

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