Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mulch-Moving Turkeys by Elaine Lockey

As if deer weren’t enough of a struggle for mountain gardeners, throw in some mulch-moving turkeys! 
Turkey surveying her handiwork
Ever since I put down new mulch on my garden bed, I‘ve had regular visitors who like to do some landscaping of their own.  A group of turkeys scrape out all the mulch onto the driveway and sidewalk with their strong feet, on an almost daily basis.  This not only causes a big mess but damages the plants. 

They are searching my garden for food, most likely insects as turkeys are opportunistic omnivores.  They eat a mostly plant-based diet of herbaceous green leaves, berries, seeds, grasses, and acorns.  Insects play a smaller but important part of their diet, especially for the young turkeys, called poults.  Insects might include grasshoppers, dragonflies, slugs and snails and beetles.  Turkeys do a large amount of scratching for food especially in the fall, so possibly coincidental timing with my new mulch.  They are enjoying the ease of moving the soft mulch to most likely find plentiful insects hiding within the bed.  

I wondered if this was a unique situation but I did find some fellow internet gardeners who have experienced the same thing.  And they weren't just mountain gardeners - many lived in suburban settings and reported that there were more turkeys moving in. There are some various solutions that they offered.  

Turkeys leaving the scene of the crime
Use of wire mesh/chicken wire to circle the bed will deter them as will a blast from a garden hose or a barking leashed dog.  One helpful gardener suggested putting cans of gravy and cranberry sauce around to give them a hint to leave. I’m putting rocks along the edge of the bed which they are unable to move aside.  It doesn’t look great but it is helping a little to reduce the areas they can get to and at least how far the mulch gets scraped.  Turkeys have a weak sense of smell so stinky sprays will only cause you to leave, not them.

I do celebrate the turkeys being here as it’s pretty great seeing them so close and fun to watch them interact with each other.  I also appreciate that they are eating some insects that might also do damage to my plants.  As with any wildlife issue in gardening, you have to find a way to co-exist!

For some fun and helpful information, also check out the article The Turkeys are Coming!