Despite the charm of Peter Rabbit and even Rocky the Squirrel, their real-life compatriots can wreak havoc in your garden. They like to nibble and graze on your vegetables and floors. So do deer, chipmunks, field mice, moles, voles, birds and insects. By the time they are through, you may have provided a buffet for pests rather than laid the groundwork for summer vegetables for your family or a beautiful flower garden.
Pests are drawn to a garden for practical reasons. They are hungry, and the plants are food. Many small animals may not eat everything in your garden, but what they don’t eat, they’ll dig up — and kill.
So you need effective ways to protect your garden from pests. Fortunately, there are many protective methods that are humane and relatively inexpensive.
It’s important to know what is eating your plants. What works to get rid of one animal will not necessarily work for another. When you encounter damage, use it to identify the predator:
If you’re not sure, take pictures or bring the plants themselves into a local plant nursery. The employees can help you identify the predator and may have some advice as well.
For certain types of predators, fences can be very effective. If you have deer and a large area given to planting, the fence will need to be at least eight feet high. Why? Because they can and will jump over it if your stuff is tasty enough.
One option is an electric fence that will stun the predators as well as keep them out. The electric shock works as a deterrent. If it hurts to get at your gardenias more than it does at the house down the street, they’ll choose the house down the street.
One potential drawback to fences is they will not keep out digging animals such as moles, voles and squirrels unless you put metal hardware cloth several feet below the fence. That way, digging pests will be deterred by the metal beneath the fence.
Most pests have short legs. Gardens provide them a buffet because they can walk to and reach the goodies easily. As a result, raised beds are a nice deterrent for almost all animals that dig. Raised beds can be a great way to grow vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and beans and any flowers, especially those from bulbs. If the critters have longer legs, like deer, they will likely be able to eat the raised beds.
Nicely enough, plant nurseries have an entire arsenal of things to deter or stop pests from accessing your garden. One is netting that covers the plants. Netting can be especially effective with raised beds as the raising keeps out one type of pest and the netting stops deer and birds from attacking them.
Netting is not the only type of cover, of course. You can also plant in greenhouses and cover a garden plot with movable glass or plastic covers.
Repellent is a good choice because it makes your garden unappealing. Like a bad restaurant, it will encourage pests to go somewhere else, so they won’t come back night after night. Nurseries also sell repellant. Some has been formulated to repel certain animals, like deer. Some is formulated to smell like the urine of a pest’s predator, so they are scared off.
Be aware that repellent will need to be reapplied frequently, particularly after rain. Dew can also dilute or wash it off.
Certain types of plants also work as repellants because they taste bad to the animal stalking your garden. Common flowers and plants like daffodils, bleeding hearts and holly taste very bad to deer. Azaleas and marigolds taste bad to rabbits. Sprinkling some of these plants in your garden is a natural way to get rid of these pests while also growing a nice garden.
Farmers used scarecrows for centuries not because they were auditioning for “The Wizard of Oz” or a John Mellencamp song, but because a large hulking object that looks and smells like a human actually does scare birds off. Otherwise, they can peck new young plants to death. Scarecrows will scare bird predators off. Reflective material that gives off a glare will also scare birds off.
Sensors can also scare predators off. Some sensors trigger lights, which can scare deer or rabbits. Some will trigger sounds or whistles, which will scare deer, rabbits, skunks and possibly moles. Be aware your neighbors may be annoyed by sounds.
Although common garden nibblers like rabbits and squirrels can be cute in other contexts, they and fellow predators can demolish a garden. These six methods will protect your garden and keep predators away.