Nature can be beautiful and peaceful. There’s nothing quite like watching hummingbirds visit your plants or watching deer and rabbits bound through the yard. But when those animals start harming your garden, it can be frustrating.
Whether you’re gardening for food, for pleasure, or for curb appeal, going outside to see the fruits of your labor disappear — sometimes literally — is disheartening. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your garden from wild animals and stray pets, without harming the environment or the animals themselves.
First, get to know the common wildlife in your area every time you move (especially if you move to another state), since the climate and environs around you can vary greatly based on your location. Your local pests may include chipmunks, groundhogs, squirrels, voles, rabbits, woodchucks, raccoons, deer, gophers, opossums, coyotes, or other fauna.
Once you know who you’re dealing with, it’s easier to form an action plan. If you’re not sure exactly which critters are chowing down, sometimes you can tell by the damage they leave behind. For instance, deer tear bark from trees and bite off large plants. They also have distinctive tracks. In contrast, raccoons like to scatter garbage around, cause general destruction and may even invade your home, sheds, garage, or greenhouses.
Good fences make good neighbors — and they can also keep animals away from your precious plants. If you opt for fencing, it’s usually covered by your homeowners insurance. Just keep in mind that any physical barrier needs to be optimized for your pest population. Deer can jump high, so you’ll need a fence at least four feet tall to keep them out. Meanwhile, burrowing animals like gophers can get under the fence, so you’ll need to extend the fence at least a foot underground.
To keep animals out of your vegetable garden and away from edible plants, try chicken wire or netting. These plant covers make it harder for animals to get at your ripe fruit and vegetables.
Vertical gardening is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of planting across horizontal beds, you can use trellises, pergolas, arches, or stacked containers to move all those tempting plants out of reach. There are plenty of resources on vertical gardening, and many methods to achieve a lush, gorgeous garden.
Don’t forget to add barriers on top ( chicken wire or netting, again) to keep critters from chewing on young plants. This is an especially great method when you’re looking to protect raised garden beds from any unwanted critters.
Decoys are harmless ways to keep wild animals away. Scarecrows, for example, are meant to look like a human. Depending on what kind of predators naturally prey on local wildlife, you can get the appropriate predator decoys to place in your yard. Efficacy can vary, so make sure you pick a decoy that also doubles as yard décor, and move them around the yard regularly. You can also try motion-activated lights and sprinklers.
Eliminating hiding spots and food sources can also help reduce the number of animals. Keep your garden clean and free of trash, spills, and other potentially tempting treats. If animals getting into garbage cans is an issue (raccoons can be very problematic in this regard), consider weighing them down with heavy objects or getting locking cans.
It’s also a good idea to trim away dead or damaged blossoms if your garden contains fruit-bearing plans. As foods break down and rot, they give off pungent odors that attract hungry critters. Removing them before they spoil is a great way to prevent the dinner rush.
Most animals want food, as well as a way to hide from predators. By trimming back any ground cover, like overgrown shrubs and tall grasses, you can make your backyard a less-safe place for any smaller animals who chomp on and hide behind your plants.
To figure out what needs to be cut back, you’ll need to know what kind of wildlife visits your yard and how they prefer to hide. Then, you can use your newfound knowledge to revamp your garden and get rid of potential hiding spots.
There are also some natural repellants to help you keep animals off of your property. One option is predator urine, which naturally keeps wild animals away — it fools them into thinking their natural predators have already marked their territory.
Another natural repellant is cayenne pepper, although it can irritate your pets, too. Cayenne has plenty of capsaicin, which is so irritating that it’s used as a natural, biochemical pesticide. If you don’t have pets, sprinkle cayenne all around your plants, or make a cayenne spray to keep animals at bay. Cinnamon can also be effective, and coffee grounds can deter rabbits and pests like snails and slugs from eating your plants.
If you do have pets and have decided predator urine or cayenne are not a good fit for your needs, consider letting your pets mark the property. This can signal to other animals that a potential predator is in the area. This is a good method for keeping animals out of gardens, but if it’s not as effective as you might hope, consider training your cats and dogs to chase animals away as necessary.
Finally, make sure that you refrain from keeping an uncovered compost pile near where you grow your plants. Compost often utilizes plants and food scraps to create fertilizer, which makes it a very low-effort food source for certain animals. Keep the compost bins closed — and consider locking them or weighting them down if raccoons or other animals still manage to find a way in.
Ultimately, there are plenty of ways you can protect your garden from animals. Troubleshooting methods like predator urine or pet marking and locking bins are easy and inexpensive if your garden is already established. If you’re starting from scratch, however, you might want to build raised beds or create a vertical garden right from the beginning.
These nine different ways to protect your garden from animals will allow you to keep growing beautiful plants — and enjoy the literal fruits of your labor for yourself.
A: Smells that animals tend to dislike — including garlic, onions, peppermint, citrus, and vinegar — can deter them from your garden. planting certain plants like marigolds and lavender can also help. Other effective animal repellents include ammonia, mothballs, and predator urine. These scents can be used to create repellents to keep animals away from your garden or property.
A: One effective way to protect a raised garden, or even a container, from hungry animals to install a fence around it. You can also use wire mesh or chicken wire to cover the top of the garden bed. Another option is to use raised garden bed covers made of mesh or plastic.
A: One is to sprinkle cayenne pepper or hot sauce around the perimeter of your garden. Another is to place fake snakes or owls in your garden to scare away animals. You can also use reflective surfaces like CDs or mirrors to deter animals.
A: The best animal deterrent for gardens will depend on the type of animal you are trying to keep out. For example, motion-activated sprinklers are effective at deterring deer and rabbits, while netting can be used to keep birds and squirrels out of your garden. Fencing is also a good option for keeping a wide variety of larger animals away.
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