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Keeping Critters Out of the Vegetable Patch

April 03, 2009

I’m opening up the discussion. How do you manage to keep deer from mowing your shrubs to the ground, rabbits from nibbling your lettuce, raccoons from harvesting your zucchini, squirrel from stealing your corn and possums from stealing your strawberries?

Even a Lazy Dog's Scent Can Make a Difference

Even a Lazy Dog's Scent Can Make a Difference

In my current gardening world I’m fortunate, the only animal pests I have to battle off are cats that like to use my planter boxes as litter boxes, rats that occasionally steal fruit off of trees and squirrels that rip ripe heads off corn and sunflowers. (Well, and all the insect pests and diseases, but that’s a little off topic.) In past gardens, I’ve had to contend with all these other pests with varying degrees of success.  Following are a few things that have worked for me or for others in my wide network of gardeners. Please chime in to share your experiences with any of these techniques or other solutions you suggest for the gardening community!

  • Deer: Deer are tricky and will mow all sorts of things in the garden down faster than you might believe. Don’t be lured into believing that just because something is labeled “deer proof” that they won’t give it a try.
    • Deer fencing that is too tall to hop and well anchored to the ground so they can’t scrabble under it.
    • Scented material applications like: blood meal. Zest or Irish Spring soap hung in the garden (apparently, they really don’t like that fresh scent!). Cat pheromones/urine.
    • Motion sensor lights or motion sensor, high pressure water jet sprinklers.
    • Deer scarer water features (Shishi odoshi)
    • Dogs
  • Rabbits: Rabbits are particularly difficult because they burrow under fences and are very quiet. They like low-growing materials, so anything with a hard, tall trunk they’re likely to leave alone.
    • Dogs
    • Low voltage wiring installed low to the ground
  • Raccoons: Raccoons are nasty, mean creatures when provoked. My grandparents’ toy poodle tried to chase one off and lost an eye to the raccoon. That didn’t stop old Sport from chasing them, but it came at a high price.
    • Dogs — to a degree. Raccoons will stand up to dogs and often do a lot of damage in the process. However, if you have property with dogs running free on it, their scent may be deterrent enough to send the raccoons to easier pickings.
    • Low voltage wiring installed low to the ground
    • Remove water features, kitty pools, and any other fresh water source. They like water.
  • Squirrels and rats: Squirrels & rats can be tough to manage. They’ll strip bark off of trees in winter and corn off of stalks in summer. They’ll nibble fruit and steal berries. And, they’re hard to keep away.
    • Cats and Dogs — well, odds are this won’t keep them away. They’ll run along fence tops and taunt your pets. But, if your dog or cat is fast enough, they might just kill off a squirrel or two.
    • If you can’t beat’m, use’m: The minute I see the first corn stolen off a stalk or a head torn off one sunflower, I start my own harvest. The squirrels are smart and start harvesting when food is ripe. Use them as your indicator that harvest time has arrived.
    • For rats, use traps with bacon and peanut butter. Start early in the season as they’ll produce multiple generations in one spring/summer season.
    • Don’t use bird feeders. Bird feeders attract squirrels and rats. They clean up the ground below feeders and are kept well fed over winters through your best efforts to help the birds. Instead, plant shrubs that provide food to the birds in other ways.
    • Clean up your dog poop. Rats will eat dog poop.
  • Possums: Possums are lazy, lumbering and not all that smart. They will, however, move right in to a warm cozy spot (like in my crawl space of a rental under the kitchen sink one winter long ago).
    • Motion sensor lights to ward off the night scavengers
    • Low voltage wiring installed low to the ground
    • Dogs and cats
  • Cats: read more about managing cats in the garden here.

Please chime in with your own trials, tests and solutions to managing furry pests in your vegetable (or ornamental) garden.

3 Comments

  1. Great to see such an informative and detailed article. The biggest pests we seem to get enquiries about are cats!

  2. Dog Groomer for Lion Repellant.
    I had a Mountain Lion eating my livestock. The Game Warden issued me a track and shoot permit because as the lion was so brazen; a threat to the families where the Lion was eating. I decided to ask the Dog Groomer for all the dog hair she could spare. I took 3 hefty bags and spread the dog hair widely near the fence that held the sheep and goats. It repelled the lion for ten months.

  3. Glad we don’t have the issue with raccoons here in the UK, sounds like they’d be a real menace. Plus, we kind of like having our water features…

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