9 Ways to Keep Critters Out of Your Garden
A guest post from our sponsor –Park Seed
Few hobbies are quite as rewarding as growing a vegetable garden. From seed, you’re able to create colorful, delicious specimens—the pride of your kitchen! And, after all the babying, watering, and elbow grease you’ve put in throughout the season, nothing’s worse than watching critters munch on your home-grown fruits and veggies. Rather than the perfect and prize-winning, you’re left with the damaged, bruised, and half-eaten. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true methods for keeping critters out, and we’re here to share some.
- Figure Out Who’s Munching What – Your veggie garden is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for rabbits, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and insects, the fruits and leaves providing them with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But that information isn’t enough for you to formulate an effective keep-out plan. You have to know exactly who’s eating what.
- This guide from the University of Massachusetts Amherst can help you figure out what kind of animals are gorging on your garden and why. Once you know for sure, you can tailor your strategy to the specific interloper.
- Build a Fence – If you’ve got a Peter Rabbit in your midst, you’re going to have to get creative like Mr. McGregor. A small fence around the garden is the perfect way to keep Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter from snacking on your veggies, but it’s probably not the best option for keeping out larger critters like deer, who are known to hop as high as 8 feet. Bunnies jump, too, of course, but most aren’t able to get any higher than 3 feet.
- Choose a fence that offers both a visual and physical block so that animals can’t see what’s in the garden and won’t be tempted to break in.
- Plant Insect-Repellant Plants – Did you know that mint is a natural insect repellent? And, since it’s pretty darn easy to grow (and also tastes delicious in your summery cocktails), there’s no reason not to plant it all over the garden, as long as you keep its roots contained in a pot so it doesn’t spread—and it will. Using mint as an insect repellent is an especially useful approach if you’ve noticed damage from creepy crawlers and fliers, but it won’t do much for keeping out the fuzzy critters in the yard. Other insect-repelling plants include marigolds, mums, basil, lavender, and petunias.
- Use a Rabbit and Deer Repellent – There are tons of garden pest control products you can try, but some of the best are deer and rabbit repellents. For keeping out deer, choose a product that contains dried porcine and bovine blood—these ingredients repel browsing deer and keep them away before they can start to snack on your plants. Rabbits and other critters can also be repelled by products that contain concentrated garlic compounds and other odors that scare them away.
- Protect Plants with a Plastic Tunnel – Not everyone can have an expansive, animal-proof greenhouse for safeguarding their fragile plants, but net and plastic tunnels can provide similar effects to shield plants from weather and critters. You simply unfold the telescoping tunnel over your veggies and flowers, and they’ll instantly be protected from any nibbling nuisances. Pick a durable option made from high-density polypropylene mesh so you can use it next year, too.
- Plant in Raised Beds – One of the main benefits of growing your plants in raised beds is that they help prevent weeds from taking over your garden, and weeds are big sources of nutrients for many garden pests. Raise beds can also keep soil-level visitors, especially slugs and snails, from taking up residency in your garden.
- They are also great platforms for wire fences to directly block access from deer and other creatures. If you like a more tailored and neat aesthetic or prefer to maintain some grass, raised beds are perfect for capturing that look, too!
- Scare Them Off – Scarecrows may be more novelty than practical in this day and age, hung up as fall décor rather than a summer decoy, but there are plenty of scare tactics you can use to keep animals out. For example, owl scarecrows—that’s what those plastic owl decoys are actually called—can be useful at deterring birds and small critters from entering your yard and eating your plants. For bigger (and hungrier) pest control, you may want to consider investing in a coyote replica, which may be able to scare away super-pesky geese and bunnies.
- Make Your Garden Diverse – Diversity seems like it would attract more critters, broadening the buffet so it appeals to the whole backyard animal kingdom. In reality, though, having a wide variety of plants in each corner of your garden can trick them into thinking there isn’t a lot of value in your yard. Having a large area of appetizing plants signals to animals that there’s an abundance of food available to them, and they’ll come back often and tell their friends, too. Achieve biodiversity in your garden by planting lots of flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and greens.
- Welcome Your Garden’s Protectors – Did you know that there are several wild animals that can help protect your garden from critters? Yep, the animal kingdom and biological hierarchy of your landscape naturally keeps the system in check.
Bats munch on tons of bugs that can feast on your plants, while birds of prey like owls and hawks survive on mice, shrews, voles, and other little critters that interlope in your garden. Encourage these predators to safeguard your plants by peppering your landscape with birdhouses and bat houses.
A Labor of Love
While pest control is most certainly a pain, it’s a reminder that we share the natural environment with lots of different species, and that’s a pretty good sign that our ecosystem is thriving! Using a few eco-friendly, safe, and proven garden pest control methods can definitely help you enjoy your garden—and the fruits of your labor—to its fullest.