Visitors in my Garden !

Problems caused by Wildlife

After sending an excited email to someone about rescuing rabbits, I received a less than enthusiastic response. ‘There are too many Visitors in my Garden ! Too many rabbits eat my vegetables and flowers !’ was the unexpected reply.

My initial thought was ‘well, they were here first’ but I realized this response would not be helpful. So, exactly what can one do to keep these little nibblers (and others) out of the garden?

Below are various suggestions to resolve the problem of finding unwanted visitors in your garden.

 

Buy Your Produce and Flowers

Yeah, OK as a gardener I don’t like this suggestion either. However it may prove useful for some as there are many delicious organic choices in local stores and farmer’s markets. There are often beautiful arrangements of flowers and indoor plants too.

A Kind Control Method

My favourite method of dealing with ‘unwanted’ visitors is to plant more vegetables than I need.  Planting them in front of ‘your’ vegetables means the wildlife will eat the sacrificial plants and leave ‘your’ vegetables alone. With this method the wildlife will be well fed, and so will you.

I have used this method and not found there was a resulting influx of hungry wildlife. As most species are territorial toward other members of their own species, you will get only so many visitors. These visitors, in turn, will prevent other members of their species from encroaching on their territory that is your garden. As a result your garden is somewhat protected.

And the visitors you do get will give you great photo opportunities! 

Put up a Fence

Installing a fence can be difficult. Moreover it can be expensive and labour intensive. Also you will have to maintain it as the years go by. Sometimes it even involves getting permits from the city.

Fencing can be constructed using wood, metals, plastics such as polypropylene, or wire. Criteria for fencing should include: resistance to deterioration by the elements, and safe for wildlife as well as your pets, children, etc.

To block rabbits the fencing will need to be at least 1 meter high. For deer, the fence will need to be at least 3 meters high. However groundhogs can climb fencing, so no solid fence is high enough to stop them if they really want to get into your garden. You can, however, leave the top part of the fence bendable which will thwart them, but this solution is not usually aesthetically pleasing for the home owner.

In addition to the traditional fencing mentioned above, there are many other types of ‘fences’ some of which are not difficult to do. These fences can add interest, artistic appeal and even whimsy to your garden, depending on the materials you use. For example, you could artfully place large containers, pots, tires, bricks, different sized logs, etc., to form a fence or barricade that would be unique as well as discouraging to wildlife.

Additional things to note:

  • One effective fencing choice is electric fencing. However you will need to verify that this type of fencing is permitted where you live.
  • No matter what type of fencing you choose, it is a good idea to bury about half a meter of fencing below ground. This will foil animals that dig such as rabbits.

Landscaping

Use landscaping to discourage unwanted visitors. Some things you can do to make your garden less inviting are:

  • weed regularly;
  • keep all outbuildings in good condition;
  • block access to the area underneath your shed, deck and porch;
  • cover the compost pile to discourage raccoons;
  • clean up birdseed to discourage squirrels;
  • remove any areas where an animal could hide such as brush or a wood pile; and,
  • cut down or transplant shrubs

 

 

The goal of these landscaping suggestions is to decrease hidden areas where wildlife would enjoy congregating. Conversely, if you are interested in attracting wildlife, then the more cover the better. Certainly if you have a big property, you could provide cover in areas where your vegetables are not thus helping wildlife and protecting your vegetables at the same time. 

Fear

Scaring away unwanted visitors is another way you can humanely protect your garden. Wildlife are constantly on the lookout for danger so if you can make your garden less appealing than neighbouring areas, wildlife will stay away.  

There are devices you can buy or make that work well.  Examples of these are: 

  • modern ‘scarecrows’ that come equipped with motion sensors and will spray water at invading wildlife;
  • wind chimes;
  • shiny reflective material such as reflective tape or pie plates strung up in trees to frighted birds;
  • faux predators such as rubber snakes (inexpensive and very effective against squirrels and chipmunks), or statues of birds of prey; and,
  • electronic alarms that play a frightening sound when they detect motion These will scare off humans too!

Try to change the location of these devices every so often. Otherwise the wildlife will become accustomed to them and begin to ignore them. 

Covers

To keep smaller animals or insects in the soil from damaging your young plants, cover them. You can choose from a plethora of products such as greenhouses, plastic covers, bird and deer netting, chicken wire cloches, etc., sold in stores and on-line.

You can also make your own. For example you can make small covers from plastic yogurt or cottage cheese containers. Remove the lid and cut out the bottom of the container. You can place this remaining cylinder body over a young plant, protecting its stem. I use empty soya milk cartons for this purpose. Cut off the top flaps of a carton. Then cut 3 sides of carton’s bottom, leaving one side intact. Finally, place the carton upside down over the plant. The hinged ‘lid’ that you now have over the plant can be closed to keep the frost off your plant, and opened in the morning so the plant can get some sun. Be sure to push the carton into the ground a little so that the wind doesn’t blow it away. The old used cartons at the end of the growing season can be recycled if they are not reusable.

Raised Beds

Growing plants in raised beds provides a physical barrier that will keep smaller wildlife, such as rabbits, and your plants separate. Another advantage of raised beds is that they are easier to get at without bending, and therefore easier to weed.

Raised beds should be at least  2/3 of a meter high. Furthermore, add a bottom layer of mesh fencing to keep out burrowing animals.

If you are trying to keep out larger animals, such as deer, you will need to add a fence to your raised bed. You can also add covers for extra protection.

Raised beds can be made out of many things: old car tires, wooden planks, stones, bricks, or concrete blocks. You can add personality to your garden by orienting the building material in innovative ways. For example:

  • install the wood (or logs, bamboo sticks, etc.) running perpendicular to the ground rather than horizontally.
  • when you use a wall of concrete blocks to surround your plants, put soil in the top layer of concrete blocks to create ‘pots’ for your plants.

Grow Plants that Repel Wildlife

Grow companion plants among your vegetables and flowers that wildlife will either not eat or that actively repels them. You can also create a ‘fence line’ around your vegetable garden of plants that are toxic or irritating to whatever species is causing problems. Luckily, some of the plants that repel wildlife can be consumed by humans. 

 

Rabbits and Rodents

Some examples of plants that actively repel rabbits and many types of rodents are:

  • marigolds;
  • daffodils;
  • sweet alyssum;
  • snapdragon,;
  • salvia;
  • alliums;
  • hydrangea;
  • perennial garlic;
  • chives (allowed to flower);
  • azalea;
  • boxwood;
  • lamb’s ear;
  • peony;
  • geranium;
  • rosemary;
  • sage;
  • thyme;
  • onions;
  • garlic; and,
  • several mints.
Raccoons 

Raccoons love young tender ears of corn before they are ready for you to harvest. However, an easy way of keeping raccoons away from your corn is to plant squash around the edge of the corn crop. Raccoons do not like walking on the prickly vines of the squash so plant the squash as a border.

Deer 

 

These plants deter deer: 

  • bleeding hearts;
  • daffodils;
  • sunflowers;
  • hyssop;
  • garlic;
  • oregano;
  • sage;
  • dill;
  • rosemary; and,
  • mullein.

Other Scent Repellents

In addition to certain plants, there are other things you can use that will repel many species.

Since dogs are predators to many wildlife species, you could walk your dog around the perimeter of your property and let him ‘mark’ freely. You could also buy animal repellents such as castor oil, garlic clips and predator urine. These repellents will make your garden unattractive or seem dangerous to prey animals.

To ensure the effectiveness of predator urine you buy, you will need to know which type of animal is invading your garden. You can set up cameras to discover the invader. A more interesting and less expensive method of discovering your problem creature is to spread flour around the area. In the morning, look at the prints of the animal in the flour to determine who came for a visit. I always enjoy a good mystery!

The downside to using repellents is that you will most likely have to re-apply them after a rain storm or after some time has passed.

Do not use mothballs because they are poisonous to animals (including pets) and children.

Conclusion

Please keep in mind that wildlife has a very difficult existence. So no matter what method you use to discourage unwanted visitors from entering your garden, always ask yourself: do I really need to stop them from eating the very small amount of food that they get from my garden?

Be charitable to the wildlife that inhabits your world, starting with those that visit your back yard. Their future is in your hands.

For helpful hints on handling wildlife that sets up residence in your home, please visit Wildlife in the Attic.

 

Happy Gardening!