Garden Animal Pest Control
Let's keep deer and other foraging animals on the other side of the garden
Home and commercial gardens constantly face a broad assault from a wide array
of animals and other pests. That assault comes from the air, on the ground
and underground. As a gardener, consider yourself an excellent soldier. Even
the best armies in history find it a difficult challenge, to face an enemy
coming from this many directions at the same time. As good growers, we
successfully beat back the never ending invasion each and every year.
We can help you to defend against this wide range of garden enemies, and
win the battle!
Know Your Garden Enemy:
Also see: Insects Pests.
Ground Troops on the Offensive:
The ground assault on our gardens, comes from a wide range of animal pests.
Most notably among this group are: rabbits eating our beans and lettuce,
woodchucks (ground hogs) eagerly munching on a wide variety of fruits and
vegetables, deer in the cornfield, in our apple trees and lettuces. In reality,
just about any herbivore that walks or crawls on the surface of the planet
is a real threat to your vegetable crop, flower beds, shrubs (especially
in winter months), and even your thorny rose garden.
Homo Sapien animals can be a hazard to your garden, too. Take for example,
my son's High School graduation party. The kids played volleyball next to
the pumpkin patch and volleyball "missiles" were flying in every direction.
If a dog is loose in your yard, your flower and vegetable gardens are at
risk of being trampled.
A defensive stand is important to deter this wide array of varmints. The
best defense is a twenty foot stone castle, surrounded by a wide moat. The
moat will deter the beasts that can't swim and the smooth face of the stone
wall is unscalable by most climbing critters. Can't build a castle and moat?
Then, we recommend you start with a good rabbit fence that is three, preferably
four feet high. Add to this defense, as you are able, and as necessary.
Here's our recommendations to deter animal pests from your garden:
First Step: Install a three to four foot rabbit fence. The close mesh
will keep out rabbits, and other small animal pests, who can slip between
normally wide fencing. Don't be surprised though, to find a few small and
energetic bunnies who learned to jump up and through the wider spacing towards
the top. The enemy is stealthy. Deer can jump a fence, or simply step over
a short one. If you have plants that deer enjoy, raise the pole vault by
taking clothesline or rope, and tying it five to six feet above ground over
the fence. This may require higher stakes.
Step Two: Frequently check the bottom of the fence for spots where
an animal can dig and crawl under. Fortify weak points. Consider rimming
the fence with boards or bricks, to deter animals from digging under
Step Three: There are a variety of products at your local garden store
that produce varying degrees of success. These include concentrated fox
urine and other carnivore animals ,that are natural predators to garden munching
animal pests. Garlic sprays and blood meal will deter some animals. Hot pepper
sprays can also deter pests.
Step Four: Set out "Have-a-heart" or "Live Traps". These traps capture
animals without harming them. They can be transferred to another location
and released far from your garden.
Very important: Check local rules and regulations for trapping,
transporting and release of wild animals. Some communities allow homeowners
to trap the animals, but insist upon removal and release or disposal by trained
animal control agents.
Step Five: Consider a cat. They do a great job keeping rabbits
and other small animals away.
Tunnel Boring Enemies:
Tunnel boring pests are primarily rodents, most often
moles, voles, and mice. It also includes
chipmunks. These pests cause damage to
your garden in two ways. First, they eat vegetables in the garden. They attack
both the root crops and above ground crops. It can be really disappointing
to grow carrots with great tops and a wide root protruding from the soil,
only to find a mole has chewed away at the carrot root. Mice will nibble
away at the top of the root. If you have ever had a mole tunnel under a
cantaloupe or pumpkin, and eat through just as the fruit ripens, you know
the damage these pests inflict.
A second problem with tunneling rodents, is disruption of the root system.
In their tunneling effort, they do not care about the primary or secondary
roots they disrupt. This weakens, and can even kill the plant. More than
once, this gardener has had a giant sunflower topple over as a result of
weakened root system from tunneling moles.
Here are some ideas to minimize this problem. We say "minimize", as moles
and mice are often difficult to completely eradicate.
A Better Mouse Trap- The old-fashioned mouse trap is difficult to
improve upon. And, it is environmentally friendly. What makes it work, is
the right bait. The best bait we have found, is peanut butter. Mouse traps
are often used in sheds and under woodpiles. For use in the garden, we recommend
they be covered by a five gallon bucket or box. This offers some protection
to domestic animals, birds, and kids, from accidentally getting hurt.
Many have asked: Unfortunately, there are few ways to keep those cute
little chipmunks from becoming caught in these traps. Remember, a chipmunk
is a cute, garden plant eating rodent.
Poison Baits: While you almost never see the dead rodent, manufacturers
claim these poison baits are very effective. Your proof, is a decline of
rodent activity. If you do not want to deal with disposal of the carcass,
this may be the answer for you. Poison bait is not good for the environment,
or your health. If you use them, do not put them inside a vegetable garden.
Very importantly, keep it out of reach of young children and pets.
Gas Bombs: A gas bomb can be effective in eliminating rodents. Like
poisons, it is not environmentally friendly and you usually don't see the
results. It takes work to set up. It is only effective if the rodents are
in the tunnels, and all escape routes are blocked.
There are a number of other methods. Some emit a high-pitched sound to chase
these pests from your yard. They move somewhere else...perhaps to your neighbor's
yard. The move may only be temporary.
Attacks by birds through the air are the hardest to control. Just about anything
you use will have limited results. Cherry trees are popular targets, just
as the fruit ripens. Pea plants and tender shoots of many plants are
common targets too. Corn can be raided by crows, Blue Jays and other birds.
Sunflowers are popular of many birds, especially the widely popular Cardinals.
The list goes on.......
On the other hand, gardeners often grow fruits and vegetables which attract
song birds. Those same beautiful birds that grace your bird feeder, also
enjoy snacking on your garden. Many gardeners are actually bird lovers in
disguise, and use flowers and vegetables to entice birds to their backyard
bird sanctuary. In this case, the birds are the end result of your gardening
Here are some bird control and deterrence ideas:
Ye Olde Scarecrow: Some people
claim limited success using scarecrows to scare birds away. Even if
they afford little deterrence, scarecrows are a neat visual addition to your
Noise makers: Birds are skittish. A little noise goes a long way in
scaring them off. Common noisemakers include aluminum pans (an increasingly
rare commodity in a microwave society), wind chimes, and tape recordings
of bird predators.
Replicas of Natural Enemies: Plastic owls and snakes sometimes fool
birds. However, we believe you can fool some of the birds all of the time,
all of the birds some of the time, but you can't fool all of the birds all
of the time.
While we talk a lot about garden pests, you do have some allies in the insect
and animal kingdom. Some good examples are birds that eat insects and grubs.
Bats are among this group. There are also
insects, like lady bugs and preying mantis, that chow down on harmful
insects. Make sure your animal and insect control program considers the use
of these beneficial garden helpers.