Fuzzy bunnies, graceful deer, birds are all a beautiful part of nature. Until they munch on your newly planted veggies and mow down your marigolds. Regardless if you like it or not, they aren’t selective and don’t really care to what’s yours and theirs. While it’s not possible to make your garden completely critter-proof, here are a few ways to minimize.
Identify the Culprit
Choosing the correct management methods with most likely depend on who you are feeding. This could be the height of the fence; which critters are eating what. Some may leave tracks in the soil and some make clean snips on your woody plants. Rabbits make sharp cuts on herbaceous and woody plants, and they may also leave pellet droppings. Groundhogs leave large mounds of dirt 10” to 12” in diameter at entrance to their burrows. They typically eat greens and not the woody shrubs. Birds will peck holes in fruit or steal it before you even know its ripe. Deer really love your favorite Geraniums.
Fencing is the most effective and sometimes only way to keep the unwanted visitors out of the garden. Put up a fence from day one to prevent them from finding the food source from the beginning. A fence with a few feet will work for most rabbits, though persistent bunnies like peter rabbit and groundhogs, mice, etc will burrow under. To prevent that, bury it about 10” deep. Chicken wire, hardware cloth, or rabbit fencing are the least expensive alternatives for small mammals. A fence that’s at least 4 feet tall will work for many deer situations. But if your neighborhood is overrun by deer, you may need one that’s 8ft tall. Plastic bird netting can be placed over small edible bushes like berries the week or so before they ripen to protect fruit.
Choose less tasty plants
When they’re hungry enough and competition for food is high, animals will eat anything. Nothing is fool proof when it comes to food. However, there are certain kinds of plants that are less appealing than others, especially plants that are highly aromatic, fuzzy or have prickles. Thus, while hostas, arborvitae, and azaleas are often favorites for deer, there generally not interested in many types of ornamental grasses, holly and barberry. Look around the neighborhood to see what’s fared well& talk to nurseries to figure out what you should have on the table.
Protect new Plants
Those brand-new nursery plants, which have been pampered and fertilized before you bought them, offer delectable, tender new growth. Whether a plant is tasty or a deterrent to animals has to do with the nutrient and chemicals a plant produces. The animals can sense those micro nutrients, and they’re naturally attracted to them. New plants also cannot withstand as much grazing damage as established plantings. Fence off or use trunk wraps or protectors for new plants and shrubs once you put them in the ground.
Garden in pots and raised beds
Sometimes you can eliminate nibbling opportunities by elevating pots or planting in raised beds. Raised bed two feet or taller will limit rabbit damage, especially if you add a short fence on top. Pots can be mounted on railings, or try planting greens in window boxes out of the reach of hungry bunnies.
Don’t be too tidy
If you live in a less urban area, let the shrubs and grasses around the edges of your yard go a little wild. Furry Critters will be less likely to come out into the middle of the yard to your garden to expose themselves to predators if there are other good food sources along the edges.
Contain your compost.
Open compost piles attract all kinds of creatures that then discover the other delicacies in your backyard. Use a self-contained compost bin with a lid to keep your marauders away. If you feed your pets outdoors, be sure to bring their bowls inside after meals so you won’t attract skunks, opossums, and raccoons.
Scare them away.
Metallic streamers, bird tape, even an old-fashioned scarecrow may keep birds away, though you’ll have to move it around daily. If they get used to it the technique can lose its effectiveness. Motion activated sprinklers or lights are another possibility for mammals.
Odor repellents are granular and attempt to keep the animal away from an area in the first place with a bad smell. Taste repellents are sprayed on venerable plants. They repel by flavor or by causing the animal to feel sign when they ingest the treated plant. It’s important to note that while repellants may upset wildlife tummies, they are not designated to hurt and or kill the animals just to train them to stay away from specific areas.
Do a reality check
In any given year many factors including the severity of the winter and number of animals in the area affect how much damage you may incur. There are good years (when you’ll see little loss? And bad years (when you’ll feel like you opened a free salad bar for the neighborhood critters). Keep your perspective though and realize what you’re doing in your yard benefits the local wildlife, even if you didn’t get to enjoy that heirloom tomato that you planted. As a gardener or anyone with a green thump there is always more planting to do!!!