One of the benefits of having wildlife in the landscape is a chance to get to know and understand our wild neighbors. Because humans have demolished so much wildlife habitat, we’ve forced wildlife to adapt to our highly developed landscapes. Then we fill our backyards with delicious gourmet items, far better than what they’d get in the deep dark woods – no wonder they come for the feast! Luckily there are many things you can do so you can have a garden – and wildlife too!
1. Plant What Animals Don’t Like to Eat
For example, there’s a wide diversity of flowers that are considered “deer – resistant.” Check with your local garden store or cooperative extension service for good wildlife – deterring flower or ornamental options. You may not be able to have tulips in deer country, but you can have a dazzling array of daffodils and other equally gorgeous flowers! It’s far better to deal with the problem at its source – by reducing the enticing buffet – than to try killing every animal that may come to it.
2. Repellents can Provide Much-Needed Relief
Some formulations are more effective than others. The trick is to apply spray repellents diligently – which means every two weeks and after any heavy rain. It’s also vital to apply the repellents early, before bud-break. You want the animal’s first bite to taste bad, so they don’t come back for more. You may choose hot pepper-based or other types of taste-aversion repellent products (like Milorganite), depending on what species you’re targeting. Just be sure to reapply as directed. If a repellent fails, you don’t want it to be because the application was faulty. Your local garden store can help direct you to what repellents work best in your area.
3. Steer Clear of Predator Urine Products
As good as they sound, these urine products are inhumanely sourced (i.e. from fur farms), are of questionable composition, and are not particularly effective anyway (remember, most animals are accustomed to smelling dog and cat urine in the environment).
4. Exclude ‘Em
The best way to keep animals out of gardens is to exclude them completely, either with a physical barrier or a “mental barrier” (i.e. deters them psychologically). There are a variety of temporary or permanent barriers out there. Options range from solid mesh barriers (like green garden fencing) to various types of electrified barriers. There’s polytape fencing (which is embedded with interwoven electrical wires, and gives a mild shock) or lower barriers that are enhanced by having scare elements affixed on top (such as Mylar balloons showing big eyes — or Mylar-ribbon strands, which blow in the wind). Mesh protectors or hard plastic netting can be put over individual bushes or ornamentals (bird netting – which is lighter weight, elastic netting, can entangle birds and snakes so we don’t recommend it). L-shaped barriers are good for digging animals (like woodchucks, skunks) – they provide a false bottom, which discourages avid diggers. Making sure the mesh isn’t taut between the stakes will create a wobbly effect – good for discouraging animals who aren’t confident climbers (woodchucks).
5. Scare ‘Em
There are quite a few entertaining scare devices on the market, such as a “scarecrow” sprinkler device which you attach to the hose – it blasts a stream of water when motion-activated by a moving object within a certain range. For those who feel a sense of vengeance towards garden marauders, this may be the perfect choice. Party stores can be great sources for scare products, such as Mylar balloons with big faces (the big eyes seem to be a universal predator image, and often result in scaring an animal away temporarily). Sponge Bob balloons seem to be a particularly repelling image, for reasons many of us can understand!
6. Scrap the Trap
Many frustrated gardeners turn to “humane” traps to resolve their wildlife nibbling woes. However this is a terrible choice. Not only are you likely to catch other animals (such as a skunk), but the result is usually that mom is taken away (or killed) and orphaned young appear days later, starving. Even if you do take away the offender, unless your garden is protected, others will move into the vacated niche. Relocating the trapped animal leads to them frantically trying to find home (and their young), getting attacked by dogs, resident animals and hit by cars in unfamiliar territory – all told, not a kind thing to do to any animals.
7. Make Sure You Correctly Identify the Culprit
Often people wrongly assume they know who is eating the garden vegetables. Insect damage can be confused with mammalian nibbling. You may see mole tunnels, but moles only eat insects. It’s the voles — who use mole tunnels –who may be going after your garden plants. Likewise, that skunk you see in your garden is actually beneficial. Skunks eat all kinds of bugs, the exact ones who are plaguing your garden.
8. Give Those Bulbs a Good Start
You can soak bulbs in a thiram-based repellent before planting, or use bulb “cages” – either commercial or home-made– to encase the bulbs so those secret burrowing nibblers can’t get at them.
9. Give Tolerance a Chance
Just watching a woodchuck family grow up – or seeing that fawn tag after her mother – can make us rethink our relationship with backyard wildlife, and the value of trying to co-exist with them. But we don’t want you to give up your garden either.
10. Utilize Reputable Resources
Homeowners can go to websites like Wild Neighbors for many tips on how to resolve problems with backyard wildlife.
Image source: Michael Gil/Flickr