Flower & Plant Care

How to Keep Animals Out of Your Garden

June 1, 2016

A cucumber missing, tomatoes with bite marks, nibbles in your basil…after all of the time you spend growing and caring for your garden, the last thing you want is to come out and find it taken over by animals! For the critters that just can’t seem to stay away – we’re talking squirrels, birds, stray cats, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, deer, etc – you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve to ensure that all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste. Here are a few strategies that you may find helpful to keep these furry friends from messing with your garden, while still being animal friendly of course!

Squirrel Digging in Garden

Design Your Garden Carefully

When your garden has small spaces that animals can hide or rest in, it becomes much more attractive to wildlife like squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. As you plant, make sure you’re strategic with the designs you choose and avoid leaving any holes that smaller creatures can sneak into.

Add Garden Netting or Fencing

The type of net or fence you install around your garden will differ based on the animals that you are trying to deter, but either way, having a protective barrier can help keep unwanted critters out. Should your climate allow you to keep a garden all year long, you might want to consider a permanent fence that compliments the rest of your yard’s design. On the other hand, if your garden is only seasonal, a temporary fence or net should work just fine! You’ll want to make sure your fencing does not have holes in an attempt to keep out animals of all sizes. Depending on the height of your garden intruders, you may want to go with a higher fence to keep out taller animals.

Net covering garden with bowl of strawberries

Use a Scarecrow

If swarms of birds are the problem you constantly face, something as simple as a scarecrow can encourage them to head in the other direction. Just keep in mind that although birds can get scared easily, they can also be pretty smart – that means, you’ll need to move your scarecrow around occasionally so that they think it’s a real person and not just some garden décor.

Spray Animal Repellent

Animal Friendly In-Store Repellents

Animals can be sensitive to scent, and if they don’t like what they smell, there’s a good chance they won’t come back. Head to your local pet store and speak with an expert about the animals you’re struggling with so that they can recommend a product that is effective, but that won’t ruin your flowers and plants. Remember, though, that the goal here is just to keep the animals away, so you’ll want to ask questions to make sure that you’re getting a product that is still animal friendly, and will not hurt the animals.

Natural DIY Repellent

In addition to what your pet store suggests, you can also try natural repellents, too! Did you know that animals such as rabbits, squirrels, cats and deer can be deterred using chili-pepper products? Additionally, you can prevent stray cats from using your garden as their litter box by putting down some cut up oranges, lemons, or another citrus fruit! Last, but certainly not least, essential oils such as lavender, geranium and mint can also help you stop your animal problem when sprayed around the base of each plant.

Natural Cayenne Pepper Recipe

Red Hot Chili Peppers Natural Animal Repellent

Since garden critters can be deterred from visiting by strong smells and tastes, follow this recipe to create a natural pepper based repellent:

  1. Add 2 tablespoons of powdered red pepper to 1 gallon of warm water and stir. Then, add 6 drops of liquid castile soap and stir so that you have a nice mixture. Once completed, cover the mixing bowl or container you’ve used and keep it at room temperature overnight.
  2. Pour the pepper solution from your bowl or container into a spray bottle and shake well.
  3. In the early morning or at dusk on a calm day (it should be no hotter than 85 degrees Fahrenheit as well), start spraying your pepper solution on the stems and upper and lower leaf surfaces of the plants in your garden. Before you do so, though, make sure you’ve shooed all insects away!
  4. On a weekly basis, continue to re-apply the pepper solution to the plants in your garden. Should it rain at any point, make it a priority to re-apply as soon as the storm passes.

When not in use, keep the pepper solution in a tightly closed container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks!

Garlic Spray Recipe

garlic-natural-animal-repellent

Homemade garlic spray can also be helpful in repelling the critters that munch on your vegetable garden – this garlic spray recipe should do trick:

  1. Mince garlic cloves and allow them to soak in mineral oil for at least 24 hours – use the ratio “3 ounces of garlic to 1 ounce of mineral oil” to start creating the solution that will work best.
  2. Separately, add 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion and 1 tablespoon of castile soap to 16 ounces of lukewarm water.
  3. Once the garlic has had enough time to soak, strain the garlic from the oil and combine with the solution made in step number two. At this point, store the mixture in a dry, dark and cool spot.
  4. When you are ready to spray your plants, dilute 2-3 tablespoons of your garlic spray using 1 pint of lukewarm water, then begin to apply the solution!

Consider A Plant’s Taste

Some Plants Are Less Tasty Than Others

Although you might not be the first one to dig into your plants for dinner, animals like deer might be. With that in mind, do some research before choosing plants and flowers for your garden to see which ones aren’t viewed as tasty by our outdoor friends. Where deer are concerned, that means you should stay away from things like fruit trees, lettuce, hostas, and impatiens (aka touch-me-not). Instead, if your climate allows, you may want to consider planting cacti, daffodils, and/or crocuses! That’s because deer will typically stay away from plants that have an uncomfortable texture, strong scent, and a fairly bitter taste.

If you aren’t struggling with deer but rather have trouble with critters like rabbits and groundhogs, they too will usually avoid plants with a strong scent. As such, you may find success by planting lavenders, mints, sages and thyme. For rabbits specifically, you can also try flowers such as lamb’s ears, Black-eyed Susan’s, and irises, as these are known to be pretty rabbit-resistant.

If at any point you are unsure about which plant(s) to choose, always remember that the majority of animals – squirrels, birds, stray cats, raccoon, rabbits, chipmunks and deer alike, will stay away from those that are prickly, fuzzy, leathery and strong scented!

Whether you’ve already starting planting or are about to soon, be sure to give one or more of these ideas a try to see which works best to keep animals out of YOUR garden. Although you may need to test out a few, the extra effort will be well worth it when your garden is still standing tall at the end of the growing season!