Home & Garden

Protect Your Landscape from Hungry Wildlife

Spring flowers and fresh foliage offer a tempting buffet. (Ms. Karyn/Shutterstock.com)

While you’re busy filling your landscape with beautiful flowers and scrumptious vegetables, the deer, rabbits and other wildlife are watching and waiting to move in to dine.  Don’t lose your beautiful investment to hungry animals.  Be proactive in keeping wildlife at bay, so you can grow a beautiful landscape this season.

Protect plants as soon as they are set in the ground. It’s easier to prevent damage rather than break a habit. Once critters find delicious plants, they will be back for more and they’re likely to bring along a few additional family members.

A fence is an excellent defense against animals. A four-feet-high fence anchored tightly to the ground will keep out rabbits. Five-feet-high fences around small garden areas will usually keep out deer that tend to avoid smaller spaces.

Woodchucks are more difficult.  They will dig under or climb over the fence. You must place the fence at least 12″ below the soil surface with four to five feet above ground. Make sure gates are secured so animals can’t squeeze through or under these. The last thing you want is an animal happily living and dining inside your fenced in garden.

For gardeners who do not want to spend the money on fencing or view their flowers and other ornamental plantings through a fence, there are other options. Scarecrows, rattling pans and other scare tactics have been widely used for decades. Unfortunately, urban animals are used to noise and human scent and are rarely discouraged by these tactics. You must move and alternate the various scare tactics to increase your chance of success.

Repellents may be your best and most practical option. Always check the label for details on use, application rates and timing. Research has proven that odor-based repellents are more effective than other types of repellents. Wildlife will avoid plants rather than taking a bite before they discover they don’t like the taste. Look for organic repellents labeled for use on food plants when treating edibles. 

Maximize results by treating new growth according to label directions. Most liquid repellents need time to dry while granule repellents may need to be watered to activate the smell. Always check the label for the product you are applying.

Protect new tree whips by dipping them in a long-lasting liquid repellent. Mature trees will benefit as well. Treat them prior to bud break or two to three weeks after leaves have developed.

Continue to monitor plantings throughout your landscape all season long. Watch for animal tracks, droppings and other signs wildlife have moved into your area. Protect new plantings and those favored by wildlife before they start dining on your plants. Always be as persistent as the hungry animals.

If you’re ever feeling discouraged, remember that gardeners have been battling animals in the garden long before us and there are lots of options to help protect your flowers and harvest.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts the “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Her website is MelindaMyers.com.

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