Every gardener’s heartbreak is the inevitable discovery that all your hard work has essentially turned your lovely garden into an all-you-can-eat buffet for local pests to sabotage your garden plants.
Whether you’re beset by creatures that fly, dig, crawl, hop, or slither, there are lots of ways to close the 24-hour diner down and protect your plants from destructive pests. Some are more effective than others, of course, and you may want to try more than one approach as you experiment to find what works best in your particular case.
The Hoppers, Diggers, and Jumpers: Rabbits, Squirrels, Deer, Moles/Voles and Groundhogs
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They may look cute and cuddly in Disney movies, but these animals can be a real pain for home gardeners to contend with. Any herbivore can pose a threat to your plants - and your sanity.
The best defense remains a right, well-constructed (and correctly installed) rabbit fence of about three to four feet in height. These barriers include mesh panels that keep more significant pests from walking or hopping straight in.
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t still gain access! Rabbits, of course, can dig underneath a shallow fence - as can moles and voles. Squirrels can chew through just about anything that’s not metal, and scamper right over the top. Deer can merely step right over.
Still, a good fence is your best first defense. But you shouldn’t stop there. An edging of bricks or boards around the bottom of your wall can deter digging as well. To prevent deer, jam some tall (five to six feet) stakes, then string invisible fishing line, clothesline, or thin rope between the tops of the stakes horizontally. That will keep most deer from accessing the interior of the garden.
They can still reach through and nibble at the edge plants, however, so you may also want to explore the use of scent deterrents. These are usually prepared in spray form. Pepper spray is a popular choice. You can also learn how to make your insect and pest repellant sprays from the standard kitchen and household ingredients.
Another option is to apply concentrated urine sprays from predator animals (such as fox). You may also have luck with dryer “fabric softener” sheets, stapled to the tops of the stakes. Deer don’t care for the scent. They’re also reluctant to enter areas that smell like their number one predator - human beings. That’s why many gardeners swear by hair clippings spread around the garden.
Moles and voles may sound alike, but they’re entirely different creatures. And they have a strangely symbiotic relationship - sort of like the mafia family of the garden pest world!
Moles live wholly underground and eat only insects and slugs. They do their damage by creating tunnels beneath your garden which can destroy roots and destabilize your soil. Voles, on the other hand, are like small mice. They use mole tunnels to move about, but they do eat your plants.
Traps can be useful for smaller animals - groundhogs, voles, and the like. Snap mouse traps - the old-fashioned kind - are still the most effective. But if you’d rather not deal with the mess, or don’t want to kill the animals, you can explore humane traps - if you’re prepared to deal with removing them and releasing them elsewhere.
In either case, peanut butter is an effective bait for most animals. Some also respond well to watermelon or apple bits.
Avoid poisons and gases. These can harm your plants, fruits and vegetables, pets, and children.
Finally, you might want to go “old school” and get a cat. They’re quite capable of scaring off a wide variety of animals.
Caution: Do check your local laws and regulations before you set out traps of any kind!
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●Animal Fencing Techniques from Gardeners.com
●Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance from Rutgers University’s Agricultural Experiment Station
The Flyers: Birds
Our beautiful feathered friends can cause quite a few headaches, especially for those with fruit vines or trees. Netting is an efficient way to combat bird attacks, but may not be entirely practical or cost-effective.
You may also want to consider motion devices, such as pinwheels or wind chimes. Along the same lines, thin strips of very lightweight mylar material attached to the tops of stakes do a pretty solid job of frightening off many birds.
The same is true of lightweight aluminum pie plates. The combination of the reflected light, sound, and motion deter most birds who move on in search of less sinister plots.
The Slitherers: Insects, Slugs, and Snails
To deal with insects, slugs, and snails, there’s no need to use chemical pesticides. Other methods are safer and just as efficient.
Also, chemical pesticides are indiscriminate - they kill good and bad bugs alike. You don’t want to harm bees and ladybugs, for instance, since the former are the kings of pollinators, and the latter eat the bugs that eat your plants.
Instead, stick with substances that are non-toxic to humans and pets, but fatal to the creepy-crawlers you’re targeting.
For instance, everyone has probably heard that beer is an excellent choice for combating slugs, but you don’t need to buy a six-pack. Soda, fruit juices, and even sugar water work just as well. Just pour a small amount into shallow tins or bowls (an empty and rinsed-out tuna or cat-food can work great) and place around the garden.
You may also want to create an inhospitable climate for the ground-dwellers. Crushed eggshells sprinkled around the stems of each plant are great at keeping bugs and slugs off the plants. Likewise, a border of coarse sand in a ring around each plant, and the garden as a whole, will deter snails and slugs, who don’t care for the texture.
Finally, there’s the matter of your plants themselves. Aim to keep your plants active and healthy. That will help them be more resistant to pest damage. Inspect your plants often. Trim or remove damaged leaves and plants. And weed carefully - weeds can both attract and serve as cover for insect pests. Always get your plants from a certified plant nursery also to prevent diseases.
Additional Pest Control Tips for Your Home Garden Plants
Finally, consider implementing the following strategies to bolster your overall pest management program.
●Attract natural predators for the pests you want to eliminate. Once you know what you’re up against, do some research online and find out what animals or bugs prey on that pest. Find out what the predator likes, and incorporate those plants and environments into your garden.
●Include plants that are distasteful to pests. Onions and garlic are notoriously unappetizing to many pests. Aromatic herbs such as mint, lemongrass, and basil also repel many pests.
●Eliminate attractive nuisances. Raccoons, for instance, are drawn by garbage. Lock your cans down tight, and try moving them away from the garden. Remove or distance brush piles as well as tall grass.