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  • Writer's pictureNina Melillo

Keeping Critters Out Of A Garden – Darn Varmints!!

Updated: Nov 10, 2023



Two deer

Rabbit eating a dandelion

Animals are so soft, cuddly, and fun to watch, but when it comes to a garden, no one wants them there. Nothing is more frustrating or aggravating than to see a deer or rabbit munching on your flowers or herbs, especially after you have been caring for them like a new mother or father from the day you planted them. I know the feeling! That’s why I’ve decided to give some suggestions for keeping critters out of a garden.


(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links in which I receive a small compensation from sales of certain items.)


Your Typical Critter in the Northeast USA


There are many kinds of animals that roam the world, but I am going to focus on a few of the most common creatures found in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic regions of the USA. They include deer, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. Even some of our furry friends like dogs and cats like to chomp away at flowers and herbs. So what are we to do?


Bob The Builder To The Rescue!


Your first thought may be to build some type of barrier around your garden. That is a good idea especially if your yard is over run with deer. Deer are probably the most difficult animals to keep out of your garden. Their natural habitats have been significantly squelched through over development. Therefore, they are forced to find a different restaurant, mainly your backyard garden. In addition to deer, rabbits are also on the top ten list for being cute but pesky.


You have a few options when it comes to curtailing these animals.

  • fencing – For larger, hopping animals, erect a 5 foot or higher fence. It can be made of wood, wood pallets torn apart, chain link, heavy screening; whatever fits into your budget. Just be sure it is sturdy.

Chain link fence
  • wire cloche – This is a French word meaning clock. It is a curved wire cage that fits over tender plants. Make sure it is secured to the ground with a few metal U shaped tent pegs.

  • baffles – A baffle is a curved dome that you can place over hanging baskets to deter animals. It’s usually made of plexiglass or some sort of metal.

  • plant tents – Use a garden hoop covered with fabric and anchor it to the ground to protect the plant.

  • music – Any type of music will deter deer, including wind chimes.

  • raised beds – If you are handy and have issues that don’t leap and hop like skunks and groundhogs, build a raised bed for your plants to deter these kinds of animals. This could be made with wood or stone, whichever you prefer.

  • traps – There are many traps you could make to catch and release the animals.


Time To Shop!


In addition to making barriers, there are many products you can buy at your local home box store or gardening store to impede animals from munching on your flowers and herbs. But be sure they do not kill the animal or harm the environment. Remember, we only have one earth and we must take good care of all its resources and its inhabitants. Some safe solutions to deter animals include:


(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

  • Liquid Fence – This is a spray repellent and has a nasty odor to both animals and humans alike. Fortunately the smell dissipates for us but the scent lingers for animals. Apply it to dry foliage and blooms after every significant rainfall because the oils in the product wash away. You can also spray it around the perimeter of your garden. Again, this is not poisonous to the animals or harmful to the environment.

  • Predator Urine – The product is exactly what it says, urine from a predator of a deer, rabbit, etc. You may also smell this but again, the odor will dissipate.

  • Deer Out This is made from eggs, hot peppers and garlic, all things deer do not like to smell.

  • Plantskydd – A blood meal solution that deters many animals.

  • Solar Yard Gard – This contraption is solar powered and is motion activated. It uses high pitched sound waves humans cannot hear but animals can. Set it up in a sunny area and one device will protect up to 3000 square feet.

  • Garlic sprays – Bought from a store, this spray could help discourage animals from attacking your beautiful garden.

  • Fish emulsions – This is made from whole fish or fish parts and is an organic garden fertilizer. Read the directions to determine the quantity to apply to your garden.

Natural Ingredients – Hooray For Mother Nature!


Mother Nature has provided us with many ways of keeping critters out of a garden. They range from the scents of herbs and flowers to making natural concoctions from ingredients found at your local grocery store.


Basil

Most animals do not like aromatic herbs. Deer and rabbits especially do not like the smell of basil, lavender and rosemary. Other deterrent scents include chives and onions, garlic, and citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruit. Marigolds and mint also have an overpowering aroma that a lot of animals do not like. Plant these around the base of your garden. Sprinkling ammonia and cayenne pepper may also discourage animals from eating your plants.


If your furry dog enjoys digging in your garden, try planting some bergamot (a citrus plant), rue (a strong smelling plant used for medicinal purposes) or a citronella plant (also used to deter mosquitos). It will repel your dog from the garden but beware, rue can cause an allergic skin reaction in humans.


You could try sprinkling red pepper flakes or using a liquid pepper spray around and on your plants. Coffee grounds deter squirrels but you need to add a cup or less to your plants every 2 weeks. Do not use too much though, because the grounds are very acidic and can stunt the growth of your plants. Try to use them around acid loving plants like blueberries, azalea and camellia bushes. The grounds also attract worms to your soil which are very beneficial.


Other Annoying Critters


Nature Hills


Cute chipmunk

Chipmunks along with squirrels can be nuisances. Since they do not like pungent odors plant garlic bulbs here and there scattered throughout your garden. You will not only scare away the critters, but will produce a wonderful herb to use in most of your recipes.



If cats are an issue in your garden, plant catnip on the opposite side of your garden to lure them away.


Plants with spikes like prickly pear, repel animals. Lamb’s ear which has tough leaves is also a deterrent along with plants that have milky sap like milkweed. One benefit of milkweed is it attracts butterflies, so you’ll not only discourage pesky animals but attract lovely insects.


WARNING! According to Poison Control, “All parts of the plant contain toxic cardiac glycosides, which can cause nausea, diarrhea, weakness, and confusion in small amounts, and seizures, heart rhythm changes, respiratory paralysis, and even death in large amounts. Milkweed can also irritate the skin and eyes if touched.”



Prickly pear

Foxglove that have fuzzy leaves are also unappealing to animals. Begonia is another plant that has a pungent smell to animals so they may stay away from them.


To deter birds from eating the tasty berries from your plants, set a bird feeder up at a different location from your garden. They will be attracted to the easy meal rather than your garden. If squirrels are an issue, cover it with a baffle that was described above.


Keeping Critters Out Of A Garden: Perennials Do The Trick


Below is a list of flowers and herbs that will help deter animals from your garden. Pepper your garden with these to keep the critters at bay. They all have either fuzzy leaves, strong fragrances or a bitter taste.


Fritillaria

Spring Blooming Perenniels:

  • bleeding heart

  • bluebell

  • crocus

  • daffodil

  • fritillaria

Summer Blooming Perenniels:

  • blue beard

  • catmint

  • lavender

  • monkshood

Bugleweed

Ground Covers:

  • bugleweed

  • pachysandra

  • lilies of the valley

  • spotted deadnettle





Folk Remedies and Home Grown Brews – Keeping Critters Out Of A Garden


There are a few folk remedies worth mentioning. I have scattered my hair throughout the garden and it seems to have repelled some animals (and yes, I do shampoo often!). You can get some hair at your local beauty parlor. Dog’s hair is also useful for this; again, visit your local groomer.


Human urine can be used, but good luck collecting that! Fake snakes have also been used to scare away varmints.


I have compiled a few homemade brews or potions as I like to call them. I will share them with you below.


Hot Pepper Sauce/ This is good to deter rabbits (although, I feel bad for them!)


1 ounce pepper sauce; 4 drops natural dish soap (Meyer’s Clean Day Dish Soap); 1 cup leaves rabbits dislike (marigold leaves)

Meyers dish soap
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and add 1 to 2 cups of water and blend.

  2. Strain the puree to remove the solids.

  3. Transfer to a spray bottle and top it off with water; shake

  4. Store in a frig.

  5. Spray plants after each heavy rain or one time per week.

Deer Repellent Spray


1/4 cup milk; 4 drops natural dish sop (Meyer’s Clean Dish Soap)

Place ingredients in a spray bottle. Fill the remaining bottle with water. Shake. Spray on plants every 10 days.


Soap Trick to Deter Squirrels


Skewer a bar of soap and stick it into the ground slightly higher than the plant you want to protect. Or, you can hang it in a cheesecloth from branches of a tree.


Homemade Concoction – Source/ Barbara Formal; herbalist


1 bar Fels Nap soap

2 bunches scallions roughly chopped

2 heads garlic with the cloves separated

4 eggs

lots of chili powder


garlic bulbs
  1. fill 1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket with a lid with hot water

  2. shave soap into bucket to dissolve

  3. place scallions, garlic, eggs and chili powder in a large piece of doubled cheesecloth. Tightly tie the ends of the cloth.

  4. hold over the bucket and use a wooden spoon to crack eggs

  5. place pouch in bucket

  6. fill bucket with more hot water

  7. cover tightly with lid

  8. place in shaded area and let sit for one week

  9. transfer in batches to pump sprayer. Apply after each rainfall or every 2 weeks.

For more information on deterring rabbits from invading your garden click Those Darn Rabbits!


That’s All Folks!


As you can see there are many ways to deter animals from your garden. Try one, try them all. It’s totally up to you. Remember, though, please be as planet-friendly as possible. Like one body, we are only given one planet to live on…….no wait! Aren’t they trying to land on Mars???? All joking aside, hopefully foremost in your mind is the environment and please do everything possible to sustain and keep it healthy for not only us, but for future generations all the beautiful creatures with whom we share the earth.


If you have any comments, suggestions, or anything else you’d like to discuss, please leave them below. Also, let me know which remedies worked for you!


Happy gardening.


Nina


www.bestgardeningforbeginners.com


bestgardeningforbeginners@gmail.com

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