9 Common Critters Who May Be Destroying Your Garden and How To Stop Them
Have you ever experienced being so excited to harvest your cabbages, only to wake up the next morning and find out that they’ve been chomped off by a mystery animal? Devastating – we know. If you’re an outdoor gardener, not only do you go toe-to-toe with pesky insects, but you also have to fend off your garden from hungry animals. Sure – bunnies and deers are cute and all, but they won’t be so adorable when you catch them munching away at those crops you worked so hard to grow. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you identify some of the common critters that have it out for your Garden of Eden and offer humane solutions on how to keep them from stealing your forbidden fruits and vegetables.
Gophers are little rodents that live in tunnels under lawns and gardens and have a keen sense of smell and hearing. Because they live underground, gophers usually target plants and trees’ roots and can destroy years of growth in just a matter of hours. Although it could be rare to spot them out in broad daylight, you will know that you have a gopher infestation if you notice many dirt mounds around your garden and maybe even trip on them. Gopher tunnels underneath your lawn can weaken the ground above and cause your patio or walkways to collapse, making gophers an even more pressing issue.
So how do we get rid of them? While some people opt to use harmful chemicals and poisonous gas to dispel their yard of these little hole diggers, we prefer using a gentler way to shoo them out of the garden. The first option is to create a gopher mesh barrier – to do this, create a perimeter or an in-ground fence around your garden using galvanized gopher mesh or chicken wire. The barrier should extend 1-2 feet into the ground, as well as above it. Alternatively, if you prefer to not create an entire fence, you can place the mesh around plants that gophers usually target, such as alfalfas, succulents, carrots, and potatoes. Another gentle method to keep gophers at bay is to plant a border of lavender, rosemary, euphorbia, salvia, marigolds, catmint, oleander, or strawberries around your vegetable or flower garden. These plants tend to repel away gophers and can be a lovely addition to your garden at the same time.
These cheeky masked bandits are notorious for raiding trashcans and wreaking havoc in yards. Raccoons are nocturnal, omnivorous creatures that will eat anything from eggs, fish, bugs, frogs, fruits, and vegetables. They especially like munching on sweet corn, as well as peas, potatoes, apples, melons, and strawberries. Since raccoons are nocturnal, they only come out to feast at night, meaning it may be hard to catch them in the act. However, there are some telltale signs that you have raccoons stealing food from your garden: holes in your lawn, a mulch pile, empty bird feeders, spilled trash bins, and if you have corn – toppled stalks and half-eaten cobs on the ground.
To keep raccoons away, try scattering blood meal or wood ashes around your plants. Raccoons are not too fond of these smells, making this an easy remedy. You can also grind up equal parts of garlic and chili powder and spread it around your garden. Remember that raccoons are also attracted to other kinds of food, so try to remove any food source (such as leftovers in garbage cans, bird food, or pet food) outside. Another idea is to plant squash around your garden – raccoons don’t like walking on prickly squash vines, so it will deter them from stealing your other fruits and veggies.
If you live in more rural areas, it’s not uncommon to encounter bears picking away at berries in your yard or destroying beehives to get that good ol’ sweet honey. Bears are sniffers, and if you have any enticing food scents around your house, you could find a bear scavenging your garden soon enough. Garbage bins, compost piles, bird feeders, pet food, barbecue grills, and fragrant fruits are irresistible to a hungry bear – so make sure that you store these items properly.
One way to prevent bears from going through your lawn is to keep all food inside, including food scraps from an outdoor barbecue or pet food. Don’t leave any kind of food outside for too long, and make sure to always clean your barbecue grills after using them. If you want to feed birds, do so only from December to March when bears are hibernating. It’s also best to keep your trash inside a secure place (like a closed garage), so bears can’t get a hold of it. And also, remember to pick your fruits frequently and clean up any that may have fallen to the ground.
Bambi was definitely a cute and heartwarming movie, but what do you do when a bunch of Bambi’s cousins starts chowing down on your tomatoes, lettuce, beans, and broccoli before you have the chance to taste them yourself? Deer will eat any vegetable they can find in your garden and nibble on your pretty flowers for dessert. If you don’t want these hungry buggers to devour your whole garden bed, try some of these tactics below to keep them far away.
Deer are sensitive to smell, so if you add some strong-scented plants around your gardens like lavender, mint, chives, oregano, or marigolds, it will mask the smell of your vegetables and deter deer. If you want to push the extra mile and play with the deer’s sense of smell, spray a mix of garlic and chili powder or raw eggs around your plants – that mixture has a funky smell that will keep deer away from your garden. Of course, another option is to build a deer fence to keep these hungry menaces out.
Did you ever imagine a cute little rabbit would ever become your nemesis? In the gardening world – that’s right! Rabbits are voracious munchers and leave clean-cut damage in your garden. They love to eat beans, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, cilantro, parsley, berries, and ornamental flowers. They also like to gnaw on shrubs and trees, so if you see plants and bark with bite marks and rabbit fecal pellets around the area, you can be sure you have rabbits to blame for your missing crops.
Just like deer, rabbits are also great sniffers (as you can tell from their twitching noses) – which is why the smell techniques used to deter deer will also work on these hopping furballs. Sprinkling Irish Spring soap shavings or talcum powder around your plants will also help keep rabbits away. Additionally, you can also plant an onion and garlic border around the rabbit’s more favorable plants since rabbits dislike the pungent smell of those two vegetables.
If you’ve got feline companions at home, then you know just how annoying they can be when they start biting, scratching, or pawing on your plants. Sometimes, you’ll even catch cats turning your vegetable garden into one giant litter box. Cats like to eat plants because they enjoy the texture of fiber in their mouth, and they particularly developed a liking for zinnias and marigolds.
If you want to stop your cat from eating your garden, the best solution would be to build them their own. Cats like to eat cat grass, catnip, valerian, licorice root, and mint – so planting this in a separate area for your cats would help them steer clear of your prized greens. If you’ve got trouble with cats from your neighborhood, you can try covering your garden beds with citrus peelings, coffee grounds, or even human hair. Yes – human hair! Some research claims that these scents can deter cats. Another option would be to make your garden bed as prickly as possible by adding twigs and pine cone trimmings – as cats don’t like walking on uncomfortable surfaces.
Bullying doesn’t just happen in school, but in the garden too. If you’re wondering why it’s been over a month and the seeds you planted still haven’t sprouted, chances are bully birds ate all your seeds before they had the chance to grow. Bully birds like blue jays, grackles, crows, sparrows, and pigeons like to feed on sunflower seeds, corn, wheat, and millet. If they’re especially hungry, they’ll eat any seed they can find on the ground.
To keep bully birds away from your newly-sowed seeds, get them a feeder filled with seeds that they like so that they eat from there and not from the soil. You can also cover your new sows with a garden net or mesh cover to keep seedlings extra safe from these hungry flying bullies.
Have you seen any half-eaten fruits and veggies scattered around your yard? Are there tiny shallow dug-up holes on your garden bed? If you’ve answered yes, then you most likely have a squirrel problem. These tiny acrobats live in trees, so if you have trees in your backyard you’re bound to encounter squirrels stealing your berries, nuts, and seeds.
Sadly, putting up a big “No Stealing” sign wouldn’t work to keep squirrels from taking food. However, squirrels (much like deers and rabbits) have a sensitive nose, so putting strong scents like alliums, citrus, coffee, soap, and pepper will keep them away from your fruits and veggies. If you have a dog, you could put him on squirrel patrol to chase the squirrels away.
Rats and mice don’t just eat cheese like on TV – they eat almost anything, including your plants! If you see any of these running around your garden, be quick to take action because these creatures multiply at the speed of light. Before you know it, all your leafy greens, berries, fruits, and other vegetables could have tiny bite marks from these rodents, and it wouldn’t be safe for you to eat them anymore.
There are tons of ways to get rid of rodents in your backyard, but we’re here to suggest some of the more humane alternatives. Maintaining cleanliness in your house and your yard is a good start. Cleaning up all garbage bins, removing tall grass, and clearing piles of wood/leaves lying around the garden is a good start since rodents tend to make their home in these. Building a stout fence around your vegetable and fruit garden is another way to keep them out. Additionally, seal any holes that you might have around your fences or home to keep these pests away. An active cat is another option to keep mice at bay, as they are known to be one of the best mice hunters in the world.
So there you have it – here are all the most common critters that could be devastating your garden and how to stop them! Of course, these aren’t all the ways to keep your garden clear — there are tons more options, including more extreme ways to handle pest problems. At the end of the day, we all just want to enjoy a nice homegrown harvest from our garden.
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