Keep Your Garden Safe From Animals Without Harming Them

After months of careful tending, your backyard vegetable garden is finally bursting with juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuces, and plump carrots. But just when you think you can start harvesting, you arrive one morning to find plants uprooted, leaves chewed to shreds, and half-eaten produce scattered everywhere. It looks like the local wildlife has discovered your garden and treated it as an all-you-can-eat buffet!

It’s disheartening to see your hard work go to waste, but there are ways to prevent hungry animals from destroying your garden without harming them. With some clever planning and humane pest deterrents, you can keep animals out of your garden and protect your plants at the same time.

how to keep animals out of gardens

Prevent Animals From Arriving In The First Place

The best defense is a strong offense when it comes to critters in the garden. Stop animals before they ever make it inside your garden by removing attractions and blocking access.

Remove Food Sources That Draw In Pests

The easiest way to keep animals from paying your garden an unwelcome visit is eliminating any free food that might lure them in. Don’t leave out pet food, bird seed, or kitchen scraps that could tempt uninvited guests.

Use secure compost bins, trash cans, and recycling bins with tight-fitting lids. Never compost meat, bones, oils, or fatty foods that produce strong odors. Rinse recyclables to remove food residue.

Pick up fallen fruits and berries from trees and plants right away. Allowing them to accumulate signals to critters that there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. Place netting below trees before fruit ripens to catch any drops.

Eliminate Shelter And Nesting Areas

Removing comfortable places for animals to sleep, rest, and raise families also makes your landscape less hospitable.

Get rid of wood piles, overgrown brush, and dense groundcovers touching fences or buildings. These provide ideal shelter and nesting sites.

Trim vegetation so there are no vines, shrubs, or branches extending over fences and allowing access from above. Block holes and gaps in foundations, sheds, and under porches.

Make It Hard For Animals To Access Your Garden

Install physical barriers between wildlife and your plants using fencing, walls, nets, and frames.

Fences should be at least 3-4 feet tall for small mammals like rabbits and 2-3 feet tall for ground pests like voles. Bury a portion underground to prevent digging underneath. Use small openings less than 1 inch so only beneficial visitors like pollinators and predatory insects can enter.

For deer, build an 8 foot or taller fence with mesh openings smaller than 6 inches. A lower fence can work if lined with multiple strands of fishing line at 6 inch intervals.

Cover seedlings and low-growing crops with garden fabric or cloches to create temporary cages. Drape bird netting over plants and trees.

Deter Animals After They Arrive

Preventative measures can significantly reduce pest pressure but likely won’t keep animals away 100% of the time. When cunning critters do slip in, you’ll need tactics to scare them off and stop the damage.

Use Physical Barriers To Protect Plants

Install physical barriers right around or on top of plants when wildlife starts attacking specific areas.

Use chicken wire, hardware cloth, or wire garden cages to make protective cylinders around vegetable plants or shrubs. Place wire cloches, old birdcages, glass jars, or milk jugs over seedlings.

Nets and garden fabric can drape directly over plants and are less obstructive for air and light. You can also quickly cover seed beds with floating row covers at night then remove during the day.

Elevating plants into raised garden beds surrounded by hardware cloth makes it harder for ground-dwelling critters to access plants while keeping out burrowers.

Make Pathways And Soil Uncomfortable

Scattering spiky, lumpy, sharp, or rough materials throughout your garden’s walking paths and bare soil creates uncomfortable terrain. Anything prickly or unstable underfoot discourages animals from sticking around.

Use materials like crushed eggshells, gravel, pinecones, short sticks and twigs, chopped bamboo skewers, and irregularly shaped mulch. Avoid smooth pebbles.

For a living deterrent, allow prickly plants like barberry, aloe, yucca, or cacti to spread around the garden’s edge. Their sharp points and dense foliage provides discomfort.

Startle With Sounds, Movement, And Water

Sudden activity frightens cautious animals away. Use surprising sounds, sights, and sensations around your yard and garden to scare off invaders.

Install motion-activated water sprinklers that deliver a startling spray when triggered by movement. Position them along fences and garden perimeters. Using a hose or spray bottle yourself has a similar effect.

Loop old CDs or ribbons around stakes to catch breezes and flutter. Hang wind chimes for random jangling. Place aluminum pie pans or old pots and pans where animals enter and let them clang when bumped.

At key access points, mount stakes topped with blue recycling bin lids that spin in the wind. The unexpected motion and reflection deters small critters.

Use a radio tuned to talk radio and set on a timer or motion sensor to blare chatter unexpectedly. Switch up speaker locations so animals don’t get used to one spot.

Adopting a male outdoor cat who hunts helps scare away rodents, rats, voles, and rabbits as they detect the predator’s scent. Always use a bell collar to warn songbirds.

Use Smells And Tastes Animals Hate

Mask any tempting garden odors and overwhelm animal’s sensitive noses with icky scents instead. Regulating taste by spraying bitter formulas also trains critters to avoid plants.

Soak cotton balls in strong smells like vinegar, garlic oil, citronella, ammonia, menthol rub, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil. Place around the garden’s perimeter and refresh weekly.

Scatter fresh human hair clippings from a salon or pet groomer which small animals avoid. The unfamiliar scent of human and predators repels pests.

Mix a few tablespoons of hot sauce or chili oil into a gallon of water and spray plants. The lingering spicy residue irritates sensitive noses and tastes unpleasant on leaves.

Coat leaves and stems with sticky textures like petroleum jelly, oil, or pine tar soap to add tacky and unfamiliar sensations that deter nibbling.

Spray plants with bitter orange oil, hot pepper wax, or garlic oil that leave a bitter taste on plants once animals take a bite and frighten them from returning.

When To Call In A Professional

With ongoing diligence, you can manage most backyard critters on your own through humane prevention and gentle harassment tactics.

But for severe overpopulation issues, if humane DIY options fail repeatedly, or you need robust permanent solutions, seeking professional help may become necessary.

Contact animal control or the Department of Natural Resources if you are battling large recurring groups of woodchucks, rabbits, or deer devouring your landscape.

Hire a qualified wildlife management company to install high-end deterrents like motion-activated lights and sounds, electric fencing, underground barriers, and predator urine spray systems.

In some cases, trapping and removal of habituated pests may be approved for relocation away from the neighborhood. This should always be a last resort for problem wildlife.

Losing your hard-earned harvest to a backyard full of hungry animals is aggravating but doesn’t have to spell the end of homegrown produce. With some clever planning upfront and consistent humane harassment as needed, you can outsmart animal invaders and protect your garden without harming them.

It simply takes removing attractions, blocking access, and using gentle deterrents tailored to your specific animal visitors. And always monitor for new vulnerabilities to close off before clever critters find their way back in. With the right prevention approach and a bit of patience, you can enjoy a bountiful garden once again!

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