by Lee Hansen
Deer, chipmunks, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, woodchucks and moles are adorable in pictures and stories, but when they invade your garden, destroy your flowers, and raid your veggies just as produce ripens you begin to feel less like cuddling them and more like taking out the shotgun.
How to Keep Unwanted Critters Out of Home Fruit and Vegetable Gardens
How can you prevent the birds, chipmunks and squirrels from stealing your lovely berries?
How can these creatures possibly resist fresh, tender, green lettuce or beans?
Keeping wildlife away from your flower and vegetable gardens can be both time consuming and frustrating. It's a common complaint of most gardeners that critter control is an ongoing chore.
Wildlife enjoy a gourmet meal as much as we do, and organic vegetables and flowers are their favorites for breakfast, lunch and midnight snacks.
How to Get Rid of Animal Pests in the Garden
Learning how to get rid of animal pests without poisoning them along with your garden, vegetables and fruits is an essential skill if you want to be a successful gardener and an ecologically sensitive steward of your property.
Use of toxic methods for animal and insect control should be avoided except in the case of approved biological organic sources. When you can't scare or deter animals in the garden, use a humane trap to capture the varmint and relocate it to a new home in a conservation area.
If you have no success with DIY methods, call your local animal control office; they may offer removal service or helpful advice.
Birds are less of a problem in the herb or vegetable patch, but they can do serious damage to fruit crops.
Netting and "scares" are probably all you need to manage birds in the garden. Simple mesh barriers or noise-making device such as a humming line, foil pie pans, mylar strips and netting work to keep the birds from getting into your garden and eating your fruits and berries.
You can try hanging big inflatable balls that look like giant eyes, kites shaped like predatory birds, motion-activated water sprinklers and noise (or a radio) to keep birds away from the berry patch. Suspend the balls hung on twine from tall poles or tree limbs.
You may need to move these "scares" every few days because the birds or the birds will figure out they're not a threat and ignore them. Try hanging foil tapes or recycled CDs on strings. When these move in the breeze the sparkling helps keep animals and birds away.
Netting Keeps Birds Off Raspberry Bushes
A scarecrow can help defend the garden from birds and small animals. Mine is simply decorative, as it never seems to frighten any of the animals and the birds actually like to roost on it from time to time.
If you have a dog or cat, or several, you'll probably find you have less animal problems in your garden. Use fur from brushing or clipping to deter smaller animals from entering the garden or getting close to their favorite plants.
Electric fencing will protect the vegetable garden from many larger animals including deer, raccoons, skunks and possums. It needs to be positioned so they touch it when they approach; use caution with electric fence around wet areas or if you have small children in your yard.
Chicken wire is effective if the bottom 4 inches or so is buried or attached to the boards of a raised bed. I use 24 inch tall green-plastic coated mesh to surround my grow boxes; it's almost invisible but works great to keep out rabbits and woodchucks.
When all else fails, I put out a humane trap and capture the rogue, then relocate the critter to a wild area at least a mile away from my home.
The joy of harvesting your own organically grown fresh vegetables just before eating is wonderful and gives me a great sense of self-sufficiency and satisfaction. I like knowing how my food was grown and being able to step out the door and snip fresh herbs or lettuce all summer long.
At the end of the growing season, pulling garlic and cutting basil to make pesto is one of the most pleasurable parts of my gardening season. I also love having pounds and pounds of fresh homegrown beans to eat and freeze, and bushels of lovely tomatoes to make into sauce, serve in salads, or to dry for use all winter long.