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Critter Proofing Your Garden

This time of year, makes most of us full of outdoor project ideas and Spring delight.  We spend hours (and loads of money) on planning out our landscapes and garden designs.  We carefully select which veggies to plant and which flowers to grow.  Has the following scenario ever happened to you?

After back-breaking work in the warm sunshine, you stand up and stretch your sweat-soaked body.  You step back and enjoy the spoils of your work.  After a long day, it’s time for rest and you head to bed and dream of all the delicious vegetables growing steadily outside your window, and the handfuls of fresh cut flowers you will soon have.

As you awake to the streams of morning sunlight, you run to the window to take in an eyeful of beautiful landscaping and what do you see?

Half eaten flowers here, uprooted veggies there, trampled plants and crushed bushes.

While in your fury you may be brainstorming about deer torture devices-save yourself from an animal cruelty charge and keep reading.

This scenario happens all too often.  As we quickly invade the earth, the deer and other garden loving critters are running out of room.  They have quickly learned what delicious delights are left unattended in the gardens at night and make good use of  this all you can eat buffet.  Why not make this year, the year that the buffet closes down for good.

Short of wearing camo and stalking out the deer when they are mid-munch with your rifle (which is great when it’s hunting season!), there are few totally foolproof ways to keep critters (mostly focusing on deer) away, but join me as we explore some fantastic options.

Human Hair 

This is an age old remedy for keeping unwanted critters out of your gardens.  Take your shed hair out of your hair brush and spread it around in the trees and on the ground surrounding your garden.  The strong scent of humans is said to deter critters.  This is a free option-if you have hair to spare!

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(Photo Credit) 

This is a store bought remedy.  This is harvested coyote urine that you spray around (not on) your garden.  The scent is supposed to deter deer.  I have not personally tried this one.

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Store Bought 

There are endless sprays on the markets to deter unwanted critters.  Some of these are chemically created, but most are elements of garlic, putrescent eggs, and fish oils.  I would be very hesitant, despite the company’s claims of being safe for edible gardens, to spray on actual edibles.  I have tried the Liquid Fence and sprayed it on the ground surrounding the gardens.  These have been moderately successful.  I have found that most dogs love the scents that are supposed to repel deer.

The one product I have had great success with is Sweeney’s 6-Pack All Season Deer Repellent.  These are little cartridges you hang or stake into the ground.  They are filled with a scent powder that is spread throughout the air that supposedly makes deer flee. I used these religiously last year and had great success.  They are around $20 and last all season.  I have heard some not so great reports from other people’s experiences, but mine was positive.  One downside to this product is my dogs loved it.  They would find the cartridges, chew through the plastic and eat the scent powder.  Good at repelling deer-not good at repelling dogs!

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Hot pepper spray is also a remedy some gardeners swear by.  You can purchase this, but I recommend making your own.  Here is one recipe I found: Homemade Pepper Deer Repellent Spray. 

Defensive Planting 

You can also plant in a way that hides the most delicious plants.  You can plant large bushes around the desired area, but the downside to this is it is not as aesthetically pleasing.

You can also utilize plants with strong odors to cover up the scents of the other plants the critters are after.  These include Rosemary, Parsley, Garlic, Basil, Chives, Chrysanthemum, Sage, and Elderberry-to name a few.

Dogs 

These are a good method for alerting you when deer are on your property.  Particularly if your dogs stay outside, their scent and bark will likely deter all critters.

Noise-makers and Movers 

This is a remedy I use in my gardens.  Stealthily and strategically place things that will rustle, bang, move or shake.  Last year, I put plastic bags tied to the fence posts to rustle in the evening breeze.  Many people use tin foil pie plates.  One of the reasons I have ribbon on my fence posts currently, is to create movement-and it looks very whimsical!  Deer are flight animals and will flee at any sign of danger or disturbance.

Fencing 

This is about the only nearly guaranteed method of keeping critters away from your beloved gardens.  This method is typically the most expensive, but a great investment.  Raised bed gardens are a good option for creating Fort Knox inspired areas.  The following is a picture of one of my raised beds-they have one section of the fencing that is on hooks for human access:

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This has been totally critter proof in the years I have used it.  There is initial cost that can be pricey, but it lasts for a few years.  The area is small enough that deer won’t jump into the fenced area and secure enough rabbits can’t hop up and under.  Full instructions HERE. 

Along with fencing, is the use of netting.  I recommend using this in conjunction with your fencing, but some lower cost alternatives can be made.  For our blueberry bushes, we like to ensure that they are safe from our chickens, the local birds and deer.  We constructed a portable PVC pipe plant protector that is easily removed by a human, but safe from all critters.

We spent about $15 on each plant protector.  We measured to ensure the plant had growing room, cut the PVC pipe to make a box or rectangle shape, attached with pipe with PVC joint connectors, applied netting and secured with zip ties.  This was a fairly inexpensive and easy project.  You could even spray paint the PVC pipe to make it blend in better.

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Just make sure the netting holes are big enough for bees to move in and out.

I hope some of these methods help protect your gardens and veggies this year! I would love to hear what methods you have tried in the past or are currently using.

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