Animal Pests

Animals such as rabbits, deer, and birds may eat flowers, leaves, and fruits, and gophers eat bulbs—all of which can leave you angry and frustrated. Animals are particularly fond of plants that are well fertilized and watered frequently, because they are more tasty and nutritious than the wild plants. There are several ways that gardeners have handled this problem.

The first way is to exclude the animals from your garden. This is most effectively done with garden walls or fences. Deer are capable of jumping quite high, so the structure has to be about 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall. Netting with a mesh small enough to keep out birds can be placed over the tops of plants when fruits begin to ripen. It is more difficult to exclude gophers with this method, although you could plant your bulbs in containers that are buried in the ground to prevent the gophers from reaching them.

A second way to exclude animal pests is to trick them into thinking that a predator is near. Fox, coyote, and big-cat urine obtained from zoos has been reported to deter rabbits and deer, who fear the presence of these predators. Scarecrows, shiny reflective objects, ribbons, statues that look like owls or hawks, and bits of hose that look like snakes have also been used to scare birds. A well-behaved dog that intimidates animal grazers but that does not trample your garden may also be effective.

A third method is to spray some kind of concoction on the plants that gives them a disagreeable taste. There are many formulas on the market and homemade recipes that can be tried, but they need to be reapplied after it rains. A fourth option uses mechanical means that are activated by motion detectors to chase away animals. These include electric fences, alarms, and sprinklers.

Lastly, there are plants that deer and rabbits prefer to avoid. Deer in some regions may eat plants that they will not touch in other areas. This may be reflective of the soil and its effect on the plant, or it may be due to lack of more desirable food plants. During a particularly severe winter, deer may resort to eating plants they normally would not go near.

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