squirrel

Can you really blame inquisitive and hungry neighborhood residents for sizing up your garden and perhaps sampling a few particularly enticing tomatoes or peppers? If given the chance to enjoy a fresh from the vine meal with little or no struggle, you’d probably leap at the chance to crunch and run, too. This presents quite a predicament for the well-intentioned gardener who prefers to work with Mother Nature’s creatures rather than against them. How can the fruits of one’s labor be protected without losing a significant portion to critters that go bump in the night – all without harming an ever-lovin’ hair or feather on their heads?

It turns out that it’s not such a challenging prospect, after all. Strategy is the name of the game. By knowing what irks and even freaks out the top garden-thieves, you’ll be able to deflect their advances without causing them irreparable damage (other than a broken heart and a rumbly tummy).

RABBITS

For some reason, these carrot-chomping champs of the animal reproductive circuit gravitate toward bean plants as well as peas and beets rather than many of the more conventional veggies – as can be evidenced by their penchant for taking two bites of this, one bite of that and then flinging their rejects in random directions. When fences just won’t do (um… if they’re motivated enough, they’ll just burrow underneath them!), many gardeners use a quirky combination of deterrents including but not limited to white vinegar soaked corn cobs, fox urine soaked cotton balls, dried blood(!) and even a liberal application of human hair around the perimeter of one’s garden. Chile powder dusted on or around plants is another favored effort, as is planting a rabbit-specific crop such as clover since they find it far more appealing to plow into than tomatoes, cucumbers or corn any old day. If you prefer a less messy and/or far less repulsing remedy, you might enjoy greater rabbit-free success simply by elevating your garden in raised planting beds and even throwing netting over the top.

BIRDS

Clearly, there’s a good reason why birds are accused of having ‘bird brains’ – they’re easily scared by intimidating sounds and colors, but frankly, it’s all just a natural part of their survival instinct. This ‘better safe than sorry’ stance ends up benefitting the gardener since birds actually believe that if you perch owl-like replicas around the perimeter of your veggies, that they better stay the heck away. Ditto for fake scarecrows made out of second-hand bed sheets, scraps of fabric that flap in the wind, simple foil ribbon or tape and shiny holographic CDs (the latter two of which reflect sunlight, panicking birdy visitors). Lightweight netting also works well despite it being somewhat inconvenient for the gardener to access their own plants, as does a sonic bird deterrent which repeatedly plays multiple distress and predator sounds on a loop.

MICE

Think about the natural predators of this common rodent and you’ll have an instant ‘ah haaaa’ moment in terms of what will keep them far far away from your glorious veggie jewels. Boy oh boy…  they sure hate snakes… and cats… and foxes, for that matter. So, if you want a highly effective three-pronged plan of attack, get your hands on some recently shed kitty fur and disperse it all around the perimeter of your garden. Then, visit your local pet store and kindly request that they donate… well, there’s no neat and tidy way of requesting snake excrement, so just do it. Between that and the admittedly costly $10.00 container of fox urine that you can procure from your local well-stocked landscaping store, the mice in your hood are going to come to a screeching halt the moment they take a whiff at what’s going on around your veggies. Hmmm, death or food… death or food? It’s just not worth the risk to take even one small bite!

DEER

What’s not to love about Bambi and momma? Those big gorgeous eyes, ginormous ears and graceful sprint belie the fact that when faced with a tasty spread of homegrown plants, they are most definitely going to go hog-wild. Unlike their woodland brethren, they are much larger in size and quite capable of making a serious dent in one’s victory garden. If you really want throw them off the scent, you can actually spray your plants with everything from a beef bouillon and egg solution to a sour milk-soap-and-clove concoction. Yes, human hair works as well, but if you really want to up the ante, then cook up a gag-reflex-kickin’ blend of blood meal and human hair, tucking it into recycled fabric pouches that you can then decorate your trees with.

SQUIRRELS

Among the most persistent of the hungry critters cited in this article, squirrels have a one-track mind when it comes to accessing the fruits of your labor and will literally bend over backwards for a free meal. Since their nose is their greatest asset, enabling them to locate even the most deeply buried treats, it’s up to you to offend their delicate olfactory sensibilities by burning the bejeezus out of their nostrils (at least in the short term). The best way to do that is by laying the ground with chile powder or hot sauce, or if that seems just a tad bit too mean, offer them an irresistible squirrel-designated snack such as a peanut butter-smeared corn cob rolled in bird seed so that they’ll stay away from your far too healthy and ho-hum veggies (just be prepared to replenish their munchy delight on a daily basis or they’ll revolt with tomato and pepper thievery).

Image: deb roby

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