Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dealing with Garden Pests, Including Deer, Rabbits, Cats, and Dogs

By Christina VanGinkel

Dealing with garden pests of the big variety is an issue that we deal with year after year. Deer, rabbits, even neighborhood cats and dogs, all cause damage to bushes, flower beds, and vegetable plots each year. Unlike pests of the sort that can be sprayed with an herbicide, dealing with these larger ones is not as clear-cut an issue.

Deer and turkey come into our yard and garden attracted by both the vegetables and flowers, but also to the many bird feeders that we have scattered about. If you think birds love black sunflower seeds, you should see a young doe the first time she discovers them! One way we initially dealt with this single issue was to raise the height of our feeders, but it did little to help. Deer will stand on their hind legs if it means reaching something as tempting as a feeder full of seed. Planting marigolds around the base of the poles seemed to help for a while, and I have heard many people swear that they keep deer away. I am sure in their instances they did, but the deer around us just step over them to get to what they want. As the plants wither, I have even seen deer munch on them. There are products though, in the form of pellets and sprays, that I have had luck with. A visit to any garden store, or feed mill, should offer you several choices from which to choose.

Fencing is another option for those of you who might not want to spray or place any pellets about, but the problem with fencing is twofold. It can be quite expensive to erect adequate fencing to keep the deer out of an area, even a space that is not overly large. Secondary to the cost issue though, is that fencing that will keep deer out is not always that pleasant to look at. If fencing is used, you might want to search for a type that will also keep out smaller animals such as rabbits and other small rodents. Otherwise, you will find yourself in the predicament of having to use a spray or some form of pellet that will deter these other smaller animals for having a buffet with your hard work as the centerpiece.

Keep in mind that there are many products available, made for deterring deer and other wildlife, that will not harm your plants, nor have any repugnant odor that people can smell. Some even are rain resistant, so once you apply them to your garden and yard, you will not have to do so again for several weeks or even in some instances months. Deerbusters Deer Repellant for example, is said to be rain resistant and last for up to three months before it needs to be reapplied. It is also said to keep away both deer and rabbits.

If you are having problems with cats and dogs coming into your space, using your gardens for litter boxes, or just for a good place to practice their digging, you might want to try Cat Scats. They are made of a weatherproof plastic, and you simply snap them apart and place them prickly side up in and around anywhere that seems to be attractive to cats. Cats will not want to scratch where they are at. While they do not normally need to be anchored in place, if you have a serious problem and feel that a cat may just brush them aside, anchors are included so that they cannot do that. These might also work with smaller dogs, but there is no real proof of that, just my own observation.

Keeping cats and dogs away, as well as deer, can sometimes be accomplished by adding items to the perimeter of your space that will blow in the wind and make noise. Plastic shopping bags tied so that they blow in the wind, wind chimes that are both loud and visual, etc., may all help to keep some of the critters away. If you have your own family dog, letting him roam the space as often as possible will also help to deter other stray dogs and cats from claiming your yard as their own.

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