Help for Gardeners

For many of us, spring and summer are the seasons to pursue a passion: digging in the dirt, sowing seeds, and tending our gardens. For many wild animals, spring and summer are times to enjoy something else: the sweetness of a fresh tomato or the seeds of a sunflower. While some folks welcome wildlife into their yards, some gardeners are naturally perturbed when hungry critters view their plantings as all-you-can-eat buffets.

If you’d rather not share your harvest, don’t despair: MSPCA has humane, cost-effective suggestions for keeping the wild neighbors away.

Visit our Intruder Excluder – An interactive house that will help you identify the intruder sharing your garden and provide you with humane, long-term solutions.

Or read on to find tips for coping with some common garden nibblers…

First, determine what types of animals are coming around. Watch for tracks, and use a reference such as A Field Guide to Animal Tracks or go to our Intruder Excluder or Animal Information pages to identify them. Next, devise a species-specific plan by following the suggestions below:

Woodchucks:  Using novel stimuli will often encourage unwanted groundhogs to leave your lawn and garden. Tactics like using scarecrows, balloons, and pinwheels or putting a beach ball within the area they are disturbing and letting it blow in the wind can deter them. Visiting your garden often and mowing long grasses can also help. Specific plants can be protected by sprinkling them with Epsom salts, with a re-application after every rain, or covering them with fabric or gallon jugs with the bottoms removed. You can also try placing rags soaked in ammonia on posts placed at intervals around the perimeter of the garden. The odor is enough to deter most unwanted visitors. The rags must be re-soaked when the smell of ammonia fades. Because the ammonia fumes can harm animals’ lungs, don’t use it within tow feet of where the animals may come into contact, especially where there might be babies.

For a more permanent solution, erect a three-to four foot high wire fence around the garden, leaving it loose and flexible to prevent them from climbing it. Since woodchucks are excellent burrowers, also bury the fence about a foot underground and, if possible, bend it in an L-shape so that burrowing animals will encounter the fence when digging down and forward toward the garden. If the animals are persistent, placement of electric hot shot wire (low-voltage electric fencing) four to six inches above ground and at the top of the fence will prevent them from climbing up and over the fence.

Learn more about woodchucks.

Chipmunks and Squirrels:  Spring flowers and growing buds are often eaten by chipmunks and squirrels as the weather warms, and in the summer they often eat fruits and berries. Bulbs can be protected by soaking them in certain repellents before planting, by planting them below wire or plastic screening, or by surrounding the area with a plant-free gravel border. Spraying repellents on ornamental plants can also help deter inquisitive squirrels and chipmunks. Wrapping ripening fruit trees with netting and using various squirrel-proof bird feeders can also keep them away. Most bird supply centers sell these types of feeders.

Learn more about chipmunks and squirrels.

Raccoons: The same fencing mentioned for woodchucks also usually works to deter raccoons. Another tactic is to use radios, lights, and sprinklers in the late afternoon and evening, when these critters are likely to raid your garden.

Planting taller varieties of corn with squash plants surrounding them will also deter the raccoons because they don’t like walking on prickly squash vines.

Learn more about raccoons

Birds: A common tactic is to play audio recordings of predators or birds in distress. You might also try netting made of high-tensile woven wire when the fruits of your labor are ripening. If you’re looking for an easier, but higher maintenance solution, you can use simple cheesecloth over your bushes.

Learn about different types of birds.

Rabbits: Many varieties of fencing effectively exclude rabbits, including those made of chicken wire. Tree protectors can also help. Repellents with the active ingredients thiram or capsaicin (hot cayenne pepper extract) can be applied to plants that are not intended for human consumption.

Learn more about rabbits.

Moles: Bury hardware cloth at least a foot deep deep around your garden, ideally in an L-shape, to deter tunneling moles. Castor oil-based repellents also dissuade moles without causing any harm. Improving soil drainage or flooding their tunnels with water is effective, because moles don’t like moist areas.

For all wildlife species entering your garden, think about what you might be doing to inadvertently attract them. Certain plants naturally attract some animal species.  Nurseries can often recommend the best plants for your situation and suggest repellants.

Visit our links and resources page to find humane vendors to address garden and lawn conflicts.

Remember, no one solution is 100% effective, and a tolerant attitude goes a long way whenever dealing with wildlife. Try planting extra vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers so there’s enough to share!  

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