How to keep unwanted animals out of your garden

Safe ways to keep animal intruders away from the fruits of your labours

All your work planting that vegetable garden is finally paying off. Carrot tops have sprouted. Bean vines are climbing up the trellis. Tomato plants are speckled with yellow blossoms.

Then your dog decides to bury his favourite bone among your baby beets.

Keeping pets and wild creatures away from your plants and shrubs can be challenging. While your own animals might make frustrating messes, intruders can be more destructive. Voles and porcupines can chew away at the trunk and branches of trees and shrubs. Rabbits, squirrels and deer will eat your vegetables and fruit if you live in a rural area or near a ravine.

While there’s no surefire way to keep every animal out of your garden, we asked 2 NAIT experts how gardeners can preserve the fruits of their labours. Here landscape gardener Dan Tavenier and Animal Health Technology instructor Shauna Lesick (class of ’86) offer their top tips for safely keeping critters at bay.

  • Deterrent plants and scents – Aromatic herbs such as mint, lavender and catnip can deter mice, while coneflowers and daylilies repel rabbits, says Tavenier. Repellent sprays with citrus or pepper are also available from your local garden centre.

    rabbit eating plant
  • Physical deterrents – Coffee grounds or orange and lemon peels will keep cats from using your garden as a litter box. Also, some gardeners place chopped rose bush branches or lay chicken wire flat around the areas they want to protect because critters will avoid stepping on them.
  • Cover up – Draping lightweight plastic netting or a fabric such as Reemay (breathable, translucent polyester) over plants can foil unwanted snackers.
  • Surprise! – Motion-activated sprinklers, lights, noisemakers or reflective materials such as streamers can frighten off some intruders.
  • Mix it up – Whatever method you try, be prepared to switch it up. Animals will adjust their behaviour as required, says Lesick. And a hungry animal is a motivated animal, adds Tavenier.
  • Strike a balance – “I say, you can have a dog or a lawn, but you can’t have both,” says Tavenier. You might be after that putting-green-perfect lawn, but Fido’s digging and other activities will likely lead to some wrinkles. If you’re unwilling to consider a different pet, be prepared to compromise to co-exist.
    cat in garden

    Reconsider cats

    Cats are often viewed as yard pests. “It’s the ‘ick factor’ of using your garden as a litter box,” says NAIT landscape gardener Dan Tavenier.

    But their visits can actually be of benefit to your garden. Cats can help scare away more destructive pests like mice, squirrels and rabbits.

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