The journey to enjoying your garden bounty isn’t without its difficulties.
Just when you have rid your garden of pests thanks to beneficial insects and have successfully avoided any produce viruses or tomato blights… deer, rabbits, and squirrels sneak in to snack on your beloved plants.
Wildlife can wreck a garden—they’ll steal away your veggies, chomp on your flowers, and stomp over your garden beds.
While fencing is one of the best options to keep critters out, it can be expensive if your garden is bigger than a backyard plot.
We’ve explored a few natural, inexpensive options for keeping these 3 common wildlife pests out of your garden.
Deer are a common wildlife pest when it comes to our gardens at Stoney Creek Farm. In Middle Tennessee in particular, white-tailed deer have reached population levels that require wildlife management efforts to stabilize herd growth.
In 2016, we tried a new method to keep the deer out. Initially, we discussed adding electric fencing, but as a sustainable farm, we didn’t necessarily love that idea; plus, it would be expensive to add that much fencing to the multiple acres that we garden.
Instead, we tried this alternative method: we tied a 30lb fishing line at two different levels all the way around the garden. The deer can’t see the line, but they feel it when they try to cross over the threshold into the garden. This unseen sensation startles them and, in theory, keeps them from crossing further.
In the first few weeks, we were able to successfully keep deer out of the garden with this method.
Eventually, the deer then got smart to the line, so we added bells to it.
But then, the deer got smart to those, too. So when the bells stopped working, it helped to put up aluminum pie pans on strings that made a different noise. That seemed to do the trick—the unexpected jingling and clanging worked to keep the deer out for the rest of the growing season!
We now do this every year for our U-Pick Garden, but we limit it to only the corn, since that’s where deer tend to commit the most damage.
Check out our video below to see how to set up your own deer-proof wire garden boundary.
While arguably adorable, rabbits are a destructive tour de force for gardens. But there are natural, harmless ways to keep Peter Cottontail from stealing away with your veggies.
Hot Pepper Spray.
Hot pepper spray is a better option for smaller gardens, since it requires a time investment—both to make your own homemade recipe and to apply to your plants, depending on plot size. You’ll also have to re-apply every time it rains.
The upside is that gardeners found this to be a really effective method for keeping rabbits from treating their plants like a bowl of popcorn.
You can purchase hot pepper spray or make your own. Check out this simple homemade hot pepper spray recipe using only hot pepper sauce and water.
Rabbits aren’t a fan of spice, and they also aren’t a fan of soap.
Cut up a bar of inexpensive soap (we use Irish Spring brand) and sprinkle around your plants or place chunks on saucers around your garden. This is a cheap and easy option that requires little time investment while also keeping the rabbits away!
Rabbits have a keen sense of smell and are wary of spaces that smell like humans. Sprinkling human hair (you can ask for cuttings from a local barber shop) around your plants was found to be an effective bunny scare tactic. Beware the wind, though—this can blow away the hair and leave your gardens without defense.
Squirrels are another bane to the existence of any good garden. They are talented hoarders, stealing away and hiding food in various places across their territory. This is especially important when it comes to storing up food for the winter; squirrels don’t hibernate, so they rely on their stores of food to get them through the colder months. To avoid squirrels treating your garden like a grocery store, try out some of these natural repellants below.
There are several natural repellents available for purchase designed specifically to keep squirrels away. Search “Squirrel Repellent Spray” on Amazon or make a trip to your local feed store and you’ll find several options. Just read the labels to ensure the ingredients are natural repellents and not unwanted processed chemicals.
Plant nasturtiums, marigolds, and mustard as a border around your vegetable garden—while we may enjoy the fragrance of these bright flowers, squirrels consider them more as a stink and tend to stay away.
Dog or human hair.
Like rabbits, squirrels aren’t fond of the smell of predators like dogs and people. But again, this option isn’t immune to windy days and would require reapplication—meaning you’ll need to have a lot of extra hair on hand.
Hot Pepper Spray.
Similarly, squirrels—like rabbits—don’t have a taste for spicy foods. The hot pepper spray works effectively to keep the squirrels from making away with your tomatoes and other veggies. Just remember: You’ll need to apply it to your plants after every rainshower that passes through.
Found this post helpful? Check out more of our gardening guides from the Stoney Creek Farm blog: