One of the worse threats to your young flower and vegetable garden is hungry animals and birds. It only takes a few hours for a rabbit, bird, woodchuck, or deer to make a quick meal of your pampered transplants. Here are some strategies to keep these varmints away.
Birds: Birds love to pull up young seedlings, looking for the seeds beneath the soil. Sweet corn and sunflowers are just some of the vegetables and flowers they love to explore. Protect these plantings by covering the bed with a floating row cover. This cheesecloth-like, white material lets air, water, and sunlight reach the plants, but creates a barrier that the birds can’t break through. Another option is to use a wire cage for smaller plantings. You can also spray hot pepper or garlic repellents on young transplants to thwart the birds from plucking them out. Read the label carefully to be sure these repellents won’t harm your flower or vegetable’s tender young leaves.
Rabbits: The simplest solution for keeping rabbits out of the garden is a good fence. Rabbits love tender young greens, carrot tops, and green beans. A simple small-mesh wire fence will keep the bunnies in the lawn and out of your garden. Erect it early in the season so they don’t know what they’re missing in your garden. They’ll be less likely to try to dig under the fence.
Woodchucks: You can use the same strategies on woodchucks, or groundhogs, as for bunnies, but the fence needs to be a little more clever. You’ll have to dig the wire fence 1 foot deep into the ground, bend it at a 90-degree angle away from the garden, and bury it. Also, don’t attach the top foot or so of the fence to a post. When the woodchuck comes up to the fence, its natural inclination is to dig under it. But if the fence is buried at an angle, the woodchuck just hits more fence and can’t get in. The young ones will then try to climb over the fence. If the top is not attached to the post, the fence will peel back and drop the varmint back on the ground. Your garden will be safe.
Deer: Fencing is the most surefire way to keep deer out of a garden or berry patch. Construct a fence 7 feet tall with sturdy wooden or metal posts. If a 7-foot-tall fence seems too imposing, you can build two 4- to 5-foot-tall fences spaced 4 to 5 feet apart. Deer can’t jump over both fences in one bound and won’t jump into the middle if there isn’t a clear way out. Some gardeners have had success running a strand of monofilament fishing line around a garden at 3 to 4 feet high. The deer bump into the line but can’t see it, so are unsure about proceeding. For individual fruit trees, consider just wrapping metal wire around the tree; support the wire with a sturdy stake until the tree outgrows the enclosure.
Scent- and taste-based repellent sprays may work well, too. There are many on the market and some home remedies are worth a try. Scent-based repellent sprays include active ingredients such as rotten eggs, perfumed soaps, human hair, and animal urine. Some taste-based sprays have ingredients such as cayenne pepper and Bitrex (a bitter compound used to stop kids from sucking their thumbs). The key to success is to use three or four different type of sprays and rotate them every few weeks. Rotating the sprays every few weeks will keep the deer confused, and hopefully off your new plants. Also, you may have to spray even more frequently in spring to cover new foliage as it grows and after it rains.