Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Keeping the Deer Out of Your Garden

Traditional Landscape by Sterling Landscape Architects; Designers SURROUNDS Landscape Architecture + Construction
 You may have deer trespassing into your yard, hoping to get a meal around your patio. Or, as in the case of our son, you might have bunnies chomping up your strawberries (leaving the lettuces intact-- there goes that myth)or neighborhood dogs-without-boundaries bouncing through your tomatoes. What to do? What to do?

Well, traditionally, an elegant fence (like the one above) is an adequate barrier to roaming, intrusive critters.

Here are some suggestions to keep other critters out of your garden area:

Cats are usually drawn to a veggie or flower garden because of the loose soil that is easy to dig up and dispose of their feces.  Cat feces are not suitable to compost or dig in as fertilizer because they are carnivores, and as such, may harbour pathogenic bacteria and viruses in their feces that can cause illness for humans.

Cats can climb up over fences, unless you cap the tops of your fences with something like gutter-covers OR rig up something like coyote rollers, PV pipe suspended on wires.  You can see more about that idea here.

Both cats and deer don't like the scent of plants like rosemary or lavender.  Planting small "hedges" of either would be pleasant for humans and deterrent to the deer and felines.  Cats also do not like the scent of rue, and pennyroyal.  In fact, cats steer clear of the coleus canin ("scaredy cat plant") and citrus or citrus-scented plants like lemon thyme and lemon grasses.  Also in the smell-and-deter family is a product called "ShakeAway" that uses a glandular mix of predator urine, including coyote and bobcat, that can be shaken over the garden area.  Not sure if humans can smell this or not.  Because cats tend to return to the same ("comfortable") spot to defecate often, it is useful to leverage their distaste for wet ground by watering plants often in that area, and/or by washing down the area of cat urine as much as possible.

Cats apparently do not like getting stuff between their toes, or materials that they sense they might get their nails snarled up in.  Simply laying down something like chickenwire or birdblock on the ground and fastening with U clips-- or laying it over mulch-- will keep them off that area.  You can cut pouches out to allow your plants to grow.  Similarly, other prickly or ridged "mulch" will generally keep them away-- including rose and holly clippings, pine cones, bamboo skewers planted upwards, and the shards of eggshells.  They generally do not favour larger gravel stones (in flowerbeds for example).  They apparently also do not like human hair (a place to compost after a haircut) and there is some divergence of success with using teabags and coffee grounds to deter.

A step-up from using a water pistol to spray them when you see them readying to make a deposit, is a motion-detecting "scarecrow sprinkler" that throws a blast of water when nearby motion is detected.

I know that a small barking, cat-chasing dog can keep cats out of the garden (as long as she is around).  The same goes for crows, some years.

I have tried to represent the most humane methods of keeping cats and deer out of the yard.  Please don't use cayenne pepper (may be harmful), moth balls (most definitely toxic to cats and small children AND the soil that you are growing your food crops in), electric fencing, or any number of other nasty ways of getting expelling critters from your yard.  The most creative suggestion I came across was to plant a patch of catnip in close proximity to a sandbox.  It is quite likely that the cats will loll in the catnip-- make it their own pleasure haven-- and then do their business in the nearby sandbox.  Yes, you will have to clean up the feces from the sandbox, but you won't have to clean them out of your garden.

To get some ideas on how to humanely rid your garden of moles go HERE.


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