Protect Your Garden from Deer, Rabbits, Squirrels, and Other Wildlife

Garden Planning · Gardening Tips & How-to's · In the Garden

If you’ve ever walked out to your newly-planted garden (or your just-ripe tomatoes) and your heart fell at the sight of your missing plants, you know the pain of losing your hard work to wildlife.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. I had to learn from trial and error how to keep the deer and rabbits out of my garden, and I found something that has worked for me (see video below).

But every gardener has a different situation (and different wildlife threats). To help you evaluate your options on protecting your garden from the animals that want it as much as you do, Jennifer Smith from Deerbusters, Inc. is sharing what she knows about how to keep wildlife out of your garden.

Click below to listen to our conversation on the Beginner’s Garden Podcast, or keep reading for her best tips.

Deer

If you know that you have deer in your area, you want to get ahead of the problem before they damage your crops. The best way to prevent deer from getting into your garden is to use a deer fence. Many home gardeners use deer repellents, but they will require repeated application. Still, this may be an option for the gardener on a budget.

Deerbusters recommends a 7 1/2′-8′ fence for most deer. Deer do not have great eyesight, so they can’t see past around 7′ high. If they can’t see above the fence, they won’t jump over it.

Fence from Deerbusters, Inc. Photo used with permission.

Rabbits

Deer are the most complained about from gardeners, but rabbits are a close second. Rabbits love feasting on seedlings in the spring and juicy fruits (like cantaloupe) in the summer. Rabbits have been my personal nemesis!

What I’ve found the hard way is that erecting a barrier is the only way to ensure rabbits will not find a way into your garden.

rabbit

Rabbits will chew through plastic, so it is best to have a metal fence that is trenched into the ground so they can’t burrow under it. A three-foot fence should be plenty for rabbits because they are more likely to burrow under than jump over. To prevent the burrowing of rabbits under your fence, bury the fence about six to twelve inches deep.

Elevated raised beds will also keep hungry rabbits from your garden, but to ensure they don’t find a way in, make sure the beds are raised to four feet high.

Squirrels

Squirrels can be a real nuisance in the garden. They climb and chew and can get through small holes. Instead of a regular fence, you will want a metal fence enclosure so they cannot jump down into the garden or chew through the material. The fence enclosure will also keep out deer and rabbits.

Enclosed fence from Deerbusters, Inc. Photo used with permission.

Other Wildlife

The metal fence that is trenched into the ground for rabbits will also help to prevent or reduce groundhogs and voles. Raccoons are similar to squirels and will require a garden enclosure.

Homemade Wildlife Deterrents — Do They work?

There are many old tales that gardeners will tell each other to keep wildlife out of their gardens, but do they actually work?

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Hanging Tin Pie Pans in the Garden

Hanging tin pans above your garden is thought to scare deer away. It might work for a little while, but deer will eventually get used to them.

Irish Spring Soap

Irish Spring Soap is supposed to also keep deer away because of the smell and taste. It works like other deer repellant and is a cost-effective option. But since it will dissolve in the rain like other repellants, it would need to be reapplied regularly.

Battery-operated Radio

Another suggestion has been to put out a radio and let it play through the night. Some people suggest playing a talk radio station to mimic the conversation of humans. This makes the deer think their might be people around so they avoid the area. Like pie pans, this can be effective for a while, but deer will eventually realize that there aren’t really people in the garden. (If you want to try this option, consider this compact, waterproof radio.)

Human Hair

An old remedy never absent from the wildlife-deterrent conversation, sprinkling human hair around the garden can deter wildlife. The thought is that since deer are scared of humans the scent would scare them away. Many gardeners swear by this method (especially hairstylists with an unlimited supply), but like other methods, it must be reapplied frequently due to rain, wind, and the degrading human scent on the hair with time.

Motion-activated sprinkler

Some also recommend a motion-activated sprinklers that can scare wildlife off. How would you like getting doused with water with a simple step? This might be one of the best options to try if you still want to avoid the expense of a fence.

Homemade wildlife deterrent sprays

Cayenne pepper, eggs, garlic, or some combination is another common repellant that many animals dislike. Though these only work for so long, though, before needing to reapply. With a smaller garden space, a liquid fence spray like this one may be worth the effort.

Fool-Proof Wildlife Protection in Your Garden

The truth is, while many of these home wildlife deterrents may work for a period of time and they each have their merit (and success stories), the only fool-proof way to protect your garden from wildlife is by erecting a fence.

What about you? Have you found a method of keeping critters out of your garden that works?

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4 Comments

  1. I have found a simple way to at least keep squirrels/bunnies, birds and other small animals from digging up and ravaging my flowers and small vegetable beds and just large pots of the same:
    Place clear colored plastic forks along rows of lettuces, or randomly in big pots of flowers/ vegetables. Once the little darlings get poked in the tender paws when the jump in, they will vamoose. And they seem to pass on the info to their buddies. Works wonders with NO chemicals, sprays and almost no expense!

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