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Backyard Harmony, Page 2: Good Fences Make Good (Wild) Neighbors

More tips for keeping critters out of the garden

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • Cullenphotos/Veer

Stumbling Blocks

Physical barriers such as fencing are some of the most effective and permanent ways of excluding wild animals from the garden. Also consider netting, bulb cages and gopher baskets, and plant covers.

I love my garden but was horrified when my neighbor trapped the woodchucks who were eating it and I found three starved babies days later. I vowed never to let anyone trap in my neighborhood again. My daughter put a 4-foot chicken wire fence around my garden, attached loosely to stakes (woodchucks don’t seem to climb wobbly mesh), and with a 1-foot mesh “apron” extending away from the garden so they couldn’t dig under (she pinned the mesh to the ground with landscaping staples). The woodchucks spent the entire summer circling my garden but not getting in it! And I got to watch them raise their young—which was a real treat.
 ­— Doris Gimbel, Bethany, Connecticut

To deter rabbits from eating tulip bulbs, place rosebush branches above where the bulbs are planted in the flower beds. The more thorns, the better!
 ­— Mary Utt, Orleans, Massachusetts

Place flexible green garden fencing around trees, using posts for support. Secure the fence about 1½ feet off the ground, to allow mowing around the base of the trees, with the top just high enough to prevent feeding from above. Overall, the fence should be 3 feet tall, which is half of a fence, so one fence can be cut in half to make two barriers. 
 ­— L. Vaughan, Utica, Pennsylvania

We had cutworms ruining our tomato plants. A friend suggested sinking a plastic cup with the bottom cut out about ¼ inch into the ground, around the base of the seedling when first planted. The cutworms can’t climb it because it is slick, and we get pesticide-free tomatoes!
 ­— Carrie Summer Rain Chapman, Orlando, Florida

I love to plant daffodil bulbs in the fall and found that the squirrels especially were digging them up right after I planted them. I placed small pieces of slate, old flowerpots, and medium-sized rocks over the daffodils to get them through the winter. Once the bulbs came up and started to bloom, they were fine.
Katherine Ryan, Simsbury, Connecticut

Scare Tactics

Besides repellents, aversive conditioning techniques include acoustical alarms, scarecrows, scare balloons and tape, sprinklers, and lights and lasers. Use consistently and move around so animals don’t become acclimated, and don’t harass the animal to the point that she can’t escape from the stimulus.

In response to the deer who keep eating his wife’s roses, a friend of mine has established a system that uses a motion sensor to start his irrigation system. Last time I checked, it was still working.
Laura Liggett, Marietta, Georgia

Our wildlife experts also recommend the motion-activated Contech ScareCrow sprinkler system.

I use the reflective side of “dead” CDs to keep crows away from my backyard. They must be placed close to the area crows happen to like—in our case, below the tree branches. We’ve watched the crows go from tree branch to tree branch in order to avoid the glare of the CDs!
 — Deni Albrecht, Auburn, California

Though fascinating creatures who should be welcome in any wildlife-friendly backyard, crows can be indiscriminate diners. To protect the fruits of their labor, some gardeners also hang CDs from garden stakes.

To deter gophers, and maybe groundhogs too, use sound spikes: solar- or battery-powered devices that beep every minute.
 — Kim O'Bryan, San Luis Obispo, California

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