Miniature garden with deer and rabbit figures

Warm-blooded garden pests

In Feature, Gardening, Spring, Summer by Megan Nichols3 Comments

Ah, the pain and agony of sharing the garden with unwelcome eaters! You know the story. You’re waiting for that perfectly budded tulip patch to pop, and it’s obvious it’s going to happen soon. One day, the buds are just gone! What happened!? Ugh, deer (insert favorite plant and least favorite garden pest into this scenario as you see fit). So, what’s a gardener to do?

If you see the culprit eating your prized plants, then identification is fairly easy. If, however, you do not see them (which is often the case) it’s still possible to identify who is responsible. Identification allows you to determine how to handle the situation and save your garden.

Rabbits

If rabbits have visited the garden, you’ll know it. With their very sharp teeth and the way in which they bite, they leave a clean, angled cut on the stem, much like the kind of cut you’d want to make when pruning a shrub.

Rabbits love tender, new growth, so protecting new shoots until they are at a less appetizing stage can be helpful.

Rabbit resistant perennial varieties include: Yarrow, Campanula, Geranium, Daylily, Nepeta, Peonies, and Salvia to name a few. For annuals, try Begonias, Cleome, Calendula, Geraniums, Four o’Clocks, Marigolds, Zinnia, and Lavender.

To repel rabbits, try Shake Away Fox Urine Granules: Rabbits smell a predator and stay away.

Deer

Deer teeth tear plants rather than cut them, so the damaged plant will have rough rather than clean-cut edges.

Deer resistant plant varieties include: Anemone, Goatsbeard, Artemisia, all grasses, Chelone, Bleeding Heart, Coneflower, Salvia, Veronica, Pachysandra, and Vinca to name a few.

To repel deer, try Shake Away Coyote Urine Granules. Deer smell a predator and stay away. Deer do get used to scents and after awhile any product you try may stop working. The trick is to vary the repellent you use, and to do it before they get used to it. Switch back and forth and they may never become comfortable and will be more likely to stay away.

Moles and Voles

Moles aren’t interested in plants. Instead, they’re looking for grubs to eat. Moles damage plants due to their tunneling and looking for food. If the damage is immense, repellents are the best way to go.

Voles are a problem. These rodents tunnel through lawns, leaving visible “runs” under the surface, which show up as raised lines throughout the lawn.

To prevent your yard from becoming a vole haven be sure to keep the grass mowed, don’t allow weeds to build up in the garden, and don’t leave a pile of plant or wood matter on your property.

To deter moles and voles, try MoleMax repellent. It works on gophers, too.

Chipmunks

Chipmunks dig in gardens and containers to bury their food for winter. Their sole purpose, besides eating, seems to be storing food for eating later.

The best way to deter chipmunks is to use a repellent that is specified for animals that dig. Go for Repels All Animal Repellent granules, it deters a great many other pests, too.

Additional Options

Repellex Systemic Granular and Tablets – this one is awesome for deterring pretty much every warm-blooded pest that wants to munch on your plants!

The active ingredient in these products is capsaicin, the compound that makes hot chili peppers hot. Plants take up the capsaicin, and most animals do not enjoy the smell or flavor of hot peppers (including dogs). Because capsaicin is taken up by the plant, rather than sprayed or sprinkled, it doesn’t wash off in the rain. Apply the tablet when planting a new tree, shrub or plant, or tuck into the soil as new growth appears on established plantings. Apply the granular to established plantings when new growth appears, but do not apply if the ground is soggy or the plant is dormant.

Repellex Mole and Gopher Spray: Protects plant roots from damage.
Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent: Scent keeps deer and rabbits away.
Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent: This one can be used on edibles!

Physical Barriers

There really aren’t any good barrier options for pests that dig and tunnel.

For rabbits, little fences work well. They can hop, but not very high.

Unfortunately, deer require very large fences because they can jump very high. If lieu of a large fence, deer must believe they don’t want to enter an area. Electric fences work because, once zapped, deer remember the sensation, and if they believe they cannot cross that barrier by jumping, or that if they do get in they won’t be able to get out, then it will work fine.

Another option is to tightly string fishing line between rebar stakes around the area you’d like them to avoid. Deer are skittish, and because they feed mostly early in the morning or at dusk it will be harder for them to see the fishing line, but they will feel uneasy about something they can’t see touching them as they try to enter the area. They’ll simply leave and find somewhere else to forage.

The best way to get a handle on warm blooded pests is to identify the problem as early as possible and take action before they settle in and make your yard and gardens part of their patterns.

Comments

  1. Great guidance Megan on what can be a very challenging situation for those of us living in the suburbs.

  2. Thank you—good tips & I have one tip, German Shorthair Pointers are excellent for protection for plants, especially Hosta. 😀🍃🌿

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