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Scat! How to keep animals out of your flower and vegetable gardens

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Here are a few tips for keeping critters away from your favourite plants
Photo: Eric Bégin

Here are a few tips for keeping critters away from your favourite plants. Of course, you might decide to just put up with them if they aren't doing too much damage – they are part of nature, after all!

Squirrels

  • Choose bulbs that aren't these little rodents' favourites. Good choices are allium, daffodils, grape hyacinth and scilla.
  • Place chicken wire over your beds and bulbs after planting them.
  • Spread some dog or cat hair around as a repellent. Replace it with fresh hair regularly.
  • Sprinkle chicken manure fertilizer on the soil. Squirrels don't like the smell. Remember to follow the directions on the label.

Cats

  • To protect your seedlings, place chicken wire on the soil or insert several sticks in the soil on an angle.
  • In borders, place mulch, twigs or stones between the plants to discourage cats from digging in the soil.
  • Install a motion-activated sprinkler.
  • As a last resort, use a repellent with oil of black pepper, piperine and capsaicin as the active ingredients. Remember to follow the directions on the label.

Groundhogs

  • Block off any areas where these animals like to go, like under balconies, decks and sheds. Be careful not to block off the entrance if the animal or any babies are inside.
  • Fence off your vegetable garden.
  • As a last resort, use a repellent with oil of black pepper, piperine and capsaicin as the active ingredients. Remember to follow the directions on the label.

Skunks and raccoons

  • Use garbage cans with lids that are difficult for these animals to remove. Metal cans are good because they can't be chewed. Scrub out your garbage cans regularly to remove any odours that might attract animals.
  • Block off any areas where these animals like to go, like under balconies, decks and sheds. Be careful not to block off the entrance if the animal or any babies are inside.
  • These animals sometimes dig up lawns to find their favourite white grubs. If they aren't causing too much damage, leave them be, because they're your allies in keeping down the grubs! You will need to replace any patches of lawn that they dig up every day, though. If your lawn suffers serious damage, apply nematodes (microscopic worms that are parasitic on white grubs) between mid-August and mid-September to reduce the number of larvae in the soil.
  • As a last resort, use a repellent with oil of black pepper, piperine and capsaicin as the active ingredients. Remember to follow the directions on the label.

Deer

  • Plant deer-resistant shrubs. You can consult the following books for advice:
    • In English:
      • Hart, Rhonda Massingham. Deerproofing your Yard & Garden, 2nd ed. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2005.
    • In French:
      • Dumont, Bertrand. Les niches écologiques des arbres, arbustes et conifères, Bertrand Dumont Éditeur, Boucherville, 2005, 405 p.
      • Hodgson, Larry. Les arbustes, Éditions Broquet, Saint-Constant, 2002, 616 p.
  • Install a deer fence.
  • As a last resort, use a repellent made from dehydrated rotting eggs. Remember to follow the directions on the label.

 

Based on an article by Christine Perreault in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 31, No.3, 2007

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