Nothing is quite as frustrating as working all season to cultivate the perfect fruits, vegetables, and flowers, only to lose half of your crop to marauding pests. If everything from deer to neighborhood cats has you tearing your hair out, consider trying out some of the following tips to protect your garden.
Insects are often one of the hardest pests for gardeners to eliminate. When battling bugs, one of the first places to start is by creating barriers. Cheesecloth, floating row covers, and screen cones placed over young seedlings can help to repel potato beetles, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, cabbage loopers, and cabbage maggots. Collars installed around seedlings act as a barrier to cutworms, while crushed eggshells will ward off slugs and snails.
Grow plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden — they’ll take care of the fight for you!
- Parasitic wasps like yarrow, lavender globe lily, dill, golden marguerite, masterwort, purple poppy mallow, caraway, coriander, cosmos white sensation, Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, statice, edging lobelia, lemon balm, pennyroyal, parsley, sulfur cinquefoil, alpine cinquefoil, orange stonecrop, marigold, tansy, crimson thyme, zinnia.
- Ladybugs prefer yarrow, carpet bugleweed, basket of gold, dill, golden marguerite, butterﬂy weed, four-wing saltbush, coriander, Queen Anne’s lace, buckwheat, fennel, prairie sunﬂower, Rocky Mt. penstemon, sulfur cinquefoil, alpine cinquefoil, tansy, dandelion, spike speedwell, hairy vetch.
- Lacewings enjoy yarrow, dill, angelica, golden marguerite, four-wing saltbush, purple poppy mallow, caraway, coriander, Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, and dandelion.
Of course, the best way to control bugs is to keep them out of your garden to begin with. While there are many pesticides you can use to destroy garden pests, avoid using broad spectrum pesticides that will kill beneficial insects as well.
Preventing birds from feeding on your berries can be as simple as a good scare. Consider building a scarecrow — although you do have to remember to move it every day. Another way to frighten birds from your garden is by utilizing a cat or owl replica.
While scaring birds away may minimize the damage they do to your plants, it isn’t a foolproof method. The only sure-fire way to do so is to physically protect your garden with bird netting — which can be draped over the plants or suspended over them by cages constructed with PVC pipe.
When it comes to squirrels, the best defense is often a good offense. Provided your neighboring squirrels with a feeder filled with sunflower seeds or other squirrel-friendly foods. Place the feeder a good distance from your vegetable garden or flower bed to leave scavenging squirrels less interested in formerly-desirable plants.
Squirrels seem to take special pleasure in digging and nibbling on prized bulbs. To combat this, plant bulbs at a depth of two times the bulb’s height. Place an inch of pea gravel on top or chicken wire just under the soil’s surface.
Scarecrows and predator decoys — especially those with movable parts — make deer skittish. Use them in combination with wind chimes or bright lights to startle deer into avoiding your property.
The most effective method to keep deer out of your garden is a fence — the more opaque said fence is, the better. If deer can’t see what’s inside your yard, they’re less likely to enter your property. SInce deer are impressive jumpers, it may be wise to build fences at least eight feet high rather than the standard six. Electric fences are another option, although, in some circumstances they aren’t effective in deterring deer as their drive to get to a food source can be stronger than their fear of a psychological barrier.
Considering rabbits only feed where they have cover from predators, remove any brush piles, tall grass, low-growing shrubs, and rock piles around your home. Block openings beneath sheds, porches, or low decks to prevent access.
Fencing for your garden should rise at least two feet above the ground, and be buried three to six inches below the ground. This will prevent rabbits from jumping over or burrowing under.
Use chicken wire with one-inch or smaller mesh to safeguard your plants. Lay the wire over small plants, and form a cylinder with it to protect larger plants. Another way to protect plants is by planting a sacrificial garden to attract the rabbits away from the plants that you’re trying to protect.
Wandering neighborhood cats can be a bit of a nuisance for gardeners. As fencing is rarely an effective barrier for cats, making your yard unappealing is the best bet. Start with a motion-activated sprinkler to discourage them from coming into your yard or getting too close to your house. When cats comes within range of the sensor, they’re hit with a burst of water just strong enough to scare them off without causing any permanent harm.
Since cats love to use flower beds as toilets, place chicken wire at ground level or just under the surface of the soil — cutting holes in strategic places to allow your plants to grow. This makes the surface of the ground uncomfortable to walk on and impossible to dig in. If they can’t dig in it, it becomes an unsuitable litter box!
To keep your dog out of the garden, dissolve bitter orange into used coffee grounds and spread it around your flower and vegetable beds. Not only will it repel your pooch, it will also deter cats, snails, and fertilize your garden!
Another fantastic (and attractive) way to protect your flowerbeds is with a low picket fence — it creates both a visual and physical barrier for dogs.
Don’t push your pup too far away, though. Dogs are one of the best guardians for your garden as they fend off many of the destructive creatures on this list, including rabbits, deer, squirrels, and cats!
While defending your garden from pests may seem like a never-ending struggle, the resulting rewards of fresh vegetables, beautiful flowers, and time spent plodding away in the sunshine are absolutely worth it. Happy gardening, friends!