William Moss, Master Gardener with the National Gardening Association, knows that everyone likes wildlife. The sight of a pair of deer pausing to drink from a stream is breathtaking. Little bunnies are the most adorable things ever. However, all that changes when you start gardening, because these beautiful creatures all seem to have only one thing in mind: destroying your garden. With the historic Oatlands of Leesburg, Virginia, as a backdrop, Moss gives some tips about how to keep the critters out of your cabbages and petunias.
The first thing to discuss is repellents. You can buy them at the garden center or hardware store, but you can also make a repellent at home. A good repellent is a blend of pepper spray and garlic oil. Here’s a simple version that you can create easily in your own kitchen: Put six cloves of garlic, one tablespoon of dried hot pepper flakes and one minced onion into a blender. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Blend the mixture until smooth. Add the mixture to one gallon of hot water in a bucket or watering can and mix it well. You’ll need to let it stand for a couple of days, and then you can strain the mixture into a spray bottle and use.
Start by spraying the tops and bottoms of dry plant leaves to deter pests. You’ll need to re-apply this mixture every few days during the season, especially after any rainfall, but it’s well worth it to protect your plants and to do so without chemicals. It’s possible that the same mixture won’t work for a whole season, so change it up: creatures will get accustomed to one spray and it will stop bothering them as much. Another recipe is to blend two eggs and a cup or two of cold water at high speed. Add this mixture to a gallon of water. Let stand for 24 hours. Re-apply as needed. Repellents need to smell bad and taste worse (that’s why they work!). The best thing to do is experiment yourself and find out what wildlife in your area dislike. Keep in mind that what works can vary from year to year. Repellents can also be a 99-cent bar of deodorant soap (Dial or Lifebuoy) that you hang near your plants by drilling a hole in the soap and attaching string.
The next step in garden protection is fencing or raised beds—in other words, creating some sort of barrier. If you’re going for fencing, ensure that it’s at least a half-inch mesh, otherwise those not-so-cute little bunnies will squeeze through: make sure that it’s as fine as you can get it.
If you’re going for a raised bed, take care that it’s at least 18 inches high. If it’s not, then said bunnies will just see what’s there and hop on up to help themselves at your garden cafeteria!
And don’t forget plant selection as a beast-repellent. Knowing that most animals don’t like herbs or onions, plant them freely around the garden. What works? Try basils, thymes, oreganos, anything that’s really strong-smelling. Chives work, and anything else in the onion family: you want that odor to really permeate, so surround your lettuces, tomatoes, and beans with these herbs and onions.