Protecting plants from animals

Just like a natural ecosystem, a permaculture design should always be looking to achieve balance. Establishing biodiversity is one way of doing this, but planting many species of plants, which in turn attract lots of different animals, from insects and spiders to birds and frogs. However, in managed systems sometimes nature needs a helping hand to retain that balance. On a permaculture plot, you can use plants to help protect others from the unwanted attentions of animals.
There are many different combinations of species that can be used to keep insect populations at manageable levels, either by deploying scents that deter insects, attracting species that predate on other problem animals or attracting birds and amphibians for the same purpose. But plants and other organic material can also be deployed to repel larger animals that may damage your plot and eat your crops.
Rabbits will eat a wide variety of vegetation given the chance, particularly if food is scarce elsewhere. However, there are some species of plant that they do not like and which can actively repel them. The herbs, rosemary, sage and thyme are effective repellants and can be interplanted with crops such as lettuce, beans and peas to protect them from the attentions of rabbits. Onions and garlic can also perform this function. Of course, all these deterrent plants have the added benefit of providing food for your kitchen.
The best method of keeping deer from eating the crops on your permaculture plot if effective fencing or hedge screening. Using shrubs and bushes with thorns along the border where deer access your plot is good, as is planting bamboo as the close clumping form in which the plant grows hinders penetration by large animals. Placing recycled materials that make a noise on your border can also keep these skittish animals away – wind chimes or tin plates can work. However, if none of those options are possible, nor is installing a fence, there are plants that do repel deer. Fragrant herbs are among the best species for keeping deer away as they dislike the aromas. Plant sage, mint, rosemary, dill or oregano among your more vulnerable crops to keep the mammals away. These plants have the additional benefit of attracting beneficial insects to your plot with their bright flowers. Daffodils and sunflowers are other options for deterring deer, and are often deployed in orchards.
Daffodils can do double duty as a deterrent for squirrels as well as deer. Squirrels find daffodils poisonous so steer clear of them, meaning planting a circle if the flowers around trees that are vulnerable to the attentions of squirrels (they scratch bark away as well as eat nuts and fruits) can keep the animals away. Odorous plants, particularly alliums like onions and garlic, can also repel squirrels.
These smelly species are also the first line of defense against chipmunks. These critters can eat young plants, seeds and dig up bulbs. But they don’t like the smell of onions or, particularly, garlic. In fact, crushed cloves of garlic mixed with water and sprayed on the leaves of plants can be a useful way of keeping chipmunks, and other animals, away from crops if you don’t have the space of conditions to grow the grow itself.
Raccoons are omnivorous, meaning they will eat plants on your site as well as dig up the ground and scratch up mulch in search of edible insects. Raccoons are often a problem if you are cultivating a crop of corn, as they like to eat the young, tender ears before they are ready for you to harvest. One easy of keeping them away from your corn is to plant squash around the edge of the crop. Raccoons do not like walking on the prickly vines of the squash and if the planting is comprehensive can act as an effective border.
Given that they remain predominantly underground, moles can easily go undetected on your permaculture plot. While they are insectivores, their movement through the ground can damage plant roots and leave plants exposed to attack from other, herbivorous, animals. Chives, garlic, leek, onion and shallots are good crops to plant to repel moles.
Mice and other rodents can be difficult to detect on your plot until they have eaten their fill. However, incorporating certain plant species into your permaculture garden can help keep them at bay. Lavender, mint and marigolds are effective at repel rodents, while daffodils and catnip may also help.
Domestic Pets
It’s not just wild animals that can be a problem on your permaculture plot; domestic pets can too. They won’t eat the plants, but digging and scratching at the ground can cause significant damage to plants. Domestic pets are also a threat to the wildlife you do have on your plot; cats predating native birds are a particular problem in many urban areas. The best plants to deter domestic pets are those with strong odors. Cats and dogs have a much more acute sense of smell than humans, and certain aromas will repel them from a garden. Garlic and onions are particularly effective in this regard. The strong odor of cayenne peppers has a similar effect – and cultivating them will also add spice to your kitchen. Pets can be useful however, in deterring other animals. Collect the hair that falls from your dog or cat when you brush them and sprinkle around the base of vulnerable plants. The smell of these ‘predators’ will deter creatures like squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks.
In combination with good fencing or hedge deployment, as well as the trusty scarecrow, these plants can help to protect your edible crops. However, wildlife remains an important part of a permaculture plot, so it is not ideal to exclude all animals from accessing your site. Consider providing alternative food sources specifically for animals to lure them away from plants you want to protect, For instance, incorporating a small patch of clover or soybeans into your design provides rabbits with a favorite form of food, which should help protect other crops you wish to eat by diverting their attention.

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Use the helpful tips in this article to keep common pest animals out of your garden or yard.

We get a lot of emails and social media comments that read like this: “I love to garden, but (insert animal name) keeps eating or destroying everything I grow. What should I do?”

Hey, we get it! You’re growing food for you and your family, not for your furry neighbors. Having dealt with all manner of critters over the years, we thought we’d provide you with a quick rundown of remedies we’ve found effective for virtually any four-legged pest you can imagine.
Before going through the list, we’d ask you to adopt a humane philosophy towards our furry friends: they have a right to exist too, even if that existence takes place far away from your garden. If at all possible, don’t kill or harm these animals – especially since doing so is almost never warranted (except for certain circumstances such as an animal having rabies).

How to Keep Animals Out of Your Garden

We hope this list will help you safely and permanently keep your most hated pest animals out of your garden beds:

How to keep GROUNDHOGS out of your garden

Sure, groundhogs are cute. They can also eat 1.5 pounds of veggies each day.

Groundhogs are also known as “woodchucks” in some parts of the country. One spring, we had a single groundhog clear out an entire bed of lush greens in a single day.

Scaring them off will work temporarily, but trust us: they’ll keep coming back when you’re not around to finish off what they started. Since they can tunnel and climb pretty well, fencing is likely only a temporary solution.

What to do? If it’s legal in your state, trap and relocate them. (Yes, this is actually illegal in some states.)

(Here’s a good trap that will pay for itself rather quickly if you have groundhog problems.)

We tried multiple types of bait to catch the rogue male groundhog that was ravaging our garden. Nothing worked… until we tried cantaloupe. Leave a trail of a few small pieces of cantaloupe leading into the trap to draw the groundhog in.

Once trapped, relocate your ground hog asap to:

  • a location that is not near a pasture with livestock in it (livestock can break their legs in ground hog holes);
  • a location at least 5 miles away from your home to prevent the groundhog returning;
  • a spot that provides good habitat for the groundhog, such as a lush kudzu patch.

How to keep DEER out of your garden

These beautiful ruminants can make life absolutely miserable for edible gardeners and landscape gardeners alike. There is no shortage of expensive contraptions that you can buy to fend off deer.

My dad tried nearly all of them before stumbling on to an incredibly simple and inexpensive solution: fishing line. Yes, fishing line.

You can read exactly how to keep deer out of your garden using fishing line in this Tyrant Farms article.

How to keep POSSUMS out of your garden

What’s worse than having a possum eat the fruits and veggies out of your garden? Having your cat wake you up at 3am to tell you that a possum has come inside the house through the cat door to eat the cat food.

What’s worse than that? Having it happen multiple nights in a row.

Yes, this happened to my wife and I recently. Over the course of a week, we trapped not one, but three different possums that had learned about the all-a-possum-can-eat cat food buffet waiting for them inside the cat door.

Thankfully, the same trap that worked for our groundhog also worked for our possums, although we had 100% success baiting our possums with peanut butter rather than cantaloupe. (Cat food can work as a trap bait too.)

How to keep SKUNKS out of your garden

Yes, skunks smell absolutely terrible when they spray, which they only do when they feel like their life is in jeopardy. After all, their spray is their only line of defense against predators and it takes about 10 days to reload, leaving them defenseless in the meantime.

In our experience, skunks do not do much, if any, damage to a garden, although they may eat ripe fallen fruit (we think skunks partake in some of our fallen pawpaw fruit each summer).

In past summers, we’ve had families of skunks living under our front porch and we coexisted just fine. The only damage we’re certain we can attribute to skunks is each fall when they dig small holes in our grass paths to eat underground grubs. We’re ok with that.

If you’re determined to get rid of your skunks, bait them with peanut butter and trap them (using the same trap used for groundhogs and possums). Now, here’s where it gets tricky: you have a trapped skunk that’s going to naturally be quite anxious. You, naturally, don’t want to get yourself or your car sprayed relocating them.

“Honey, that doesn’t look like a groundhog.” We accidentally left our groundhog trap open at night and caught this friendly and rather adorable skunk, who we immediately released.

If you have a trapped skunk, do the following:

  1. Get a large, old heavy towel or blanket.
  2. Slowly walk towards the trapped skunk, talking in a low soothing voice. Skunks have terrible vision, but good hearing and smell, so this simply alerts it that you’re headed its way.
  3. Slowly put the blanket over the entire trap. Then, slowly lift the trap and wrap the blanket underneath the trap as well. Essentially, you’re trying to do two things: a) protect yourself from getting sprayed, and b) keep the animal as calm as possible by reducing any external stimuli/sense of threat.
  4. Secure the trap + blanket in a truck bed or car trunk on top of plastic bags or liners. If the cage tips over during the ride, you may well end up with a skunk-sprayed trunk (not good), so be sure the cage is tied down or wedged in securely.
  5. Once you’ve gone a few miles from your home. Slowly and gently open the trunk, remove the piece of blanket immediately covering the cage opening, and release the critter.

Oh, and if your cat or dog has been sprayed by a skunk, despite what you may have heard, tomato juice does not remove skunk odor! Here’s how to get the skunk odor off of your pet. (Unfortunately, we’ve had to become experts at this technique thanks to our pet cat’s inability to learn that skunks are not his friend.)

How to keep CHIPMUNKS & SQUIRRELS out of your garden

Chipmunks are cute little creatures. Squirrels are pretty cute too. However, they also love our strawberries, ground cherries, and melons. What to do?

For starters, we have a cat that manages to keep most rodents away from our garden. (We keep our cat from killing birds using a number of methods, primarily Birdsbesafe collars.)

Bob showing off his Birdsbesafe collar. Our ducks don’t seem very impressed.

Between our cat, our neighbors’ cats, and native predators, the chipmunk and squirrel population is kept in check enough not to seriously threaten our strawberry supply. However, before we had a cat, we’d use smaller traps to catch and release them elsewhere.

Are you simply trying to keep rodents from eating your melons? Here’s a simple and 100% effective way to make “melon cages” to protect your fruit.

How to keep VOLES out of your garden

Voles are probably are most hated and hard-to-deal-with pest. They’re basically an underground mouse that eats the roots of plants. We’ve had them suck down entire plants, root systems and all.

Artichokes, onions, squash, strawberries, lettuce, chicory, peas… we’ve had voles kill all of these plants and more in our garden. They drive our cat crazy since he can hear them munching roots, but has trouble getting to them since they’re underground.

Sure, you can poison your voles, but then you have that same poison in your garden – not to mention a poisoned vole could potentially be eaten by your pet or other wildlife, which means you’ve now created another problem.

What to do for permanent, safe solutions? A few things:

  • Plant your fruit trees in 1/4″ wire mesh baskets. The roots can grow through the openings but the voles can’t get inside the caging or close enough in to the plant to kill it.
  • This year, we’ve planted a bunch of artichokes and alliums that voles LOVE inside of “Vole King” wire baskets that you bury in the ground, which provides permanent protection. We haven’t lost a single plant since.
  • Plant daffodils in circles around your fruit trees. Daffodils are toxic and repellent to voles, and this keeps them away.
  • If you’re using raised beds, securely install 1/4″ wire mesh in the bottom of the frame before you put the soil in. This will keep the voles out.
  • Grow vole’s favorite plants in inexpensive yet high-performing root pouches instead of in-ground (no assembly required).
  • If you want to go high tech, use these highly rated ultrasonic vole, gopher, and chipmunk repellers.

How to keep CATS out of your garden

Yes, cats! As mentioned, we have a cat that helps us with rodent control. However, he can infuriate us by turning a freshly sown garden bed into a litter box.

Bob the Cat. Ferocious creator of litter boxes.

Obviously, trapping and relocating your cat isn’t an option (we hope). Instead, when we’ve just planted or seeded new beds, we’ll lay our unused concrete wire tomato cages down on the surface of the beds. This makes it all but impossible for our cat to do his “business” there, and he opts for easier targets.

Once the plants have started filling in, we remove the cages. Cats don’t seem to view beds with larger plants in them as a potential litter box.

We hope these tips help you keep pest animals out of your garden!

Recycle your slivers of soap. Set them around the plants in your garden to help prevent deer and rabbits from bothering your plants. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

You can never have too many tips for keeping deer and rabbits away from our plants. Even if we find something that works, the animals often get used to that technique and we have to try something else.

Here are a bunch of tips. One is from me, but the rest are ones that local gardeners have shared with me.

(These tips are often shared in quick conversations, so I often don’t have the name of the person who gave me the tip. I apologize for not being able to credit each gardener, but I do appreciate their help!)


We’ve talked before about how soap can keep deer away from your plants. But you don’t have to go out and buy a bar of soap to use in your garden.

Recycle those slivers left over from bars of soap, or especially from decorative soaps.

I love those pretty little soaps, and I actually use them to wash my hands. But when the soap starts out so small, before you know it, the soap is too small to grip.

When it’s our everyday deodorant soap that gets too small to hold, my husband mashes the old sliver into a fresh bar.

I’m certainly not going to do that with a pretty decorative soap!

It’s hard to see the wire mesh that protects this clematis from rabbits. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

But we don’t need to throw those slivers away. Save them up and set them around your plants. Especially if they have a strong scent, they should help keep critters away.

Here’s an even better tip for soap that I got from another gardener. She suggested taking those slivers and threading them on a string. You can hang them high in a shrub that a deer is chomping on or hang them above shorter plants.

Air freshener on a dowel

Another gardener suggested using solid Renuzit air freshener. She said the container has a dimple on the bottom so you can set it on top of a dowel or stick. She situates it in her garden so the air freshener is above her hostas or whatever plant the deer are bothering. When the deer bend over to browse, they encounter smell of the air freshener, which they don’t like, and will back off.

Place mint around targeted plants

This tip also uses scent to keep deer away from the plants deer love. Another gardener said she plants mint around daylilies to protect her flowers.

Wire mesh

This summer, Ron Krebs of Lancaster told us how he filled his landscape with trees and shrubs he picked out of the trash. Today he shares two tips on how he deals with rabbits.

The first tip is how Krebs uses wire mesh to protect his clematis. In the spring, the clematis would grow waist high, then the leaves and stems would be dead. When he investigated, he saw the stems had been snapped off at the bottom by rabbits. Rabbits don’t especially like clematis, but the baby rabbits don’t know what is good to eat, so they chomp on everything, he said. To protect the plant, he installed wire mesh. It’s not very noticeable.

Parrot cage

You can use barriers around a plant that you hope people won’t notice, and you can use barriers that are decorative as well. In his second tip, Krebs shows how a barrier can be attractive. Krebs had morning glories that kept getting nibbled by rabbits. He put the plant inside a old decorative parrot cage.

A decorative parrot cage can be used to protect a plant from rabbits. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Old cassette tapes

Use old cassette tapes, suggested another gardener. Pull out the tape and string it around your garden. It will reflect the sunlight, sending out flashes that the deer don’t like.

This is a great way to use something that might otherwise find its way into a landfill, too.

Plastic forks on sticks

Attach plastic forks to sticks or dowels, tine side up, and set them around a new plant, said another gardener. When the deer bends down to eat the plant, the tines of the fork poke the deer.

You can find more tips elsewhere on At right, under Popular Topics, click on Pests & Weeds. In addition to tips on deer and rabbits, you’ll see articles about plant diseases, harmful insects and invasive plants as well as tips on other critters such as herons, squirrels and cats.

Above the Popular Topics, you’ll see the Search box. If you’re looking for something more specific, type “deer” or “rabbits” or another search word into the search box. After typing your search word, hit enter.

Do you have a favorite tips on dealing with critters in your garden? Please leave a comment below.

It is a universal truth hungry critters will eat your vegetables and flowers.So you will need some form of barrier to protect your plants this spring as best you can. You may not stop the animals entirely but you’ll surely slow them down. Different threats mean different protection is needed.

How to keep animals out of your garden


This is the biggest threat to your garden. A hungry deer will eat just about anything and what it doesn’t completely destroy, it – and its buddies – will nibble to death.

  • Large garden – If you have a large garden plot, you will need sturdy wooden posts to hold strong, steel deer fencing. That fencing must be at least eight feet high because a deer can hop over a six-foot-high fence on its sturdy hind legs the way you’d walk over a sidewalk crack.

Many people use electric fencing. Here you only need the fencing to be five feet high with the first wire 10 inches off the ground and four spaced wires about 12 inches apart, according to experts.

  • Small garden – If, however, you have a smaller plot, or a garden that runs along the side of the house (known as a moustache garden), you have several options. Deer do not like to leap into a small or confined space, so if your garden is against the house, a six-foot-high fence of deer mesh or netting attached to bamboo, metal or plastic poles should be enough.

For a free-standing, smaller plot, you can use poles four to six feet high to attach deer fencing around the perimeter of your garden, and then put up another circle of netting and poles four feet from that – think of a moat

Liquid deer repellent you spray on the plants won’t necessarily do the trick unless you are willing to constantly reapply it, particularly after rain.

Or, if your garden is small and you don’t want a fence, you can try a big border of plants deer tend to avoid. Daffodils, for instance, are completely poisonous to eat — root, stem and flower. Herbs, particularly those with a strong scent, will also deter deer, as will such flowers as marigolds, peonies and cosmos.

Groundhogs, squirrels and chipmunks

Here the problem is from below. These creatures will dig to get into your fenced-in garden. If you have vegetables, they will eat them. If you have flowers, what they won’t destroy they will dig up and leave exposed to the air, killing them unless you put them back into the ground.

Fencing is effective but you will also need a steel barrier of what’s called “metal hardware cloth” dug anywhere from two to four feet deep around your garden. The deeper, the better. Make sure the fencing is secure, too, with no access.

Speaking of which, rabbits won’t dig under your garden but an opening will soon have them chewing your carrots and the leafy greens of a number of flowers and vegetables.


If you are growing blueberries or fruiting bushes you can cover them with nylon mesh when the fruit starts to ripen. In a garden plot, you can fence in the plants using posts that are taller than you are. Then put on a “ceiling” of netting to deter the birds from flying down to pick off the fruit.

Be Inspired Blog – California

Posted on: August 05, 2019

Planting and growing your own vegetables can be rewarding, but learning to protect your garden from pests and animals can involve a lot of trial and error – especially if you aren’t sure which common garden pest is helping themselves to a private salad bar. Here are the first 5 of ten ways to protect your garden from the experts at CountryLiving magazine.

Protect Your Garden from Pests & Animals In A Few Easy Steps

Step One: Identify The Culprit

Choosing the right kind of management method, such as how tall a fence you might need, means figuring out who’s eating what. Look for telltale signs:

  • Deer may leave tracks in the soil and make clean snips on herbaceous plants or tear woody plants
  • Rabbits make sharp cuts on herbaceous and woody plants and may leave pellet droppings
  • Squirrels will split shells or husks of nuts, and dig up flower bulbs
  • Birds peck holes in fruit or steal it before you even know it’s ripe

Step Two: Fence It

Fencing is the most effective way to protect your garden from pests and keep unwanted visitors out. A fence that’s two to three feet tall will work for most rabbits, although persistent ones may try to burrow underneath. To deter them, extend the fence about a foot underground.

Chicken wire, hardware cloth or rabbit fencing are the least expensive alternatives for small mammals. A fence that’s at least six to eight feet tall will work for most deer, and plastic bird netting can be placed over small edible bushes like berries before they ripen.

Step Three: Choose Less Tasty Plants

If they’re hungry enough, animals will eat anything. But there are certain kinds of plants that are less appealing than others – especially plants that are highly aromatic, fuzzy or have prickles. Take a look around your neighborhood to see what’s fared well and talk to your local nursery (like our gardening experts here at SummerWinds) for recommendations.

Step Four: Protect New Plants

If your seeds are starting to sprout, or maybe you’ve just brought home some starts from the nursery, animals and garden pests will be attracted to the tender new growth. The plant’s small size and new lease on life will leave them much less able to bounce back from grazing damage.

Protect your garden by installing a fence or using trunk wraps to protect new plants and shrubs, and a light net covering over planter boxes.

Step Five: Garden In Pots And Raised Beds

Sometimes you can protect your garden from pests and prevent animals from nibbling by elevating your pots or planting in raised beds. A raised bed two feet or taller will limit rabbit damage, especially if you add a short fence on top. Pots can be mounted on railings, or try planting greens in window boxes – and out of reach of hungry bunnies and deer.

Stay Tuned for Part 2, And More Tips on Protecting Your Garden From Pests and Animals

In this article we covered some steps you can take to protect your garden by choosing specific plants and designing planting areas that are hard to access. In part two we’ll cover several things you can around your yard to discourage, distract and deter pests and animals.

About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.

How to Keep Plant-Eating Animals at Bay

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

A few years ago, marketing executive and green thumb David Jensen of Clare, Michigan, moved outside the city limits so he could grow a bigger, better garden—only to watch it get devoured by deer that seemed to fear nothing. “You could go out and clap at them, and they would just look at you,” says Jensen today. He was so inspired to control the critters that he quit his job and opened Deer Resistant Landscape Nursery, which specializes in plants and products that limit the extent of the damage.

Jensen’s business is booming, thanks to the proliferation of hungry deer in American towns and suburbs. Their population is at an all-time high—”more now than when the Pilgrims landed,” says Michael Conover, a professor of wildlife at Utah State University. He cites the decline of hunting as a major reason that deer are encroaching onto residential lots: “Deer have lost their fear of man, basically.”

Handsome as they are, deer really don’t belong around your house. Besides destroying expensive plantings, deer carry ticks that spread Lyme disease and cause more than a half-million auto collisions each year. Unfortunately, some of their favorite snacks are common landscape plants, including roses, tulips, hostas, many ornamental shrubs such as rhododendron and yew, to say nothing of leafy vegetable gardens.

But trying to fend off the interlopers can be just as frustrating as having Bambi and friends devour your hard-earned landscaping. Deer are intelligent and highly adaptable creatures; when they get hungry enough, they’ll test the limits of just about any preventive measure. That’s why experts recommend an “integrated management plan”—that is, using a variety of techniques.

“You have to keep them guessing,” says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook, a veteran of the deer wars. “Eventually deer will get used to anything, so I always recommend rotating repellents and combining them with other tools like scare tactics and fencing.”

Here is a look at the options.

Put in a barrier fence.

Among the most foolproof deterrents are physical barriers like fences. Deer are agile jumpers, so fences need to be high—typically about 8 feet. Black propylene deer fencing in a 2-inch net ($2 to $4 per foot) is virtually invisible in a wooded setting and relatively easy to install; metal sleeves are pounded into the ground every 15 feet, and thin metal posts are inserted in the sleeves. The netting is clipped to the posts, then stretched tight.

Of course, fencing your whole lot is not always feasible—or desirable—and motivated deer will find any opening, such as the driveway. But a fence can effectively enclose a vegetable or cutting garden near the house.

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Spray Them Away.

Spritzing on liquids with an offensive odor or taste is the least expensive way to repel them—with varying degrees of success. Commercial products like Deer-Off (based on eggs, hot peppers, and garlic) or Plantskydd (a blood-meal solution) are sprayed directly on plants to render them unpalatable. Other products contain predator scents like coyote urine that can be deposited strategically around the yard. Some gardeners swear by odiferous homebrews made from ingredients like rotten eggs, chili powder, and scented soaps (one This Old House staffer has great success with the recipe shown above).

Any spray—commercial or homemade—needs to be reapplied frequently as plants grow or rain washes it away. And as Roger points out, seriously overpopulated deer herds won’t be dissuaded: “A deer that’s starving will eat anything, no matter what you spray on it.”

Scare them off.

Often deer can be kept at bay with scare tactics, usually a surprise burst of water or a loud noise. One popular product is the Scarecrow ($89;, which combines a motion detector and a sprinkler that sprays water when deer (or other critters) cross its path. Placement is everything with such products, and hungry deer may eventually learn to ignore them. Some homeowners find that a vigilant dog is the best scare tactic, since canine predators like coyotes and wolves are deer’s natural enemies.

Plant their least-favorite foods.

Experts agree that overall, the best defense is a good offense—landscaping around your home with plants that are not to deer’s liking. “Many plants have their own repellent built in,” says Jensen. Deer will usually turn away from highly aromatic or poisonous plants (such as foxglove), and those with fuzzy leaves; for specific suggestions, see the next page.

“If you have a deer problem, always try to plant from deer­resistant lists,” says TOH’s Roger Cook. “At least it gives you a fighting chance.”

When TOH design director Amy Rosenfeld built a house in Ulster County, New York, she heard lots of horror stories about deer ravaging local gardens. Then her neighbor Barbara Fornal, an herbalist, shared this recipe for “deer juice,” which Rosenfeld applies vigilantly. “It totally works,” she says. “When people come over, they’re always like, ‘How do you have hostas?'”

Here’s how to mix up a batch for yourself:

1 bar of Fels Naptha soap

2 bunches of scallions, roughly chopped

2 heads of garlic, cloves separated

4 eggs

Chili powder, lots

1. Fill 1/2 of a 5-gallon bucket with hot water.

2. Shave soap into bucket to dissolve.

3. Place scallions, garlic, eggs, and chili powder in a large piece of doubled cheesecloth. Tie up ends of cloth tightly; use a wooden spoon to crack the eggs. Place pouch in bucket.

4. Fill the bucket with more water; cover tightly with lid. Place in shaded area. Let sit for 1 week.

5. Transfer in batches to a pump sprayer. Apply after each rainfall or every 2 weeks.

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Plants Deer Dislike

Thanks to their fuzzy leaves, strong fragrance, or bitter taste, the following plants aren’t among deer’s favorite nibbles.

Spring-blooming perennials

• Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) Shade-loving, fernlike plant with pendulous heart-shaped flowers; hardy to -35° F.

•Bluebell (Hyacinthoide hispanica) Bulb plant with small bell-shaped blue, white, or pink flower clusters; hardy to -25°F.

•Crocus (Crocus sp.) Low, clumping bulb plant with white, yellow, or purple flowers; hardiness varies.

•Daffodil (Narcissus sp.) Bulb plant with showy yellow or white blooms; hardiness varies.

•Fritillaria (Fritillaria imperialis) Bulb plant with bell-shaped orange, yellow, or red flowers atop stalklike stems; hardy to -5°F.

Summer-blooming perennials

•Bluebeard (Caryopteris) Shrubby plant with deep-blue flower clusters; hardy to -5° F.

•Catmint (Nepeta faassenii) Compact relative of mint; small purple flowers; hardy to -25° F.

•Hyssop (Hyssopus officianalis) Large-leaved plant with purplish flower spikes; hardy to -5° F.

•Lavender (Lavandula) Sun-loving, aromatic flowering herb; many varieties; hardiness varies.

•Monkshood (Aconitum) Shade tolerant, with hoodlike purple-blue flowers; hardy to -35° F.

•Mullein (Verbascum) Woolly leaf rosettes with tall flower spikes; hardy to -15° F.


•Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) Creeping evergreen with dark blue flower whorls; hardy to -35° F.

•Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) Bell-shaped waxy white flowers; hardy to -45° F.

•Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) Shade lover; small white or pink flowers; hardy to -25° F.

•Spotted deadnettle (Lamium) Variegated leaves with white or pink flowers; hardy to -25° F.


•Aralia (Araliaceae) Large, bright green foliage with small white flowers; hardy to 5° F.

•Andromeda (Pieris japonica) Rounded shrub with hanging white or pink flowers clusters; hardy to -5° F.

•Boxwood (Buxus) Compact, tiny-leaved hedging shrub; hardy to -5° F.

•Bush cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticose) Extremely cold-hardy; roselike flowers; hardy to -35° F.

•Oleander (Nerium) Tall, evergreen shrub with large white or pink flowers; hardy to 15° F.

•Russian olive (Elaeagnus augustifolia) Willowlike leaves and yellowish summer flowers; hardy to -35° F.

Potted Plant Protection: Tips On Protecting Container Plants From Animals

One of the trickiest parts of having a garden is making sure you’re the one enjoying it. No matter where you are, pests of one kind or another are a constant threat. Even containers, which can be kept close to the house and feel like they ought to be safe, can easily fall prey to hungry critters, like rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, etc. Keep reading to learn more about how to protect potted plants from animals.

Potted Plant Protection

Protecting container plants from animals is, for the most part, the same as protecting a garden. A lot of it depends upon how humane you want to be. If you just want to deter pests, each animal has certain sights and smells that will drive it away.

For instance, birds can usually be scared away by hanging strips of fabric or old CDs around your plants. Many other animals can be deterred by human hair or chili powder.

If your goal is keeping animals out of containers in your garden for good, you can always buy traps or poisoned bait – though this isn’t something anyone should really recommend.

Keeping Animals Out of Containers

One good thing about container plants is that they have firm underground barriers. While in-ground gardens can be assaulted by moles and voles from the sides, potted plant protection in that respect is nice and easy.

Similarly, keeping animals out of containers has one failsafe option. If you simply can’t keep your plants or bulbs from being eaten, you can always move them. Try raising the plants out of reach of from rabbits and pets, such as up on a table. You can also try moving the containers closer to places with noise and foot traffic to scare away animals.

If all else fails, you can always move them inside.

Water in dry areas attracts life. When you are planting with the Waterboxx® or Growboxx® plant cocoon, the water reservoir will be filled with water. The water in the Waterboxx® or Growboxx® plant cocoon can be the only water source for the animal in the area. While planting with the Waterboxx® and Growboxx® plant cocoon, we came across the following ‘problems’:

  • App. 2% of all the planted saplings and seeds are eaten by ants;
  • App. 1% of all the planted saplings and seeds are eaten by mice;
  • App. 0,2% of all the planted saplings and seeds are eaten by gophers;
  • App. 30% of all the installed Waterboxx® plant cocoons has frogs or toads below them after 2 months;
  • In one experiment (Whitewater Preserve California) we had 3 boxes destroyed by a black bear (Ursidae). After the destruction, we did nothing and no more Waterboxx® plant cocoons were touched;
  • The soil under more than 90% of the Waterboxx® and Growboxx® plant cocoons is drained by earthworms within a month after installing;
  • Under all the boxes, even if the soil is rocky, the soil changes rapidly into a soft soil caused by microbes and bacteria;
  • In 3 experiments, 1 in France and 2 in Spain, we had severe damage of wild boar. They want to drink the water from the Waterboxx® plant cocoons. In these places they broke them 100% open.

How do you protect your crops and trees against animals?

When you plant with the Waterboxx® or Growboxx® plant cocoon, there is a chance that you have to protect your crops and trees against (wild) animals. There are multiple ways to protect the box and your crops/trees, namely:

  • Put an electric fence around your planting place. The electric fence will not harm the animals, but scare them away;
  • Put a bucket or bowl with water near your planting place. In this way the animals have drinking water and they don’t have to break the boxes anymore;
  • When especially birds eat the seeds of the plants, place a net over your crops or tree. Make sure that the crops/tree will get enough light;
  • During one of this trips, Pieter Hoff saw an effective method in India to scare wild boars. In India, the people will hang a shining lamp that is moving all the time through the wind. This is similar to the method of hanging a CD-ROM to scare pigeons.

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