The World Around Us:

Gardening – Critter Free and Cruelty Free

Credit Gary Bendig-Unsplash

If you’re a garden lover, you can’t help but feel a sense of excitement once March arrives and the promise of digging, planting, and sprouting is on the horizon. No matter how difficult the toil, there is always a payoff, for us and sometimes for our backyard critters.

In an effort to help our wildlife neighbors understand their boundaries, here are some tips, old and new, to help make our gardens more rewarding for us and less so for them.

  • First, the obvious — a fence. Most of us will benefit from one that’s a few feet tall. If you happen to have a large population of deer in your area, you may need to consider a fence up to 8 feet high. Always try to bury it 10 – 12” in the ground to prevent persistent burrowers, like groundhogs and rabbits. Bird netting can also be placed on top of small bushes and plants.
  • Our carefully tended gardens can often make it too easy for unwanted foragers to enter. Try letting the area surrounding the garden to get a little messy. Tall grasses and prickly weeds may make the garden less inviting and a bit more cumbersome for smaller animals to reach. Some may even eat these greens and be satisfied without ever reaching your delights. 
  • You may deter backyard critters with plants that don’t appeal to their taste or smell, such as lavender, peonies, marigold, and mint. Some gardeners have even found strongly scented soap placed near their plants to be effective. 
  • If your backyard neighbors are still determined to get into the garden, consider mixing 3 tablespoons of castor oil with a tablespoon of dish soap to a gallon of water and spraying on your plants as a repellent. Sprinkling plants with cayenne pepper will certainly ruin the taste for many unwanted guests. 
  • Tried and true methods such as scarecrows and garden ornaments can be effective, if they are moved frequently. Even a radio, motion sensor light, sprinkler, or an ultrasonic pest repellent may be just the thing that works for you. 

Whatever your approach to managing pesky critters, if it’s humane and cruelty-free, your garden will be rewarding for everyone.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XLI, Spring 2023.