There’s something extra special about tending a garden. Whether you’re growing flowers, veggies, or herbs, the act of nurturing these little beauties and watching them grow is relaxing, therapeutic, and able to inspire pride in just about anyone…
This is why it’s so frustrating when a critter comes along and tears up your precious plants.
Luckily, you can protect your garden from pests of all sorts – you just need the right tools. Today, let’s talk about the right way to critter-proof your garden, so you never have to deal with eaten vegetables, burrowed beds, and a ruined garden ever again.
Identifying the Pests in Your Garden
As we mentioned above, you’ll need the right tools if you want to keep critters away from your garden. However, the “right tools” vary wildly, depending on the type of critter getting into your plants. That’s why the first thing you need to do is identify the type of pests you’re working with.
In some cases, this is simple – for example, if you caught the critter red-handed. But if you don’t know exactly who’s been in your garden, there are a few ways you can solve this mystery. Try one of the following:
Identify by Physical Description
Maybe you spotted a deer munching on a plant before she bounded off. Maybe a few rabbits have been poking around your property, only to vanish when you get too close. The easiest way to identify who has been messing with your garden is simply by seeing him in action.
This method also applies to insects that might have infiltrated your crops. If you’re not a bug expert, take a photo of the invader and use his size, shape, color, leg, and wing count to find out what exactly he is. An online search or insect ID book should help you find the answer.
Identify by Type of Damage
Let’s say that you haven’t caught a critter making a lunch of your plants – but you know someone’s been there because the garden is a mess. This is rather helpful, as the type of damage can tell you who has been helping himself to a stolen feast.
Are your plants looking neatly clipped and snipped? A rabbit was likely there. Are your woody plants ragged and torn? That’s the sign of a deer. Do you see any mounds of dirt around the garden? A groundhog has been there. Even insects leave noticeable markings on the plants and leaves they love to eat
Identify by Host Plant
Another way to identify which critters are getting into your garden is to look at which plants get gobbled up. Deer tend to like woody plants, and herbaceous greens (like carrot tops), but they won’t dig up rooted vegetables or eat anything hairy or prickly. Groundhogs stick to greens and avoid shrubbery. Birds will peck holes in fruits. There are even some insects (like asparagus beetles or rose sawflies) who only eat one specific kind of plant.
If you notice that one of your plants tends to suffer more damage than the rest of your garden, there’s a chance that you might be able to narrow down your list of suspects.
How to Protect Your Garden from Harmful Critters
Once you figure out WHO has been in your garden, you can start working on HOW to get them out. There are several humane ways to protect your garden from critters that might want to damage it. Here are a few of our favorites.
Install a Wire Fence
If you have problems with animals like deer or rabbits, your best bet is to install a wire fence around your garden. A wire fence is typically enough to keep these critters out and keep your garden in beautiful condition.
A two- or three-foot fence is usually tall enough to deter most rabbits (and you can extend the fence about a foot underground if you have burrowing critters nearby, too). For deer, you’ll want to opt for a fence that is between six and ten feet.
Motion Detection Lights/Sprinklers
There’s a reason you may not have seen your garden thieves at work: they’re skittish little guys. However, you can use that fact to your advantage by installing motion detectors around your garden.
A motion-sensing light might be enough to scare off some animals before they even get close enough for a nibble. You can also install a motion-sensing sprinkler system to scare off the more determined critters – and give your plants a little extra moisture.
A fence and motion detectors might be enough to keep a ground attack at bay, but what about critters from the sky? Birds and squirrels can easily get past a fence, as can insects. If you’re struggling with these kinds of pests, you might want to install a little fine-woven netting.
Lightweight netting will prevent climbing and flying critters like raccoons, squirrels, and birds from getting into the garden, while still allowing your plants to get plenty of sunlight. Just attach the netting to your garden bed or, if you have a wire fence, attach the netting to the posts.
Additional Food Sources
Most gardeners have a soft spot for all of nature’s creatures. After all, these critters don’t mean any harm – they’re simply looking for something to eat. Therefore, another way to keep them away from your garden is to give them their own feast somewhere else.
Place some discarded fruits and vegetables in a special area on your property. You want a spot that’s far enough away that your garden won’t catch the critters’ eyes, but close enough that they spot it while they’re looking for lunch. If you’re lucky, the critters will take your offering and head off to eat without even glancing at your beautiful garden.
No matter which critters are plaguing your plants, Red Brand can help you find the right tools to protect your garden. Visit our store to check out our selection of wire garden fences and other tools today.
Dain Rakestraw is the Director of Marketing and Client Services at Red Brand, a line of premium agricultural fencing products known as the most recognized brand of agricultural fencing in the United States.