Garden Bandits: How to Keep Your Bounty, and the Creatures at Bay

My dad had a decent-sized garden. He grew tomatoes, lettuce, collard greens, cabbage, okra, peppers, green beans, carrots—you name it. At one point or another if you grew it and ate it, it probably was in his garden. However, when it came to tomatoes, I noticed he planted large amounts of tomato plants, and by large I mean like 25 to 30 plants, and they were all around the perimeter of the garden. I also noticed that when he mowed, he left a six-inch patch of grass and clover around the perimeter. One year I asked why, and this was his simple response:

“If I give the deer and rabbits some food of their own they’ll let the rest of the garden be.”

In other words, he realized that by bribing the deer and rabbits by giving them a little bit of what they wanted, he could keep the remainder of what he planted. At least it worked with the majority of the deer and rabbits. The groundhogs, moles and other furry woodland creatures that came to visit were an entirely different story. However he did find ways to stave them off as well, and in this blog post we’re going to discuss some ways you can prevent furry visitors from attacking your garden.

Raise Your Flower Beds

You can raise your garden beds in several different ways. One way is to place the garden bed on a mound of dirt roughly 6 to 12 inches off the ground. Another way is to actually build a wood frame for the flower bed that’s also 6 to 12 inches off the ground. The dirt method is obviously simpler, however the built flower bed is sturdier, so depending on your terrain, runoff, what have you, use that as a gauge to determine which raised bed method works best for you. Either way, by raising the garden bed it means the animals actually have to climb a bit to get to the garden, which can put them at a disadvantage if they’re worried about becoming the target of another animal.

Plant Your Garden in Narrowly Spaced Rows

Don’t leave a lot of space between the rows of your garden. Leave just enough space to walk through (roughly a foot). This way you can get through but animals will be at a disadvantage because they’ll have to climb or hop from one row to the other and, again, that puts them at a disadvantage if they’re on the lookout for other creatures.

Build a Fence Around the Flower Garden and the Plants

You can make the fencing from a variety of materials but the most popular and effective are chicken wire, bamboo or wire mesh. These methods eliminate large gaps or spaces so animals have a hard time navigating through it. Now rabbits and other chewing animals will sometimes gnaw through the fencing, which is why you might want to combine the fencing with another method to keep the animals out.

Mix Mulch and Marigolds

Many woodland creatures do not like mulch, so adding it to the perimeter of your garden can keep some of them at bay. It’s especially effective when combined with the fencing that I mentioned above. However, that still might not be enough to deter some animals, especially rabbits. Rabbits are persistent little buggers. Deer can be as well. Deer hate marigolds, so if you plant a few amongst the mulch you have a good chance of staving off both the rabbits and the deer. But again, nothing is guaranteed.

Plant Favorites for the Creatures Away from Your Garden

Rabbits love clover and deer love tomatoes, which is why my father planted so many tomato plants just for the deer. But you can also put some clover grass or other creature-friendly plants around the perimeter that will keep the animals from venturing into your garden. They want the path of least resistance, so if you’re offering them something yummy before they have to fight with your mulch and your fencing to get to your garden, they will happily oblige.

Plant a Bigger Garden

If you can’t beat ‘em, include ‘em. If all else fails, plan for a larger garden and know you’re going to lose a portion of it to the creatures with whom you share the earth. And in a lot of ways, that’s only fair; they have a right to eat and live, and in some cases we are encroaching on their territory. So it’s really not that big an inconvenience to provide some food for them too! So throw in some extra tomato plants, plant some extra carrots, throw down some clover and a couple extra heads of lettuce and just know you’re helping the ecosystem even if it’s not what you had in mind.

These are just a few ways that you can successfully garden with furry creatures lurking about. It can be frustrating to walk out and look at your garden and see it’s been ransacked by the rabbits, the deer, the gopher and Lord knows what else, but know that you most likely just fed a family of furry creatures and they are grateful that you provided for them. That’s what my dad used to tell me. But honestly, I think he didn’t want to give the little extortionists more than they deserved.

Photo credits:  Cabbage row photo courtesy of Flickr. Garden with chicken wire photo courtesy of Flickr

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