How to Keep Animals Out of Your Garden

Stop deer, rabbits, and groundhogs from invading your garden—the safe and humane way.

Gardening is a rewarding hobby that can help reduce stress and anxiety while providing you with exercise and healthy produce. However, sometimes the furry neighbors in your yard decide that your garden is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Don't stress—figuring out how to keep deer and other animals out of your garden comes with the territory. Follow these tips on how to keep animals out of your garden, safely and humanely.

The Rabbit In The Garden
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Know Your Culprit

Before you try any method, you will need to know what types of animals are trespassing in your garden. Start by identifying the creature that is causing the damage. Once you know what is munching on your produce, research its habits and food preferences. This knowledge will help you pick an effective solution for keeping these animals out of your garden. Some common culprits include deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and even domesticated pets like cats and dogs.

Make It Less Attractive

For some animals, your garden is prime breeding and feasting grounds. Tidy up your garden by eliminating brush piles and tall weeds or grass. If you have an open compost pile, cover it with a tarp or fence it in. Seal off or block access to any crawl space where small animals can fit. If you keep a bird feeder in the garden, clean up the excess birdseed that falls from it or move it out. Keeping your garden clean will discourage squirrels, skunks, moles, raccoons, and more from checking into your garden and setting up home.

Block Access

Blocking access to your garden is one of the most effective ways to deter animals. Of course, this method will work best as long as your barrier is the right size to block the culprits. A fence between two and four feet tall will work for smaller animals such as rabbits and groundhogs. But, these animals are capable of digging deep holes and can burrow under the fence. To prevent burrowing, you'll have to bury fencing at least 10 inches deep. To keep deer out of your garden, you will need a fence between four and eight feet tall. For the animal's safety, avoid installing fences with sharp points. Don't forget the birds! Crows and songbirds love to feast on ripening berries and other vegetables. Placing netting over smaller edible shrubs a week or two before they ripen will help protect the fruit.

Use a Repellent

A repellent is a strong or unpleasant smell that keeps animals away. Some repellents mimic the scent of a predator. Choosing the correct type of repellent depends on the critter you are trying to deter. Repellents are more effective when limited features are drawing the animals to your garden. There are a variety of commercial repellents and natural home remedies that deter animals. To pick the right repellent, you will need to know what type of animals you need to repel. For example, ordinary bar soap is a well-known deer repellent, and hanging a few bars near the edge of your yard could keep deer out of your garden.

Employ Deterrents

A deterrent is typically a sound or object that scares away animals. Deterrents can be plastic owls or snakes, a scarecrow, or aluminum pie plates that move in the wind. Repellents are a type of deterrent as well. Deterrents work by making the animal feel that there is danger in the area. Some animals are wise enough to figure out that there is no real danger after a while and may come back anyway. The best way to successfully use deterrents (including repellents) is to use several and rotate them.

Choose Plants Wisely

There are some plants that animals just cannot resist. Deer, in particular, love hostas, arborvitae, and azaleas. Rabbits will always munch on your leafy greens. Inspect your yard and neighborhood to see what's been spared, or talk to nurseries and consult your local extension service for lists of less-tempting plants. This method isn't foolproof. When animals lack a natural food source, eventually, they will be hungry enough to eat any plant.

Protect New Plants

New plants are particularly vulnerable to animals roaming in your garden. The plants may not be something the animal is interested in eating, but they can suffer damage when the critter walks on it or brushes up against it. Protect new plants with row covers, cloches, or netting until they are bigger and sturdier.

Work With Nature

The reality is, nothing is 100 percent animal-proof. The best way to not get frustrated is to deter the specific animal that is causing the most damage first. Once taken care of, you can use some of the other methods to keep others out. However, it's reasonable to anticipate some loss (think of it as supporting your local ecosystem!), and perhaps the best course of action is to plant extra to ensure you get to enjoy your harvest too.

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