10 Smart Solutions for Keeping Animals Out of the Garden Without Harming Them
Try one of these humane approaches to keep animal pests from dining or digging in your garden.
If your garden is your pride and joy, it can be exceedingly frustrating when animals nibble on your plants or dig around and make a mess. While there are many ways to keep animals out of the garden, your options can feel limited if you don’t want to hurt or kill bunnies, squirrels, moles, or raccoons in the process. However, there are plenty of humane pest control methods to try, and they can be just as effective as poisons and traps with none of the cruelty.
The below humane animal deterrents will help you accomplish both of your goals—encouraging animals to stay away from your flowers, fruits, and vegetables, but without harming local wildlife.
1. Ultrasonic Pest Repellent
An effective way to keep raccoons, skunks, deer, foxes, dogs, cats, and other animals away from your garden beds is to use an ultrasonic pest repellent, much like those that can control pests indoors. Ultrasonic pest repellents, such as this solar model, have strobe lights and play high-frequency sounds when activated by the motion of an animal. The noise and lights scare away animals away, after a few exposures, can condition them to keep their distance from your plants.
2. Garden Fencing
Building a fence around the garden may solve your pest problem and protect your plants. You’ll need to determine the ideal height for the fence based on the type of critters that have been getting into your garden. For example, if you’re only dealing with rabbits, squirrels, or other small garden animals, a short fence will likely suffice. However, if you’re dealing with deer or other large animals, opt for fencing that’s at least 5 feet tall.
If your pests live underground (like moles and gophers), you can dig a trench and fence a few feet down with hardware cloth or ¾-inch chicken wire to protect vulnerable root vegetables.
Deer, insects, and some other outdoor pests do not like the smell or taste of mint. If they smell mint while scoping out your garden, they’ll likely try to get away from the scent. There are a few different ways you can use mint to keep animals out of gardens. These include planting a mint border around the garden, planting peppermint alongside pest-targeted plants, spraying peppermint essential oil on fencing, rocks, or other hard surfaces, or scattering mint tea bags around the area.
4. Castor Oil
Many burrowing garden pests, such as skunks, ground squirrels, gophers, moles, and voles, do not like the way castor oil tastes. To use castor oil as a burrowing pest repellent, combine 3 tablespoons of castor oil, 1 tablespoon dish soap, and 1 gallon of water to make your own homemade spray to keep animals out of the garden. Spray the solution in areas around the garden and anywhere else you’ve noticed pests in your yard.
5. Wire Cloche
Wire cloches are a practical solution if your garden pests seem to be targeting just a few of your plants in particular. Simply place these plant protectors, made from chicken wire, over the plant(s) in your garden. Animals like rabbits and deer won’t be able to reach past the protective barrier to nibble on leaves and stems, which could encourage them to find food outside of your garden.
6. Cayenne Pepper
Even if you’re unsure of what type of animal is digging holes in your yard, try keeping them away using cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is a highly competent scent for deterring garden pests. Many critters, including raccoons and squirrels, do not like its spicy taste. If you sprinkle cayenne pepper over and around the plants that you want to protect, animals are sure to quickly change their minds after biting into unexpectedly hot greens.
When garden pests won’t leave your fruits, vegetables, and flowers alone, consider finding a way to add some noise to your garden. Animals may think a human or predator is in the garden and leave your plants alone when they hear the noises. A few efficient examples to consider include hanging wind chimes or leaving a radio playing in or near the garden.
8. Raised Garden Beds
A raised garden bed, or a taller elevated wood planter box, can also protect your garden from animals, particularly if rabbits or other smaller animals are the destructive culprits. If you only have a few plants to transplant, elevated garden beds are a more feasible solution to keep them out of burrowers’ and other small animals’ reach.
9. Provide An Alternative Source of Food
You might be able to dissuade some animals from nibbling at your plants by making other types of food readily available to them. For instance, if you install a bird feeder near your garden, some of the smaller animals might decide to munch on bird seed instead of your garden.
Believe it or not, soap—particularly Irish Spring bar soap—can be a good solution if you’re looking for how to protect vegetable garden from animals with scents. Mice, rabbits, deer, chipmunks, and other animals do not like the smell of this soap and will try to maintain their distance from it. Hang drawstring pouches with a bar of soap in them around your garden using wooden stakes.