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Gardening Without Pests

Deer and raccoons, rabbits and gophers, moles, and chipmunks! They capture your heart when in a book or zoo, but when they invade your garden. Oh! That’s a different story. Yet how can a rabbit resist munching on your crisp lettuce? Or a possum or raccoon stay away from your sweet corn patch? And your berries will always be attractive to a squirrel.

Fending off the various animals that want to enjoy both your flower and vegetable gardens can be both time consuming and frustrating. Learning how to chase them off without poisoning both them and your vegetables remains a crucial part of being a good gardener. As scientists begin to realize the damaging effects of pesticides and other poisons on the human body, the use of toxic methods needs to be carefully considered and then rejected.

Birds are a bird-watchers delight and somewhere between a mild and major nuisance to the gardeners. They actually do less harm than four-legged animals. Birds have a number of natural enemies, so you can scare the birds by fooling them into thinking their enemies are around.

A humming line made of very thin nylon will vibrate and hum in even the slightest breeze. It’s inaudible to us but heard by the birds. This works well with strawberries.

Unusual noises can be created with aluminum pie plates loosely tied to stakes or leaving a radio on at night. Installing some blinking lights, hawk-like balloons, or kites that mimic larger birds can also be effective. And of course, the two old stand-bys – scarecrows, or a dog or cat – always help out with the bird problem. Because birds and other animals need a source of drinking water, eliminate any standing water near the garden.

Nighttime is prowl time for the four-legged pests. Each animal has a distinctive footprint and each has its favorite delicacy to munch on. Many of them, such as deer and raccoons, can be eliminated by putting an electric fence or another barrier around the garden. Pocket gophers can be stopped by putting a fence made of hardware cloth two feet below and two feet above the surface of the garden.

A chicken-wire fence works the best for rabbits, but the holes need to be 1” or smaller. Those young rabbits aren’t very big. To keep the mice from eating your fruit tree’s bark, sink wire mesh or ¼” hardware cloth several inches into the ground around the fruit trees.

How can you tell which animal is doing the munching during the night? Footprints are one way. Another is to place about 10 marshmallows out in one spot where the animal has been feeding. Cats won’t eat the marshmallows. Raccoons and skunks will eat all of them in one sitting.

Possums will only eat one or two and then come back later for another one. Some animals will only be eliminated by being caught in a trap. After they are caught be sure to take them at least one mile away and release them in a natural habitat. And, be careful not to get bitten. Rabies is a reality among wild animals.

Gardening saturates one with a feeling of accomplishment and peace. The joy of picking your fresh vegetables right before dinner can hardly be matched by any other activity. Well, perhaps the fragrance of your freshly picked flowers can compete!

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