Written by: Steve Nubie
Every gardener knows that enemies lurk in the bushes and trees – from chipmunks to rabbits to squirrels. In some ways, they can be the toughest to repel in the garden.
But if you know what you’re doing, you can deter them naturally. In this article, we’ll first examine the type of small animals that can cause havoc in your garden. Then, we’ll turn to ways you can get rid of them.
The Vole is a good example. It looks like a mouse but is actually larger and has an incredibly accelerated metabolism. In fact, a vole must consume its body weight on a daily basis just to stay alive. This makes the Vole an indiscriminate feeder; everything in a garden becomes fair game for a hungry vole. They’re also excellent burrowers and can find their way under a fence.
Not to be outdone, field mice can squeeze through the smallest spaces and are also indiscriminate feeders. They don’t eat as voraciously as a vole, but can do equal damage and also reproduce prodigiously.
Chipmunks may seem cute, but they are active burrowers and can kill plants at the roots if they decide to live under your garden. They’re notorious for taking small bites of fruits and vegetables and ruining crops.
Rats and rabbits
True, they’re no longer technically considered rodents, but the tricks mentioned in this article will deter them, too.
Rats and rabbits are larger than mile and voles, and their body size means they can and will consume more of your harvest. They’re also nibblers who can ruin a tomato or pepper with a few bites.
Squirrels are active nibblers. It’s easy to assume they only eat nuts, but they will pursue any seed in any plant if given the opportunity.
I’m an organic gardener. As I result, I’ve had to improvise natural solutions for repelling rodents and rabbits, often in combination. Those combinations are defined by three fundamental approaches: physical barriers, natural “chemicals,” and various aromatic herbs and flowers.
1. A fence
A physical barrier is as simple as a fence. Of course, the mesh needs to be a finer mesh than standard chicken wire and should be buried in the ground around the perimeter of the garden to discourage the burrowing habits of voles and chipmunks. However, varmints can still find their way underneath if determined. In fact, most mice find their way into a garden through the gate leading into the garden, where gaps are prominent. As a result, additional solutions may be necessary.
2. Plastic predators
This may seem a bit odd, but you can buy plastic replicas of owls and coyotes to places in or around your garden. One replica should do the trick, depending on the size of your plot.
3. Rubber snakes
Novelty stores and dollar stores sell rubber snakes. Mice, voles and chipmunks are terrified of snakes. You may cause a bit of alarm when you’re showing your friends your garden and they spot a rubber snake, but they’ll get over it. The rodents won’t.
4. Blood meal
Blood meal is a by-product commonly made by meat-packing plants. Its appearance is dried and flaked, and all animals, including rodents, are repelled by the scent. That’s because it indicates the presence of a predator. Blood meal is high in nitrogen but only apply it to the ground. The high nitrogen content can burn the leaves; personally, I don’t like the idea of dried animal blood on my lettuce leaves.
5. Good old garlic and hot sauce
Strong smelling spices, like hot sauce and garlic, also repel rodents. In addition, if they choose to taste one of your vegetables, they will quickly turn away and seek food that is not as harsh. Mash 10 garlic cloves and add a cup of hot sauce plus a pint of vinegar. Let it sit in the sun for a few days and apply to the base of plants with a hand spray bottle. Reapply after a heavy rain.
6. Human hair
The scent of human hair tells a varmint that a human is nearby; rodents simply don’t want to be anywhere near us. They may like our fruits and vegetables but they don’t like us. Your local barber might be able to help if you don’t do hair cutting at home.
7. Coffee grounds
Many of us love coffee, but most animals can’t stand the smell or the taste. You can sprinkle used coffee grounds around you garden and between your plants. In fact, coffee grounds make an excellent compost, and Starbucks likely will give you free bags of coffee grounds for composting. Because most rodents are so close to the ground, coffee grounds can make an excellent barrier.
Various Aromatic Herbs and Flowers
This is a win-win approach. You have the benefit of herbs growing in your garden and the beauty of flowers while repelling rodents and rabbits. Here’s the list of the most popular plants that repel rodents:
9. Oregano. The great thing about oregano is that it’s a perennial plant. Unlike sage, which is an annual, you don’t have to replant every year. Better yet, oregano is a great complement to many of the recipes you might be making with vegetables from your garden. Plant the oregano around the perimeter and pick a spot in the center of your garden for an additional deterrent.
10. Basil is another winner when it comes to repelling rodents and works great in tomato-based recipes. It’s also an annual and very sensitive to any frost, so don’t abandon the oregano altogether.
11. Rosemary is another aromatic herb that repels animals. It’s also an exceptional herb for cooking. It’s a member of the pine family and is highly scented. It, too, is an annual in most parts of North America so you may have to replant in the Spring.
12. Lavender. The flowers are beautiful and the scent is delightful, unless you’re a rodent. They can’t stand the stuff. This is another perimeter plant you could consider. Or, interplant them with your vegetables.
Keep an eye on your garden. If you notice a rodent or signs of a rodent, then reapply your natural chemicals, move your plastic replicas to a new location, and check for gaps or holes under or around your fencing. The degree to which you take these steps depends a lot on where you live, but rodents are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere, from cities to suburbs to the countryside.
Hopefully some of these solutions will give you relief from the rodents. If not, you always could let the dog or cat take a nap next to the garden.