Wildlife can be great to watch. It’s why we put bird feeders in our gardens. Others though, they’re just well, destructive rascals. Moles, armadillos, groundhogs, cute little bunny rabbits with razor sharp claws to burrow under your flower beds, then spring back up and nibble your freshly sprouted carrots.
That, we don’t want.
What we need to do is animal proof our gardens to protect them from Mother Nature’s sneaky joke of cute little animals that destroy your flowerbeds, eat your veggies, chew your plants and use your trees as back scrubbers.
And of course, the bigger garden destroyers of coyotes, deer, elk and foxes are covered too, because those can cause some real damage to your garden. Especially if they set up home in your yard, which they will do if there’s enough food for them.
Let’s start with something simple.
Preventing Your Pets from Becoming Pests in Your Garden
If you’re like most loving pet owners, you won’t mind sharing your garden with your beloved cat or dog. Not the entire area though. Give them free reign and dogs will dig, while cats will treat your pretty flower beds as they’re plush litter tray.
Put an end to that with things that’s not Pot Pourri scented for their heightened sense of smell. Make your garden smell horrid to four legged pets using a mix of orange peel and coffee grounds. It’s a decent fertilizer for your plants too. Win-win.
Another problem you may have, with cats in particular, is your wooden furniture being used as a scratch post. You can put a stop to that with double-sided tape coated with pepper stuck to the wood being attacked.
Another trick you can arm yourself with that’s not pleasant on the senses of cats is white vinegar. Wherever you don’t want them hanging around, put a wood peg in the ground and attach a rag coated in a white vinegar solution. For best results, soak the rag with white vinegar weekly.
For the bigger wildlife problems, try any of these…
Top Ways to Keep Unwanted Wildlife Out of Your Yard
These are for deer, elk, foxes and if you have a weirder animal problem like wild turkeys running rampant or even coyotes, there’s ways to keep every wild animal out of your yard.
Starting with the worst scavenger that’s on the increase…
Keeping Coyotes Far Away from Your Yard
Coyotes are increasing in numbers around rural and suburban areas. Even in cities in North America, they’re becoming a common site. Some are habituated so they won’t have any fear strolling around your yard, eating whatever food you have available.
If you do have coyotes nearby, you can’t be leaving food outdoors so don’t feed your pets in the yard.
There’s still the issue of plants though because some can be a food source for coyotes and you need to protect those. If you don’t, coyotes will keep returning because they can hop into your yard for handouts. Keep doing that, your neighbors will eventually want to have words with you.
Deterrents are your best option. What Coyotes look for is water, food and shelter. Much of your yard can provide those, especially if your trash can be opened or tipped over to get to the leftover food to scavenge through. Steel bin locks are ideal for trash cans in areas with problematic wildlife as they can’t be chewed through.
Another method that’s a decent deterrent for coyotes are motion activated strobe lighting. Not normal lighting like solar powered garden lights because these are very adaptable animals and need something surprising and distressing to chase them away.
The motion activated sensors work better because of the surprise element. Without that, they’d just adapt to normal light and carry on as they were. They are very stubborn. A combination approach of strobe lighting and alarm triggered by a motion sensor can be a decent short-term deterrent.
Longer-term, you’ll want to use fencing to keep them out. Preferably a chain link fence with a coyote roller on top to stop them from getting over it. Another upside to these is your dog can’t get over the fence either.
You can make a coyote roller system yourself.
The supplies you’d need are:
- an inner roller
- an outer roller
- Steel wire
- Wire locks
And this is how it’s done.
Coyotes are smart. If they can’t get over a fence, they’ll tunnel under it. Ideally, the fence should be at least 5 and a half foot in height with a chain link fence. A net wire mesh with a max 6-inches between stays is a cheaper alternative.
To prevent coyotes from tunneling under the fence, barb wire should be secured under the fence, buried between four to six inches beneath the soil.
You’ll find this type of fencing will also help prevent deer from parading around your yard too.
On the topic of deer…
How to Protect Your Trees from Deer Damage
If you’re growing any trees in your yard, those are scratching posts for deer. When their antlers get rough, they’ll rub them over the tree. Itchy back, they’ll rub against the bark. They’re preference is any thick bark that’s bendy. They adore baby trees.
The solution is to install a welded wire mesh guard around the tree. There are plastic tree shelters you can buy but those are only effective for smaller deer. Trunks are better protected with a welded wire mesh tree guard.
You can install a wood frame around the outer of the tree, then attach the wire around it just like you’d do with a mesh netting fence.
Deer Deterrents for Yard
The best way to keep deer out your yard is to use suitable fencing with a minimum height of 6 feet. Better is to go with an 8 ft fence though because a hungry deer will try to leap over a six foot fence, possibly injuring itself in the process, whereas at 8-ft, it just won’t tackle it.
The fence can be made using anything from invisible mesh netting, black mesh netting, or a stockade fence because when deer can’t see what’s on the other the side, they will not attempt to jump it for fear of what’s on the other end.
If you don’t want a solid fence, deer mesh netting is the way to go. Adding an electric fence is another way you could go, if your state permits it. Some areas don’t, so check first.
You can buy the parts for an electric fence online and get instructions to install an electric fence, but given it’s electric, it’s best left to the experts because outdoors, the power supply will need protection from the elements.
Your local hardware store would be the best place to get advice on adding an electric fence around either your entire yard, or just a small area within your yard that you need to keep deer away from. Or any other wildlife for that matter.
A more practical way (and what can be a fun approach) to deer proof your yard is to work in some deer resistant plants.
Top Tip: Deer repellents work by attacking a deer’s sense of smell. One of the best (worst for deer’s smell) is the Plantskydd deer deterrent because in addition to common alliums that deer hate, this brand goes one worse and adds in dead cow’s blood.
Not surprisingly, the smell of death tends to keep the deer away because when they sense something’s died, it’s a signal there could be predators in the area so they’ll head in the opposite direction.
Most other deer repellents work on the same sensory deterrents using common alliums that you can work into your garden naturally.
Deer hate allium plants so plant some chives, leeks, onions, garlics, scallions, and/or shallots. They don’t like the smell of those. If you check the ingredients on deer repellents, you’ll find the majority have these scents.
Another ingredient is rotten eggs. As a rule of thumb, what smells nasty to your nose, smells totally rancid to deer.
Plants That Deer Dislike are the Natural Way to Fend Them Off
Anything that’s poisonous, deer won’t eat. That said, in a residential garden where kids are playing, you really don’t want to be using poisonous plants. Or giving your neighbor’s pet cat an upset tummy.
Any plant that’s highly fragrant, deer will think twice about nibbling on. Anything that’s prickly, hairy, or has rough foliage that won’t feel pleasant to their tongues, they’ll stay away from too.
The next time you’re looking around the nursery for new plants to introduce to your garden, feel them and pick a few that are course, feel rough to the touch, hairy or prickly and those should do a decent job to keep them away.
See this list of deer resistant plants and you’ll be able to plan out your garden space.
For every other type of wildlife, you want to prey on their survival instincts and scare them away. This includes foxes, deer, habituated and non-habituated coyotes and any other wildlife looking to scavenge in your yard, or find a place of shelter.
The simplest way to that is with a motion activated sprayer. Here’s one in action:
One product that works well at hitting a target with a fast-paced squirt of water that doesn’t go through too much water is the Orbit Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler.
For larger garden predators, when the sensor detects any motion, it’ll spray a burst of water up to 10 meters in the air and 13 meters wide, so the water is going to hit the animal, surprise them, then they’ll run away.
Thing is though, it’s motion activated so you need to remember to turn it off when you’re using the garden, otherwise it’s going to dose you with water and send you scampering too.
Same with friends and family coming by, if you install these in your front yard, everything that moves is a target. This includes the pizza delivery person, and the nice men and women delivering parcels to your door. They’ll get squirted too.
As will your pets if you don’t turn it off during the day. At night, it’ll deter everything and everyone to move around your yard.
Keeping Pesky Burrowing Animals Out of Your Yard
Burrowing animals are your groundhogs, armadillos, rabbits, badgers, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, all types of voles, moles and raccoons too.
Each are totally destructive to your garden and need to be kept away.
The smaller they are, the more difficult it is to jump over a fence, but these burrowing pests will just dig their way under whatever fence you have. If there’s a food source there, it’s worth their while digging a tunnel into your vegetable garden, flower beds, or for moles to build their dens and tunnels in your backyard.
The trick to stopping this is to use galvanized steel hardware cloth to build a barrier around your vegetables, plants, and even under your existing fencing.
When buying your steel hardware cloth, the higher the gauge of steel is, the thinner the steel so you want the number to be lower. A 23-gauge wire cloth could be bent by most animals hungry enough to give them the determination to get into your garden for something to eat. A thick wire will be much more animal resilient.
When buying hardware cloth to build a barrier to keep animals from tunneling into your garden, here’s what to look for:
That’s if you’re using a raised bed garden. If not, you can use a similar process to put a barrier under your soil. It’s best to dig a narrow trench about two feet deep, put in 5-foot wood stakes so that the posts go down two feet and extend three feet above ground.
The reason you want it above the ground is rabbits can reach up to 3 feet in height when they stand on their hind legs. Some are good jumpers too.
The fencing works best when it’s installed about 12 inches away from your plant beds or fencing so anything trying to burrow near where you don’t want them, can’t get too close to cause damage.
If you don’t want to install an underground wire fence, another option is to use some galvanized steel cloth to make baskets for your plants to sit in. The idea with this is the wire protects the root system of your plants and vegetables so anything that does burrow under your garden, can’t gnaw on your plants and flowers as the roots will be surrounded by wire.
Here’s what you’d be doing with the hardware cloth to prevent animals burrowing up into a raised vegetable garden.
As you can see from how the steel cloth is installed, it makes it impossible for animals to dig their way to the plants.