One of the joys of living off the grid is being able to see and enjoy sharing your property with abundant wildlife. While deer, raccoons, rabbits and other creatures are an enjoyable sight from a distance, they are another matter entirely when they are destroying your garden.
There are some steps you can take to keep animals from feasting on your plants, and many of these simple humane solutions make use of items you already have in your home.
1. Coffee. Coffee grounds add nitrogen to your soil and increase its acidity. But did you know that your coffee rounds can also deter animals? Slugs hate coffee grounds, for instance, and so do cats. Coffee grounds also can serve as a deer repellent. Don’t have enough grounds of your own to make a difference? Ask your local coffee shop for their used grounds.
2. Human hair. Animals, including rodents, deer and rabbits, dislike the smell of human hair. Try sprinkling some unwashed hair around your garden. Human hair works as a natural mulch and adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. For more effect, tie nylon or cheesecloth bags filled with unwashed hair on tree branches or posts near your garden. Need more hair? Ask a local barber or hair salon to save some of the hair they sweep off their floors for you. The hair will lose its scent within a few weeks and will need to be replaced.
3. Bloodmeal. A by-product of meat packing plants, bloodmeal is basically dried and flaked blood. Many animals don’t like the smell of blood and will avoid your garden because of it. Sprinkle bloodmeal, which is high in nitrogen, around the bases of your plants. Take care not to get any on the plants directly, however, as it can burn the leaves.
4. Scented soap. Deer dislike strong scents, and many gardeners have had success in keeping deer at bay by hanging nylon or cheesecloth bags of strongly-scented deodorant soap on stakes throughout their gardens. Deer will feed within three feet of the soap, so depending on how big your garden is, you may need to buy a lot of soap. Keep in mind that soaps that contain coconut oil may actually attract the deer!
5. Scarecrow sprinklers. Also called deer sprinklers, these automatic sprinklers contain battery-operated motion detectors that will spray a startling burst of water at animal garden invaders. Check online for a variety of options in different sizes and price ranges.
Noise: Many animals are afraid of human noise. One option is to tie pie pans to several stakes around your garden so that they rattle in the breeze or with any vibration. If the noise can be at a volume that will scare the animals without annoying your family or your neighbors, another idea is to place a battery-operated radio tuned to a music or talk station and keep it playing all night.
6. Plant repellent plants. Some animals will avoid areas with strong-smelling plants, including perennial herbs such as tansy, artemisia and yarrow and culinary herbs such as mint, oregano, thyme, tarragon, chives and dill.
7. Vinegar, peppers. Another option is to use the smell of vinegar or hot pepper flakes to deter unwanted visitors. Try soaking corn cobs in vinegar for about 10 minutes and then placing them throughout your garden. Repeat the process every two weeks. Some gardeners have success in deterring animals by sprinkling hot pepper flakes around their plants or spraying liquid chile spray around the garden or around the base of the individual plants you want to keep safe.
8. Predator urine. This option is not for the faint of heart. You can purchase the urine of predators such as coyotes, mountain lions and foxes from garden supply stores or websites. By soaking cotton balls in the urine and placing them around the perimeter of your garden, you can keep many animals from bothering your plants. In case you are wondering (like I was) how the urine is collected, the folks at predatorpee.com report on their website that it is collected through floor collection drains in pens and cages from animals in zoos, game farms and preserves. This option needs to be re-applied after a rainfall.
9. Bait and switch. Another option is to plant tasty alternatives away from your fruits and vegetable garden. Rabbits love clover and dandelions, for example, and would probably rather eat them than your veggies, especially if they feel less exposed to predators while doing so.
You may have to try several of these methods to see what works for your area wildlife. Deer and raccoons are pretty wily creatures, however, and you will find that they may be deterred for a while and then will figure out a way around your plan or realize that it won’t harm them.
Although it can be expensive, the best long-term strategy for keeping animals out of your garden is to build a sturdy fence. Deer are excellent jumpers, so you will need a fence at least seven feet high to stop them from entering your garden. A two-foot fence should keep out rabbits. Keep in mind that all fences should be dug at least 12 inches underground to deter diggers such as groundhogs and moles.
Are there other ideas you’ve tried that worked? Let us know in the comments section below!