Who has not waited for their favorite shrub to start blooming, or those first tender shoots of grass to begin appearing in a newly seeded part of the yard, only to find that a deer, rabbit or other hungry critter has beaten them to the punch? North Carolina, natural paradise that our state is, is also a wonderland of friendly wildlife, including deer, rabbits, squirrels and other small herbivores whose destructive feeding habits are frustrating, to say the least, for even the most seasoned gardener. Keeping deer and rabbits out of the garden can certainly seem an impossible challenge at times, but it can be accomplished with a little bit of patience, planning and ingenuity.
Preventing Wildlife from Feasting on Your Garden
As adorable as they might be, the most obviously destructive wildlife in many of our neighborhood gardens are deer and rabbits. With populations that seem to be growing out of control in certain areas, these animals are everywhere, and as they’ve become increasingly adapted to living in suburban areas, their grazing habits have become more and more of a nuisance. Luckily, there are a variety of ways of keeping these small, hungry animals out of your garden: some more traditional, and others taking a less conventional approach.
Deer and Rabbit Fencing
The only SURE way to keep wild animals out of a yard is to physically block them from entering the area. Specific types of fencing are effective at deterring both deer and rabbits.
The key to adequate deer fencing is building it strong enough and high enough to prevent deer from being able to jump it or knock it over.
- An 8-foot tall or higher privacy fence will usually be enough to prevent even very hungry or frightened deer from leaping over it.
- A double fence, regardless of the height of each section, is also a deterrent – since deer have poor depth perception, they will not tend to jump over a barrier if they are unsure how wide it is.
- A slanted fence (tilted outward, at an angle) is intimidating to deer, who are unsure, once again, how tall or wide it might be.
- Easy to install mesh or wire fencing is affordable and effective and available in a variety of materials.
Rabbit fencing, on the other hand, is effective if it is at least 3’ high and buried into the ground to a certain depth that will prevent the rabbits from burrowing underneath. Many of the same materials that go into deer fencing are used to keep hungry bunnies out of a garden area.
Deer and Rabbit Resistant Plants and Shrubs
Certain herbs, plants and trees with specific characteristics are natural deterrents of both deer and rabbits. Some of the most effective critter-resistant shrubs include –
- Aromatic plants such as strong-smelling herbs – thyme, rosemary, garlic or basil – as well as tobacco, onions and marigolds.
- Plants with fuzzy or rough-textured leaves, or ones with spines, such as Prickly Pear, lambs ear, flowering tobacco, and purple top vervain (Verbena bonariensis).
- Plants with sap, such as milkweed, and other toxic flowers and shrubs like daffodils, indigo, poppies and monkshood.
Commercial, chemical-based deer and rabbit repellents are available at all home improvement stores and garden centers.
Out of the Box Solutions
Some of the less traditional methods of keeping deer and rabbit out of your garden include –
- Electronic deer repellent systems that work much as a house alarm does, by creating a loud sound or bright lights so disturbing to deer that they remain at bay.
- Human hair, dog urine, bits of bar soap or coffee grounds spread around the garden area.
- A dog! – deer are often scared off during their most common grazing times – sunrise and sunset – if there is a dog in the vicinity.
- Environmentally friendly hot-pepper spray.
- Netting placed over plants, vegetable gardens or flower beds.
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