How To Keep Pests Out of Your Garden
Garden Pests - From Bears to Deer to Groundhogs to Slugs to Aphids
In 30 years of gardening, I've met them all - the big, bad and ugly of garden pests - and fought to keep them out of my garden, fruit trees and roses. Sometimes I win, sometimes they have a yummy snack. Bears have eaten our plums and broken branches. Deer have eaten flowers, lettuce, ocra and even the tomato plants. Groundhogs love greens and so do slugs. Aphids appear overnight to devour the young green babies we are starting in the spring.
What to do with all these problems? The answers are many, and need not be dangerous to health - yours or the bears. Slugs and aphids, well, I am not as concerned with their health.
Photo by nazka2002 can be found here.. The rest of the pictures were taken by my husband.
Deter the Big Guys - Bears, Deer and Groundhogs
Use an Electric Fence and be Careful with Odours
When I started gardening I never would have thought that deer see tulips as a lovely candy-like snack. It is heartbreaking to come out one morning after seeing scores of tulips ready to flower the next day and finding a forest of stalks.
Bear, deer and groundhogs are attracted largely by smell. It is really difficult to eliminate smells, especially if you grow fruit, as we do. If the wonderful aroma of pears, apples, cherries and plums attract you, they will certainly attract the much more sensitive nose of an animal.
You can both minimize the odours and make this work for you.
Make sure not to compost anything sweet or anything with animal fat or other oils on it. These are very enticing to animals. Also pick fruit as soon as it is ripe, and certainly do not leave any lying on the ground. As it decays it gets sweater and attracts animals even faster.
You can use smell to your advantage by placing containers with bleach around your tasty treats. Make sure they have covers and poke a few holes in the top. That way if they get kicked over not all the bleach will spill and the odour will waft up and around.
An electric fence is a great deterrent, if you are in area where this is possible. Put three wires on it - at 6 inches for the groundhogs, three feet for bears and shoulder high for the deer. In the spring if you put tinfoil with peanut butter on it twisted on the wires, the animals will take a taste, get a shock and stay away for the season. Do not worry, you won't kill them. You can put your hand on an electric fence yourself without harm. It doesn't feel good but it is not damaging.
Solar Powered Electric Fence
This is just a great option. We had an electric fence for our market garden and found that it worked just great. It completely stopped the bears, deer and groundhogs from eating all of our carefully planted produce. The one hurdle was always the long electric cord to get from our building out to the field.
The best answer to that was a solar powered electric fence charger. Once we switched we never looked back. Its really easy to use following the easy instructions. You need to also get the insulators (clips to connect the wire to the fence) and the actual fence wire. The clips and wire you can get at any co-op but they don't always have solar powered fence chargers - most carry the standard electric ones though.
Deer Coming Into the Garden
Deer love fresh fruit. So don't leave the fruit (or put the fruit) on the ground. Limit deer invasion by picking up all fruit promptly.
Use SMells and Visuals They Hate
Deer are very skittish creatures. They are always on the look for anything that might be dangerous to them. You can use various tricks based on this fact to your advantage in your garden:
1. Waving ribbons - tie ribbons or yarn to wires or fence posts. The movement makes them uneasy and they will move on to a more tranquil place.
2. Create visual dead ends - Deer always want an exit strategy. So growing your vegetables along the house with a barrier at the end will create what looks to them like a dead end and they will avoid it. They also don't like narrow tunnels for the same reason.
3. Moving garden ornaments - Lanterns, flags, or even old CDs on string all provide movement that deer do not like. The shine of the CDs will also deter birds
Deer also rely on their sense of smell to detect predators and they are herbivores. That means that they do not like to be around some smells:
1. Egg - Mix an egg in a litre of water ans spray around - the deer don't like the protein smell
2. Lavender - the smell is too strong so they can't smell other things coming
3. Bounce fabric softener sheets - ditto and they also wave in the wind
What to Do About Birds
Get Rid of Birds and Some Animals with Water
Birds can be a huge problem if you are growing cherries or carrots. They love cherries and seem to find them most delectable the day before you think they are just right. I have seen many types of birds flying off with beautiful sweet cherries and sour cherries that I wanted to put into pies. Putting cat (four legged) stuffed toys hanging from the branches of your cherry trees may seem odd, but does keep quite a few birds away.
They also just love carrot seed. I think it is the smell, again. You can get around this by putting a board on your seed when you plant it and leaving it there for a week to 10 days. An old gardening neighbour used to do this and I asked why he had boards all over his garden. It was a trick he had learned from his father. Worked for us to.
Birds, cats, and other rodents don't like to be startled - or suddenly get wet. We used water to scare off many four legged and winged pests from our market garden. Just take a nice afternoon in the hammock with a good book and the garden hose. A quick spritz and you can slowly train them that your yard is not a great place to be.
An Automatic Water Deterrent - This is On My Wish List
I first saw this gizmo at work last fall in a friends yard. He says he wouldn't garden without it. At that point it was protecting tomatoes - he was hoping they would actually ripen on the vine - no such luck with out cool year last year. He swears by this tool though. He turns it on when his lettuce starts to come up in the spring and leaves it in place all season. The motion sensor senses the birds and other pests when they arrive and they get a good squirt.
Shocked pests by no damage to anything or anyone. I wonder if the fact that it looks like a big bird head helps?
Creepy, Crawly, Slimy Pests
Use Organic Methods to Rid Your Garden of Bugs
The smallest pests of the garden can also cause the most damage by nibbling all your plants and weakening them. Here are some suggestions:
1. Dish Soap - Mix a tablespoon in a litre of water and spray frequently - deters aphids, white fly. Mix in some cayenne for more power
2. Yellow stickies - yellow paper with glue/honey/tanglefoot on it - aphids, flea beetle are attracted and stay stuck to it
3/ Diotomaceous earth - crushed up crustaceans - deter slugs, snails, sow bug, earwigs, other crawlies.
These types of deterrents need replenishing but they are not harmful to pets or people.
Diotomeceous Earth for Bugs - Safe for Pets
Diotomaeceous earth is made from the crushed bodies of crustaceans. It is perfectly safe to eat, in fact it is freqently given to dogs and horses to get rid of internal parasites. Be very carfuyl not to breath it though - as is true with all very fine dust.
We use this in the garden to keep away slugs (which can be 6 to 8 inches lon gin BC !!!), snails, sow bugs, ear wigs, etc. The creeping, crawling gang are all affected by this stuff. It either cuts thei bellies or gets into the creases intheir shells and kills them We put it around hostas, veggies, and anything else that suddenly becomes very attractive to bugs. You have to reapply every so often after a lot of rain.
Wire worms are the culprits that bore holes into potatoes carrots and other root vegetables. They live in the soil and feed off your veggies.
Getting rid of them can only be done by starting early in the year. Turn over your soil every other week starting as soon as you can work your soil. The birds love them and will eat as many as they can find.
Later in the year you can reduce them by burying a can or yogurt container in the soil up to the rim with a cut potato in it. Make sure there are holes in the bottom and sides of the container. You will need to change the potato fairly often..
Ducks Like bugs.
Using Neem Oil for Pests
One of the best organic products for handling bugs is neem oil. I have used it freqeuntly if my preventative measures are not working out. I have also added it to my soap and water spray and find that works great as a preventative. This video also shows you how to look for problems.
The creepy crawlies in your garden actually have built in enemies within the bug world. You can encourage beneficial bugs to come into your garden or you can pruchase them. I have found that buying ladybugs and releasing them in the greenhouse and the garden takes care of a lot of aphid problems. Be careful when you buy them - you want the ones native to your area. Ladybugs imported from other countries can become pests themselves.
Remember to mist the foliage around them when you let them loose from the bag they come in. This will encourage them and also give them a little reviving drink. It is also best to let them loose in a shady spot. When you get them they have been hibernating so let them wakt up at their leisure.
Beneficial insects include ladybugs, parasitic wasps and lacewings. You can order them from your local garden centre.
How to Use Lady Bugs in Your Garden
This video shows you how to release your ladybugs so that they are happy in their new home. It also covers what to grow in order to attract beneficial adult bugs to your garden. The video notes that you can buy the seed from Johnney Seed, but in Canada you can also buy organic heirloom seeds at Eternal Seed.
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