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How to keep cats, dogs, deer and other critters out of raised vegetable garden beds

Updated on September 8, 2014
Cats are cute, cuddly and fun until they take over your flower beds and garden -- then they can become a nuisance.
Cats are cute, cuddly and fun until they take over your flower beds and garden -- then they can become a nuisance.

After taking the time and effort to create raised vegetable beds, you probably don't want them to become cat litter boxes. For the most part, cats are not attracted to vegetable plants. It's the bare soil they want. Fortunately, several humane ways exist to keep stray cats out of raised beds.

Dealing with Cats

Create a Sanctuary

Using the "if you can't beat them, join them" approach, create a cat paradise in your back yard. Choose a sunny corner as far from your vegetables' raised beds as you choose. Leave some bare soil there, and plant catnip (Nepeta cataria) or cat thyme (Teucrium marum) -- if you handle its aroma. Both plants are grown as annuals. You also could place bare soil in large planting pots in the corner. Watch as the cats take over that corner.

Repel with Spray

Several sprays are designed to keep cats out of an area. These commercial sprays contain an odor -- such as the urine of a cat predator -- or a taste that cats do not like. Spray the product in the raised beds' area, but plan to respray several times. Most of these sprays need to be reapplied, especially after a rain. An option is to plant common rue (Ruta graveolens) or scaredy-cat coleus (Coleus canina) in or near your vegetable raised beds. Both plants are effective deterrents and will add a splash of color. Rue is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Scaredy-cat coleus is an annual plant.

Startle with Distractions

Light, noise and water make up the arsenal of methods used by commercially sold motion-activated devices. When a cat activates such a device, it triggers a sprinkler to spray, a bright light to flash on or a high-pitch sound to emit, with the sound audible to only cats. Any of the three approaches should scare off stray cats. Another method is to watch for a stray cat to enter a vegetable raised bed and spray the feline with water from a hose when that happens. The sprayed water discourages the cat from re-entering your garden.

Discourage with Mulch

Because stray cats seek bare soil, make your vegetable raised beds' soil surface unappealing by burying chicken wire, lattice or any other substance that will make scratching or digging in the soil too much work for the cats. If you use mulch around your vegetable plants, then try using cedar mulch, pine mulch, pine straw or a combination of those three mulches. Pine straw may be especially effective because most cats do not enjoy walking on its prickly surface.

Top 5 ways to keep pets out of garden beds

  1. Plants: Use plants that naturally emit a smell that is repungent to cats, dogs or other creatures.
  2. Stakes: Drive randomly placed stakes of varying height through the bed.
  3. Mulch: Use gravel or pine mulch to make the bed unappealing.
  4. Fence: Fences can be used to keep dogs out -- buried chicken wire discourages cats.
  5. Spray: Homemade or commercial spray placed directly on plants.

Dealing with Dogs

In many ways, keeping a dog out of your garden bed is similar to a cat. You can start with creating a yard inside a yard -- a place designed especially for the dog -- complete with bare soil so he will be less interested in your garden. You can even dig a small hole and fill it with sand so the dogs has his own sandbox to dig in.

A fence

Unlike with cats, fences actually create an effective barrier for dogs. Put a garden fence around your bed and make it high enough that the dog cannot just step over the fence to access the garden. If you yard permits, consider building your raised beds inside a fenced-in area.

Rocks, gravel and spray

Any method to make the soil's surface unappealing will cause the dog to lose interest. You can cover the soil with coffee grounds, ground up cayenne pepper or use gravel as a mulch. Commerical spray is an effective deterrent -- as long as you are willing to reapply it as needed.

Uncomfortable soil

Another fairly simple way to keep dogs out is to randomly place thorny branches -- like from a rose bush -- on the ground throughout the garden. This prevents the dog from finding a place to dig or lie down. You can also randomly drive garden stakes in the beds to create the same effect.

Dealing with Critters

Often rabbits, 'possums, raccoons and deer create more of a challenge than domesticated pets when it comes to keeping them out of specific areas. Here are a few people swear by:

Human hair: Visit the local barber shop to get a supply or use your own. The hair is spread out on the ground throughout the garden.

Soap: Hang a bar of deodorant soap about waist high and the aroma keeps deer away. Some claim pine mulch has the same effect.

Helium Balloons: This works by startling the animals -- much like a scarecrow does. An advantage of the balloon is it is very sensible to changes in the wind so it is almost always in motion.

Small electric fence: Position it low to the ground so that anything attempting to enter the garden receives a small shock.

Motion lights: Consider solar powered ones -- many home improvement sell solar motion lights for sheds. By using solar you don't have to worry about installing electricity in your garden.

You Tube

You Tube is filled with videos on ideas of how to keep animals out of your vegetables. The video here is a clever idea that keeps out small animals and should the walls wear out they can easily be replaced.

Other interesting approaches found on YouTube include:

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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for listing so many humane methods for protecting plants from animals. This hub is a great resource for gardeners who love animals too!

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 3 years ago from Clarksville TN

      A wonderfully written article with so much character. I have cats and I knew about the catnip but whenever I plant it the cats play with the plant then the plant dies. I love your hints and tips. Thank you.

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