Animal Pest Control
Don't you wish wild animals were as picky of eaters as your family? Year round, you could be fighting to keep your garden healthy and in the ground instead of in the bellies of the neighborhood wildlife. Here are three ways animals access your plants and some methods to reduce the damage they cause to your garden.
Gophers are some of the most common burrowing pests in American gardens. Gophers can easily kill all kinds of plants by eating the entire plant or damaging the root system beyond repair. Moles, on the other hand, do not eat plants and can help aerate your lawn, but a large infestation will likely cause damage. Gophers are best deterred by protecting your plants with underground chicken wire (Yardworks Light Gauge Utility Netting, 171-3053) before planting. To be most effective, the wire should reach a full two feet below the surface. If it is too late to install chicken wire and you start to notice missing or damaged plants and small mounds of dirt in your yard, purchase a sonic pest repellant (Sweeney's® Sonic Spike, 209-1204), which is an inexpensive device that emits sonic waves. The waves will drive gophers and moles away from your garden. Organic repellants, such as Messina Wildlife's Animal Stoppers, use natural ingredients to repel gophers and other animals. You can also trap and remove the gophers. Purchase gopher traps (Sweeney's® Gopher Trap, 209-1156) and find a gopher run by poking about twelve inches deep into the earth near a fresh mound until you find the cavity. Place the traps in the gopher run and cover them with a thin layer of earth. Check the traps daily and move them if nothing is caught.
From ground level
The majority of your animal pest problems will come from animals attacking the plants from ground level. Rabbits, voles, and raccoons are just a few of these garden-stripping bullies. Certain methods will work for some animals and not for others, and you might need to try several options and combinations before finding something that works.
Small animals can be kept away by predatory birds like owls, so consider installing an owl box or perch or a decoy owl (Garden Defense Owl®, 268-2633) - a very simple solution that will not affect the appearance of your garden. A repellent (Messina Animal Stopper, 263-2166) can also be used to drive away a great number of these animals, again with no effect on the aesthetics of your garden.
Rabbits, voles and mice will do damage to your garden year-round, eating your garden plants in the summer and tree bark and twigs in the winter. Vole and mouse invasion can be reduced by reducing mulch and weeds in which they love to hide. Clear a two foot area around plants and trees that are being chewed upon to prevent the animals from being able to safely approach their feeding area. For rabbits, chicken mesh placed at least two feet off the ground around the area will be enough to prevent damage and will also keep out the smaller animals. Make sure to tightly secure the wire, as these animals are good at squeezing through tight areas. In the winter you will need to adjust the height of the fence so that the mesh is at least two feet above the snow level. Organic repellents, such as Messina Wildlife's Animal Stoppers, will also repel these animals. Messina Wildlife's products only need to be applied every thirty days to be effective.
These measures will all help protect your garden without causing harm to your garden or the animals. Chemical repellents or poisons are often effective when these methods fail. Be sure to read labels and follow instructions carefully, especially when using these types of products near plants your family will consume. Talk to your neighbors about what methods have worked for them, and keep trying new methods until you find one that works.