I don’t know of any place where garden wildlife doesn’t exist. It could be birds, bunnies, rodents, deer, squirrels, raccoons, woodchucks, and the like. One thing I love most about Permaculture is the shift in thinking about these creatures we once thought of as nuisances. Read on to find out more about how to work with garden wildlife!
Deer are probably our Number One frequent visitor in the garden and orchards. They definitely have their favorite plants on which they like to chew. They are beautiful creatures, as well as peaceful. And they don’t bother us at all. We have said that we don’t mind sharing with them, but our hope is that they will leave some for us!
Deer like to chew on tree branches, as well as rub the tops of their heads on the branches. They graze on the grass, and if you haven’t harvested your apples, well, they often grab those and eat them, too.
One solution is to plant so many apple trees that the deer get theirs and you can still have some. We tend to have a fair amount of luck with that approach.
Most critters share similar dislikes for certain plants and things. Here are my top tips for keeping the critters from sabotaging your gardening efforts:
1- PLAnts They Don’t Like
Plant things the deer and other animals don’t like so much, such as: Daylily, Evening Primrose, Lamb’s Ears, and Sedum.
Garlic, onions, chives, or anything else from the Allium family tends to be a big turn-off for invading wildlife. I plant garlic and chives next to my roses.
Many herbs work very well, too, like mint, oregano, and wormwood.
An added bonus with these plants is, if you let them go to flower, they attract beneficial pollinators. So you’re repelling the creatures that are destructive while attracting the creatures that are constructive.
2- Lights On
Solar lights are a great deterrent. Since many cute, wild critters like to chow down after sunset, we’ve found that having a light-filled garden helps keep them further away.
They also look very pretty at night.
If garden is close to an outlet, another option are some non-solar lights. (We prefer the use of solar for environmental reasons, of course, but they tend to fade after a little while. The electric lights are often more dependable.)
3- Put up a Fence
Fencing has also helped us. This, of course, probably sounds so obvious. But I happen to know people who put up great fences only to find the deer leaping over them and having a hearty feast. Also, smaller critters can sometimes squeeze between holes in the fencing, or burrow under it.
Special Bonus Farmhouse Tip
One thing we did when we built our raised bed vegetable garden was to lay down hardware “cloth” on the ground. Then we applied landscape fabric atop that. Then we put the raised bed frames in place.
The hardware “cloth” is tough metal, and the holes are small, making it virtually impossible for small, burrowing animals to come up from underground. PLUS, since the metal is tough, they can’t chew through it.
We made individual chicken wire cages for each of our fruit trees at planting time. Now, a few years later, they’re not holding up so well. We will likely replace them with cages made of a sturdier material this year. (I hope)
Soap is another thing that, oddly, the deer don’t like. In fact, it really seems to freak them out. I’ve read people recommending certain brands of soap over others, but I have not found any single brand to be superior.
I think the thing that bothers them the most is the scent, so if you get a soap with a really strong scent, you’ll probably have the best results. Deodorant soaps have the most powerful fragrances.
All we did for each tree was unwrap a bar, then wrap some floral wire around the bar, with extra wire to attach to the cage. We then wrapped the wire for each bar of soap around the cage wire, towards the top.
We found we only needed one bar per tree. If you feel you need more, then just add as many as you think is necessary. They will need to be replaced over time, as rain tends to make the soap get smaller and, ultimately, disappear.
Along the lines of the soap, hair is another thing that seems to send the critters packing. I asked my hairdresser for a bag of hair clippings, and she gladly provided them! Use a mesh or burlap bag in which to place clumps of hair. Then hang each little bag from various points on your fencing, preferably at the eye level (and/or nose level) of the deer.
6- Plant What They Enjoy – but farther away
My last tip is something you may find unexpected: PLANT THINGS THAT THE ANIMALS DO LIKE! In fact, this probably should be Tip #1!
Now, hear me out.
Do not plant these things close to your vegetable garden, or your orchard, but rather, further out in more of a wildlife habitat area. In Permaculture, we use “zones.” Zone #1 is closest to the home and/or the home itself. That would include the garden areas that get the most attention, like the vegetable garden.
Zones 4 and 5 are furthest away, and thus can become a wildlife habitat, of sorts. In our Zone 4, we have a pond. And in our Zone 5, we have all sorts of grasses, wild plants, and trees that the deer and other animals find quite inviting and tasty.
If you have the space, plant so many apple trees that there are plenty for the deer and plenty for you, too!
Another idea is to plant some mulberries super-far away from our other fruit trees. In our research, we’ve learned that the birds tend to prefer mulberries to the other types of fruit. We felt if we offered them this special treat, they may be less likely to go after the fruit that we prefer!
This is still a work in progress, however, as we haven’t gotten any fruit from any of our newest trees yet!
If you have a small yard, one mulberry tree off in a far corner may be all you need.
And there you have it – our best tips for keeping harmony with the wildlife while still allowing you to enjoy your own harvest. I hope that you find these tips helpful.
Let me know how things work for you if you try any of these ideas!
What are ways you work with Mother Nature to ensure that everyone has enough?
I wish you, and your resident critters, many blessings.
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