Safe and Natural Ways to Fight Four-legged Foes in Your Gardens

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

(ARA) - You love the great outdoors, especially gardening. But sometimes wildlife can be just a bit too wild, with rabbits munching prized plants to the ground, deer devouring petals of roses and azaleas, and cats rolling over seedlings and leaving their "calling cards" throughout your landscaping.

Unfortunately, these critters are a common, perpetual annoyance to home gardeners. Learning a little more about their habits and identifying the culprits is your first step to critter control. First, you'll need to recognize your four-legged foraging foe. Here are some tips to help you determine the critters you'll need to thwart:

Rabbits: Bunnies don't just dine on clover and grass, they'll also wreak havoc on your vegetable plants and can even damage woody plants in your landscape. Tell-tale signs that bunnies are bountiful include damage that is usually no higher than 2 1/2 feet above the ground, and sharp cuts at 45-degree angles on plants.

Deer: A lovely sight almost anywhere other than in your backyard. Deer can, and do, cause major damage to plants, landscapes and vegetable gardens, consuming about 12 pounds of foliage in a single day. To determine if your flowers and vegetables are disappearing due to deer damage, look closely at the half-eaten plants. If you see a jagged, rough edge, you can be sure the damage was done by deer as they have no incisor teeth and tear at the food source, leaving proof of their presence.

Squirrels: These furry, funny, cute creatures can be quite destructive when it comes to your gardens and landscapes. Squirrels are burrowing animals; they usually feed on bulbs and green leafy material during the spring and summer, switching to seeds and grains during the fall and winter. They love wild bird feeders and have a reputation for driving away the very birds you put the feeder out to attract. You have squirrel damage if you see gnawing marks on tree bark and outside wiring, and signs of digging and burrowing. You'll also see them in the light of day sitting atop your birdfeeder.

Cats: Cats love to dig in soft already-tilled soil, making gardens just perfect for their digging desires. Most cats think the outdoors is their litter box, and a patch of dirt is an invitation to come do their business. It also makes a great place to play or roll. They'll roll over your plants, breaking new shoots and foliage. A sure sign you have a cantankerous cat frolicking in your flowerbeds is cat droppings.

These critters don't have to be the enemy of your gardens, and trapping them won't solve the problem. The arrival of warm weather means the arrival of new foliage, green grass and pesky critters in our backyards and gardens. As spring is sprung, we're suddenly faced with long gardening to-do lists and a wide variety of unwanted animals in our garden beds. As a rule of thumb, it's far better to prevent animal damage than to wait until it occurs and try to combat it.

There are a number of less-than-ideal approaches for dealing with these frustrating problems. Messy, dangerous chemicals pose unacceptable risks for most homeowners, considering pets and children. Sealing off entire areas of your landscape would be impractical, inconvenient and potentially very costly. Trapping is a lot of effort, and again, it would be a perpetual labor as trapping does nothing to prevent new pests.

All-natural alternatives can help keep critters out of your gardens and landscape. Look for 100 percent certified organic products like those made by Messina Wildlife Management. Easily applied in ready-to-use spray bottles, these organic products dry clear, smell good and work for 30 days before reapplication is needed, no matter the weather. They're safe to use on vegetables and none will harm the animals they're intended to repel. Natural products use taste and smell aversions to keep critters like rabbits, deer, squirrel, cats, groundhogs, moles and even armadillos out of your backyard.

For most animals scent and taste are the primary senses that attract them to food sources. If you disrupt the animal's sense of smell and taste, you have won the battle against the constant parade of pesky critters in your landscapes. Visit for more information on natural, safe, effective pest repellents.

Courtesy of ARAcontent