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Critters, like insects and weeds, can be one of the home gardener’s biggest headaches. Depending on where you live, these furry mammals can include deer, groundhogs, woodchucks, gophers, raccoons, chipmunks, voles, squirrels, moles, rabbits and even birds. In addition to eating your desirable fruits and vegetables, they will leave their droppings all around your garden that make a mess and can possibly carry diseases.

What to do about them? Well, first let’s talk about what you should not do. I would avoid chemicals and pesticides because they do not discriminate against pets, children and even adults. Trapping or lethal methods can disturb neighbors and catch friendly animals as well, not to mention it is a waste of time because it does not keep more of the same animals from coming around again. (Unlike you, animals do not have a newspaper to warn them about bad situations.)

What to Consider

Before you even begin to garden I would suggest talking to neighbors and other local gardeners about what pests you need to be aware of. They may also have some good advice as to what works for them.

As we already discussed, the first thing to consider is the safety of your children, neighbors and pets. For this reason I avoid chemicals, pesticides and killing devices. The second consideration is to look for a permanent solution. Although nothing is perfect, there are methods that allow you to set them up and forget about it. These are the best solutions for practical reasons.

Another consideration is to keep your eye on your objective, which is to make eating in your garden difficult. If animals have easy access to your delicious garden foods they will naturally go there. After all, isn’t that what you do? So the best way to think about it is how do you make it difficult and hopefully nearly impossible compared to their other options.

Several Options

There are many choices, some of which have been become pretty high tech, such as ultrasonic repellers, motion-activated water sprayers, noisemakers, and visual scare devices such as faux predators. The effectiveness of these devices usually diminishes over time as pests may become familiar with them.

Other options are pretty low tech such as odor repellents (e.g. fox and coyote urine) and taste deterrents such as red pepper sprays. The trouble with many of the low-tech devices such as odors and sprays, is that they do not last that long, requiring continuous attention.

Fencing

Exclusion is certainly the most effective, long-term solution. That is why I primarily use fencing. It keeps most of the notorious pests away from the garden and can be set up once and just taken down at the end of the season.

Mesh fencing can be cut to size and stapled or tied to fence posts. An electric fences is the ultimate solution — especially for woodchucks, rabbits and deer. Though it requires an investment of time and money, it’s the best way to provide complete protection for your crops, while letting wildlife go about their own business.

Tunneling animals such as gophers, chipmunks, moles can be stopped by burying some of the fence underground as you install it. Once you have identified what the pests are in your area, be sure to consider that if you will be will be bothered by any of them.

Plastic Fence

Plastic sheets of netted fence are inexpensive and easy to install. Just put a fence post every 6 feet or so and attach it around the area you want to protect. You can easily set up an entryway with a smaller piece. You can also have a fine mesh on the bottom to keep out the smaller pests.

Electric Fence

One alternative to the plastic fence is an electric one that gives any potential intruder a shock. Electric fences work best if animals know they are "hot", so put some peanut butter on the fence as soon as you put it up in order to entice animals to get shocked. Once they do they will decide to go find dinner elsewhere. I have had mine for almost 10 years and it still works great. Even though my garden is 100 yards from the house, electricity is not a problem because it is solar powered, so I do not have to worry about power cords or batteries.

And don’t forget that your cat and dog are helpful too. If they are in or around your yard and garden they will keep many of the creatures away. There are dogs that have been known to eat garden vegetables, but it is unlikely you will have that problem.
Controlling Critters
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