Furry garden pests
It's World Vegetarian Month! Your backyard produce may attract more than just other veg-friends: animals are well-known garden thieves. Here are some safe and green ideas for keeping them away.
Wed, Oct 01, 2008 at 12:27 PM
Happy World Vegetarian Day, the kick-off to World Vegetarian Month. But mild-mannered, well-meaning environmentalists, take heed: you may be shrinking your carbon footprint by eating vegetarian one day a week and planting a garden, but you’re not the only one with an eye on those string beans and tomatoes. If you want to bring in any sort of harvest, you may eventually have to kill something cute and fluffy, according to The New York Times. We certainly do not condone this, especially since many of us became vegetarians (and environmentalists) in order to avoid cruelty to animals.
Instead, there are lots of non-kill remedies you can try. Rabbits in your radishes? Humane traps can capture lots of critters without killing them. For gophers, we found this trap-specific tip here. For localized er, approaches, contact your nearest USDA agricultural extension office, usually housed in a university. But what to do after you’ve caught them? You could drive a few miles out of town and release them, but what about the extended family? Will you spend your fall ferrying bunnies between garden and wilderness?
You could always try mesh fences to keep the marmots out of your marigolds. These finely-woven wire fences will keep out larger ground mammals -- except for ones like squirrels and raccoons, which will just climb over them, and porcupines and woodchucks, which will burrow underneath. Take a look at these least-toxic remedies (gophers start on p. 26, followed by deer, etc.) from the Bio-Integral Resource Center, which also recommends electric fences. These, however, may prove a draw for an even worse pest: teenagers on a dare.
A few humane, or at least non-lethal, garden animal pest repellants, such as Mole Relief, are sold by Gardens Alive. And Beyond Pesticides says that a mixture of cayenne pepper and Vaseline smeared over animal entry points, like telephone wires aka squirrel highways, will deter zucchini death-from-above. Some say the scent of predator urine will keep the berry-snatchers at bay. Products like Fox and Coyote Urine Powder go around the garden perimeter and scare away traditional prey of these animals. But what if it rains?
The New York Times suggests playing a radio all night in the garden to drive away nocturnal nectarine thieves. The neighbors are sure to love this one, and in good conscience, we can’t really tell you to leave an electric appliance on when there's no one to listen but the wildlife.
If all else fails, appeal to your non-vegetarian friends. As Grandpappy always said, the cuter the tastier.
Story by Rachel Brown. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to MNN.com in September 2009.
Copyright Environ Press 2008
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