David enjoying the company of garden varmints. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Keeping unwanted varmints out of the garden

Animals seem to think we planted our gardens just for them.

By Mary Lowther

Animals seem to think we planted our gardens just for them. Cats, dogs, deer, raccoons and even elephants can look mighty cute, but when the varmints come sniffing around my crops, it’s time to take a stand.

Fences won’t keep cats out, but some folks have come up with creative solutions. One lady I used to work for hammered stakes around the perimeter of her garden and tied twine to each one, criss crossing the twine back and forth over her garden. I tried the method too and our Mrs. Premise left it alone. I did hope her continued presence in the backyard would keep pesky birds from pecking out every last seed I’d planted, but the interlopers quickly got used to her Buddha imitation and went about cleaning out any new crop sown.

Cats don’t like the scent of citrus fruit or coffee, so a sprinkling of orange peels and coffee grounds around the garden just might do the trick. They also don’t like the flowering plants, Herb O’ Grace, marigolds and pennyroyal.

One could also make a space devoted to a cat’s ablutions and pile soft sand or dirt in a specific area designed to be a cat restroom. They prefer to dig in a soft pile anyway, and if miscanthus or catnip were grown alongside, the cat might be attracted and keep using the spot. Perhaps a magazine rack with a little reading material might help too.

Short of installing a fence, how can one keep her own dog out of the garden? One could make a garlic/pepper/onion brew and pour the solution wherever the dog is unwanted. Admittedly, no concoction has had any effect on our dog, so we installed a fence, limiting Monkey to a small section of the yard. Author Marjorie Woodhouse claims that dogs can be trained to keep out of gardens, and maybe I just lack the patience to teach Monkey, or, perhaps Monkey is an old dog and this would be a new trick.

We’ve never had a problem with raccoons in the garden, although I’ve seen one or two walk along the top of the fence from time to time, trying to catch those pesky birds that just sit there till the last minute, taunting and jeering at the bandits. For awhile, raccoons were using a corner of the yard as their restroom, but a few good sprays of hot sauce in the area nipped that in the bud.

Deer can be kept out in a number of ways, but bars of soap hung nearby and rosemary planted as a deterrent are not two of them, regardless of what anyone says. Fences work, and not only the strong kind. Apparently deer don’t like small enclosed spaces, and I’ve seen one of those orange plastic mesh snow fences do the job. Some books recommend buying powdered tiger’s urine, diluting that and spreading it around the perimeter, but that’s expensive! Why spend the money when human urine will do the trick very well? Dilute it to the strength of 10 to one with water and sprinkle it around the perimeter. When we did that at an allotment garden I worked at, we used a stick to delineate where we started and stopped. I mentioned this method to a fellow I knew who was having problems with deer in his back yard, so he followed this routine, explaining to his wife that he HAD to drink all that beer to keep the critters out. He thanked me for my suggestion.

And how do I keep elephants out? Perhaps it’s the herbs I planted out front, and I’m going to keep it up because it’s worked so far.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening

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