Animals can quite simply become large garden pests. You may love them, but they can also do untold damage in the garden.
All domestic animals including dogs, cats and rabbits can be a nuisance, as can rodents like burrowing moles and squirrels. Where deer run free, they too can be a problem. And in some parts of the world, monkeys and baboons create merry mayhem.
The biggest problem with domestic dogs is that they dig – and they don’t really care what they dig in terms of plants. They dig to bury bones and other treasures, and many of them dig just for fun. Puppies are more destructive than adult dogs, and some breeds are more notorious diggers than others; Labradors for example.
The other problem with dogs is that they will poo all over your lawn, and males will make a point of marking their territory by lifting a leg against anything (even your most valued container plant), to wee.
There are numerous sprays on the market that you can use to prevent dogs from digging and from marking. Some work better than others.
If stray or feral dogs are a problem in your neighborhood, the best solution is to fence or to build a wall to prevent them gaining access to your yard. If you leave your garbage outside the property for collection, make sure it is in a bin with a tightly fitting lid, preferably stored above ground level.
At the end of the day, if it’s your dog that’s creating the problem, you might just have to live with the damage done.
Cats are much easier than dogs when it comes to garden control. They are incredibly clean animals, and while they will dig little holes to do their business, they don’t play garden games the way dogs do!
There are some plants that cats love, especially the herb catnip that they will often roll in. It has a calming effect and usually makes cats want to sleep. But your garden won’t look particularly pretty after they have rolled!
The biggest problem with cats is when un-neutered males prowl around the neighborhood, spraying, to mark their territory. The smell is horrendous (especially if they do it indoors) – and walls and fences won’t keep them out. If the cat belongs to a neighbor, point out the problem. Nicely, of course. But, chances are it will just be easier to purchase some organic cat repellent that is safe for your garden and will not harm the animal. Instead, it will just drive it away.
Rabbits and hares
Rabbits and their long-eared, hare relatives will eat just about anything you have in the garden – and not only lettuce leaves and carrots! While domestic rabbits are normally kept in cages, and so are not let loose to burrow in the garden, if they escape, they can do a lot of damage. And everybody knows (or should know) that they breed, well like rabbits! Hares are larger than rabbits and distinguishable by their massive ears.
You can discourage rabbits and hares to a certain extent by getting rid of any cover they might hide in – that is if they haven’t already established burrows in your garden. Scattering moth balls and ground limestone around vegetables and flowers can be a deterrent.
You can also place rabbit traps in your garden – and then let them lose in a rural area or woodland a good distance from your own garden.
Blind creatures that live under the ground, moles rate as one of the most destructive animals (albeit a rodent) found in any garden. There are many different types, and different sizes. While they don’t consume plants (not even roots), moles makes maze-like tunnels underground and push earth up above the ground. This makes a mess above the ground, and it often creates air pockets around roots so that they can’t get to valuable nutrients. Tunneling also provides other creatures with tunnels that they can use to get to their own underground meals.
There are various commercially available deterrents for moles, but one of the most effective home remedies is to bury dog poo in the tunnels. They hate it! It works even better than moth balls – which are reasonably effective. Somehow they seem more able to push up the balls than the poo. Alternatively you might have some success flooding the tunnels with water.
There are several types of tree squirrels that normally inhabit wooded areas. So if you live nearby woods or rural areas that are inhabited by squirrels, and you have fruit and vegetables growing in your garden, chances are they will make themselves quite at home. This isn’t a problem if you have trees (pines and oaks for example) that you aren’t planning to plunder for the fruit yourself, but if you are growing berries, apples, apricots or any other fruits that you want, then they can be a huge problem.
There is not a lot you can do to control squirrels. They are a bit like a rodent-spiderman! Walls and fences certainly won’t stop them. Look into an organic squirrel deterrent like hot pepper wax to keep them from stealing the vegetables. They seem to really like tomatoes. But if they aren’t doing any damage, they can be hugely entertaining and even a pleasure in the garden.
While deer are not a problem in most urban areas, they can be a problem in smaller towns. In rural areas, they can be a huge problem because they feed on crops, grass and certain trees. They love pretty well anything that is green and tender and they can strip a garden in a night.
Walls and fencing are the best way to deter deer, but they do jump and so your fences will need to be quite high (at least 8 ft) and angled to confuse them. If you prefer to plant a hedge, this will obviously need to mature before it will be an effective deterrent. Recommended hedging plants to keep them out include Russian, olive, holly, hawthorn and boxwood (which clearly shouldn’t be trimmed!).
Dogs are also a deterrent for deer, because they chase them off. Deer also get scared off by noise makers, water sprayers, and shiny objects (including mirrors and aluminum). There are also various proprietary deer repellents that sometimes work. Many smell really revolting. You’ll need to decide which you think will work for you.