The undeveloped countryside surrounding our tri-cities is full of wildlife. I have encountered snakes, javalina, killer bees, elk, deer, bear, bobcats, and mountain lions. Judging by the number of customers coming to the garden center looking for help to keep some of these critters out of their gardens, we need to cover this issue. I'm glad to share a few tricks I've learned that can keep wildlife in the wild and out of our gardens.
The most common critters in the garden right now are deer and rabbits, but we have seen several cases of pack rats and squirrels. To keep deer and rabbits out of my garden, I depend on fencing. Six-foot high fencing seems to be the magic height for keeping most deer out of the garden. Although I have witnessed a deer clear a six-foot fence, most deer don't bother to leap a fence this tall. To keep out rabbits, a field fence with one-inch or smaller mesh is a must. I have seen a rabbit run full speed right though a chain link fence as though it wasn't there.
Electric fences about 1 foot off the ground are really effective against javalina. Seems that javalina don't like surprises, especially 12-volt surprises. This has been the best fix to control javalina garden invaders.
My next suggestion for mammal control is an organic fertilizer. Blood meal is an all natural fertilizer for the garden that is made from chicken blood. Its smell, like that of a fresh kill, sends terror through garden-threatening mammals. By using blood meal the message you'll be sending out is, "I just killed your friend, and if you enter to munch this part of my garden, the same can happen to you."
The next solution is a messy business. I'm talking about predator urine and manure. Organic magazines specifically suggest urine or manure of coyote or mountain lion. As with blood meal, the message sent out is the same: "Don't enter this area. It is a predator's domain and you will be eaten." For several years Watters Garden Center sold coyote urine, but it got less than rave reviews from customers. I finally determined that it evaporated too quickly to be effective. So I stopped stocking this questionable product. I think it would work if you owned a coyote or a lion and had access to an unending supply of its byproducts. Otherwise, I don't recommend it.
Blood meal wears off quickly, too, but at least your garden reaps the benefit of a good plant food. Because this product is in a dry form, the more you water the faster the blood meal will break down, and more will need to be sprinkled in the garden.
Over the years the best deterrent results have come from repellents. I judge the success of a product by the number of customers coming back to the garden center asking for more of the same. A liquid product that fits that qualification is "Deer Off." It's made from rotten eggs with a strong garlic scent that deer, rabbits, squirrels and pack rats do not like.
If you need a large quantity of repellent, a more cost-effective product that's competitive with and works the same way as "Deer Off" is "Liquid Fence." Spray the foliage with this clear liquid, especially the new growth as it emerges. Your goal is to train surrounding mammals that your yard tastes like rotten eggs and smells of garlic. Keep up with the foliar spray until the animals learn that your neighbors have better tasting stuff over in their yards.
For more on critter resistant plants and methods to keep animals from bothering your yard, visit Watters Design & Garden Center and ask for a copy of my "Deer and Rabbit Resistant Plant List." Of course, it's available on my Web site at www.wattersonline.com. This topic often comes up on my weekly radio show, "Gardening in Granite" each Saturday from 7 to 8 a.m. on KYCA 1490 AM.
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain is the owner of Watters Home and Garden Center and is an Arizona Certified Nursery Professional and Master Gardener.