Originally Published: March 16, 2012 10:03 p.m.
The countryside around the quad-city area is full of wild mammals. However, judging from the comments of customers coming into the garden center, you would think that animals have taken over our neighborhood gardens! Having had farms in Cottonwood and Skull Valley, I've had to contend with javelinas, bears, lions, deer, and even elk, and I'm glad to pass along some of the things I've learned that keep those guys out of a garden.
Recently there have been several cases of pack rats, squirrels and porcupines in gardens, but the most common trespassers are deer and rabbits. Deer and rabbits are easy to keep out of our gardens, so let's begin with them. Six-foot-high fencing seems to be the magic height to keep most deer out of a garden. Although I must confess to witnessing a deer clear a 6-foot fence, most won't expend the effort to leap a fence that tall. I also have witnessed a rabbit run full speed right though a chain-link fence as though it wasn't there, so to keep rabbits at bay you must use a field fence with spacings of 1 inch or less.
The answer to javelina control is electric fencing. Just be sure that the fence is about 1 foot off the ground. A 12-volt jolt seems to be the best way to keep these pig-like animals from where we don't want them. Visit tack and feed supply stores for installation help. Steve Sischka over at Olsen's Grain expertly walked me through the process.
Repellents are the old almanac farmer's remedy to keeping vermin off the farm. I had an organic farmer in California help me put together two new organic foods that not only feed the landscape but also repel animals from the garden. The key ingredients to these two foods are blood meal, meat meal and a little bone meal.
These meals are components of my new "Fruit & Berry Food" and "Tomato & Vegetable Food." These purely organic plant foods not only send nutrition deep down to our plants' roots, but they also emit the smell of a fresh kill that sends terror into the minds of smaller mammals. The message you'll be conveying to prospective invaders is, "I just killed your buddy, and if you enter to munch this part of my garden, the same can happen to you!"
These two organic foods have been pelletized so they are easy to apply to the garden. Unfortunately, an organic food's effectiveness is short-lived. That's because it is a dry product and water causes it to break down quickly. Although this necessitates frequent re-applications, the garden repeatedly reaps the benefits of a first-rate plant food.
For decades, old-time farmers have used castor oil blended with the smell of garlic and the taste of rotten eggs to keep vermin out of their gardens. Those are the main ingredients of my animal repellent "Repels-All." It has proven itself an easy-to-use animal repellent; local gardeners keep coming back for it. I even have had reports that it works on javelinas. Although no promises are made when it comes to these obstinate creatures, several customers have said that for months after using "Repels-All" javelinas haven't bothered their gardens. That is welcome news.
"Repels-All" also does a good job against cats and dogs that might roam the neighborhood looking for a new place to poop and mark as their own. 'Repels-All' convinces the animals eyeing your garden or yard that your place isn't for them!
Of course, there are local plants that resist and even downright repel mammals from yards. Next time you're in the garden center, ask for the list of animal repellent plants. It's a free copy of my garden handout about deer- and rabbit-defying plants and javelina-resistive plants.
A local favorite tree is featured as our plant of the week: the purple twist plum. This Arizona plum, best planted in spring, is the ideal small purple tree to put between evergreens. You can't miss it as it's in bloom around town now. Sporting profuse pink flowers that precede the deep purple foliage, purple twists are large enough to use as a front yard tree or as a well-behaved street tree. Design idea: Use matched pairs to flank gateways and/or driveways or in an orchard-like row to screen neighboring views.
You are invited to today's 9:30 a.m. gardening class titled "Fragrant Shrubs for Show" at the garden center. This free class is about showing off the sweet-scented perennials in our landscapes. As it also is time to add color to our gardens, for next week's class, we'll have "Flowers: The Big Bold Statement." This fun interactive class teaches local gardeners how to mix and match season bloomers to make a statement of color with style.
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain's personal mission is to help local homeowners garden smarter and get our local garden timing right. Throughout the week, Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, or may be contacted via www.wattersonline.com.