Originally Published: March 9, 2018 6:03 a.m.
We are new to Prescott and “something” is eating our shrubs. We have never been faced with a plant-eating culprit and need some help. Lou and Margaret, Forrest Trails
Some years, rabbits eat the foliage, and some years they don’t. Deer might take a few flowers off the hydrangea and then the following week they don’t want them. Or here is another scenario both of these critters chew, munch and gnaw on your plants like crazy but do not touch the neighbors plants.
I know you must feel like you need to hire a contractor to build a guard tower with security lights to keep your plants safe because it’s impossible to predict which precious plant will be grazed or outright consumed by deer, rabbits and javelina.
It can be heartbreaking to lavish love and labor on your yard, only to have it devoured by wild animals. Deer inflict the most damage, but rabbits and javelina will also graze and raze your plants.
Animals often spit out fuzzy or prickly plants, simply because they are uncomfortable to eat. Often called “deer candy,” rose bushes suffer much gnawing from rabbits.
Most chomping damage seems to be done in early spring. We have already had reports of hungry critters chewing on newly leafing-out plants. But keep in mind, a hungry animal in any season will eat just about anything, even plants that are poisonous.
As the saying goes, your best defense is a strong offense. Install plants that deer and rabbits don’t care for, and you’ll have far fewer nights weeping into your pillow.
Deer, rabbits, squirrels, and most animals are discouraged by aromatic plants like strong herbs (basil, rosemary); plants with spines like Prickly Pear; plants with tough leaves or plants with milky sap.
You can use these deterrent plants near your more tempting plants and animals may leave them alone.
New plants are more likely to be nibbled on than well established, large plants. Protect new transplants and early season growth as long as possible with perimeter fencing, milk jugs, or deer, squirrel, and rabbit repellents.
The best way to keep rabbits and deer from dining on your plants is to fence them off. It’s unsightly yes, but a physical barrier works better than anything else.
There are bottled repellents that are made with putrescent smelling items and animals appear to take one whiff and wander off. The downside is that you have to spray after every rainfall, which can become expensive during a rainy season. As far as your vegetable garden is concerned, nothing but onions and garlic are off limits to deer and rabbits.
Wildlife avoid plants that can make them sick. However, such plants are also poisonous to humans and domestic animals, so you might want to reject them too if you have young children or pets. Some of the more toxic ornamentals include autumn crocuses, bleeding hearts, castor oil plants, daffodils, flowering tobaccos, foxgloves, hellebores, lilies of the valley and monkshoods. Deer seem more inclined to take their chances with poisonous shrubs, though, and will eat azaleas, mountain laurels, and rhododendrons.
Because plant-scavenging animals have a more acute sense of smell than humans, they don’t appreciate heavy odors and will usually steer clear of strong-smelling plants such as alliums, anise hyssops, bee balms, catmints, crown imperials, lavenders, mints, oreganos, sages and thymes. However, don’t count on this holding true for ornamentals, with scent coming from their flowers, since most only bloom for a small percentage of the year. Also, deer apparently like certain odors better than others, as they don’t mind nibbling on evergreens or mums.
We all love our yards, but keep in mind that many wild animals are just as eager to enjoy your hard work as you are. Keeping animals out of your garden can be a serious challenge, as they can be very persistent. Happy Gardening.
Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning 7:00 am on KQNA 1130 am, 99.9 fm, 95.5 fm or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more. What a great way to start your weekend.