Pesky Pests

Getting rid of those pesky pests from your garden

I’m not sure if anyone else had unwanted guests in your garden this year, but I sure did. Much to my dismay I had several pests who decided to camp out in my garden and they decided a subterranean stay was the way to go. I’m sure I’m like you, I was not thrilled that they had decided to bury themselves under my tomato plants.

Identify your pests

Before you start plotting your revenge on these uninvited guest you should discover who they are to find the best natural repellent for each species. Obviously we use natural options for pest control at our garden and hopefully these practices carry on to your home life too. People should consider before they start grabbing the poisons on the shelves that they are dangerous to our environment.

It’s not just pests that will ingest whatever poison, fumigant, or chemical product someone has put out. Other animals that eat the poisoned animal can be equally at risk, since lethal chemistry can kill off the predators that are trying to keep your pests in check. Also, poisons used to kill small mammals are toxic to you us humans as well. Also toxic to our pets who may decide to pick up that poor little mouse. Misapplication close to a water source can contaminate wells, creeks, and drinking water.

Regardless of the pest you are dealing with, it’s important to remember that all species do have a certain purpose in the environment in a healthy world. We should never be eliminating a species all together. We would lose the beneficial predators for lack of a food source. Instead we should seek to manage pests in a way that supports the natural balance on the planet.

Birds

It’s called ‘bird brains’ for a reason. Birds are easily scared by intimidating sounds and colors, it’s all just a natural part of their basic survival instinct. This belief in “better safe than sorry” ends up benefitting the gardener since birds actually believe that if you perch an owl-like replica around the perimeter of your veggies, that they better stay the heck away or face getting eaten by a big plastic owl that hasn’t moved in 4 days. Also the same for fake scarecrows made out of second-hand bed sheets, scraps of fabric that flap in the wind, simple foil ribbon or tape and shiny old CDs, which reflect like to scare them away. Lightweight netting also works well despite it being somewhat inconvenient for the gardener to access your own plants.

If you are trying to scare birds away, it’s important to switch things up. A scarecrow needs moving weekly and clothing and accessories changed or adjusted. Other scaring items like foil or CDs should be placed in a space for the same duration then removed and reintroduced the next month in a different place.

Mice and Rats

If you find droppings, you have rodents and they need to be controlled as soon as you recognize the signs of infestation. They carry a bounty of diseases, as well as fleas and ticks. If you think about the natural predators of this common rodent and you’ll have an instant moment of aha in terms of what will keep them far far away from your beautiful veggie crop.

They hate cats just as much as cats like them. so if you can get your hands on some recently shed kitty fur and disperse it all around the perimeter of your garden they will likely steer clear of your garden. They also not fans of the smell of fox urine, but who is? You can find fox urine in our local Home Depot or other garden supply store. The rodents won’t risk coming into your garden if they get a whiff of a cat or fox.

They also don’t like the smell of peppermint, so a few cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil placed in your garden will also deter them. Just make sure to replace them every couple of weeks. In addition to mint, most rats and mice are put off by strong herbal scents, such as basil, echinacea, garlic, and thyme. To keep away the rodents, plant a border of these herbs around the outside of your garden. Once the rodents smell them, they will think your garden has nothing to offer and they’ll turn away and look for something easier and tastier to eat.

You can also deter rodents from trying to make a home in your garden by keeping it clean and tidy. Remove piles of dead plants and garden clippings. Pick up any fallen fruit, berries or vegetables and keep your garden weed free and not overgrown will not give rodents a place to hide and make homes.

Squirrels can clean out a freshly seeded garden, leaving holes and a big mess. They particularly like peas, beans, and corn. Did you know that Squirrels have a keen sense of smell? This is why they can bury things deep in the ground and find them months later. Squirrels have a one track mind and are relentless in getting their next free meal.

Since they pack a punch in the olfactory department, it’s best to beat them at their own game. Sprinkling ground chili powder or hot sauce on the ground is one way deter them from coming in your garden. Trap and release is an ongoing maintenance practice, but in this way we can ensure that they are relocated to a place away from the garden and to a new, more welcome environment.

If you find that it looks like someone came and took a bite out what looks like half of your garden, you might have had a floppy eared visitor sampling your garden like a salad bar. They toss aside what they don’t like and continue on their eating path. Rabbits tend to gravitate towards peas, beans and beets. Their damage usually involves multiple plants in one feed. Mowing down entire rows, leaving only stalks, cutting plants clean and at ground level. These are just are a few of the identifiable characteristics of rabbits feeding in your garden. Insects will leave a jagged stalk.

Rabbits are relentless when they want to grab a snack! Fences can work, but these little buggers if they are motivated enough will dig right under any fence. Some gardeners use a combination of deterrents including, white vinegar soaked corn cobs, fox urine soaked cotton balls, dried blood (yes gross I know) and even using human hair around the outside of their garden. Rabbits are also not fans of chili powder. Sprinkling it on or around plants is another way to keep them off your plants. You can also raise your gardening beds or place netting over the plants.

Gophers

Gophers can be very destructive. They like to eat all types of fruits and vegetables and especially fond of the roots of your yummy plants. This is why they dig underground, they are looking for delicious roots to enjoy. Moisture is vital to gophers, as well as a high concentration of clay. Sandy soil may deter them from digging a home due to the potential for a cave-in and a lack of insulation from extreme temperatures. This means that they will likely seek out the preferred amount of clay and water when looking for a place to build a burrow. In an attempt to find moisture, gophers sometimes bite into irrigation pipes. Interesting fact that their front teeth never stop growing, so their non stop chewing helps keep their chompers sharp.

Gophers can be confused with moles, which is a similar ground-dwelling critter.The sure sign of gophers are crescent-shaped mounds of soil near the entrances to underground tunnels.  Moles and gophers have very different habits and diets. The signs of gophers instead of moles, include dying plants that may even be falling over or missing leaves. After a Gopher has eaten through the roots, they sometimes pull parts of plants or whole small plants into their feeding holes. Moles on the other hand eat grubs and other insects underground and won’t feed on any of your vegetation.

Controlling gophers is difficult due to their stealthy behaviour. Mulching around your plants can help, as they don’t like the taste and smell of mulch and it can help prevent them from pulling the plant down from the root.

Also Hot peppers and hot sauce cause a similar reaction in gophers as they do in us. You can make your own spicy spray by mixing tobacco sauce or any other hot sauce with water, or chop up hot chili peppers and allow them to soak in a spray bottle filled with water. You can apply this to the ground as well as your plants, as well as sprinkling chili powder into a the Gopher hole.

There are many gardeners that swear by caster oil. Using it either in oil or granule form is a natural way to get them to leave, as they do not like the smell at all! This also works for moles and voles.

Happy Gardening!

Mary Church

 

 

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