With critters ranging from racoons and skunks to rabbit, deer, fox and coyote, there’s more wildlife than ever to contend with in your backyard.
Remember when the biggest menace going was squirrels digging up spring bulbs? Now there are all manner of wild animals roaming the area and that can spell trouble for you and for your yard.
Don’t Encourage Them
The first and best thing you can do is make sure that your home and yard aren’t interesting to animals, as a source of food. In the City of Mississauga, it’s illegal to intentionally feed wildlife but you could be inviting them to your yard and not even realize it.
Whether directly, by leaving garbage in unsecured containers, or indirectly by not limiting access to plants that interest them, once they’ve arrived, they’re hard to get rid of. If your garden is a ready source of food for wild animals, they’ll get into the habit of visiting and lose some of their natural ability to forage.
Eliminating odours that attract them is a good start. Spray wash your garbage cans and recycling bins every once in a while, to get rid of too many lingering odours. Make sure your compost container is well secured as well, with a solid lid, as the odours from these may attract some animals like raccoon.
A few other tips?
- Clean BBQ grills after use.
- Keep wood piles away from your house, as they are perfect homes for small rodents.
- Don’t use bird feeders that spill.
- Don’t feed your dogs or cats outside: their food will attract other animals too.
If you’ve got a grub problem in your garden, deal with it using a non-toxic, environmentally friendly pesticide as well as regular mulching of your garden—grubs tend to prefer compact earth, so aerating properly will also help reduce the grub population. Racoons and skunks LOVE grubs and will dig up half your garden to get to them!
Make Sure Your Structures Don’t Create Homes For Them
A deck with open gaps make excellent hiding spots for animals like rabbits and skunks to take up residence and procreate. Not only will you have wildlife living in your yard, but their numbers will grow! Same goes with front porches or outbuildings like sheds, that aren’t in good repair. If there is a way for an animal to find a way in to crawl spaces under your deck, they can build themselves a tidy little nest, safe from other predators.
TIP: Make sure there aren’t already animals inside before you block off all exits. You don’t want to block them IN.
Fence Off Food Sources
If you’ve got a veggie patch in your garden, make sure you fence it off. If deer aren’t common where you are, a few feet of fencing will keep out most bunnies and groundhogs, though some may burrow UNDER the fence, so make sure it goes down half a foot too. They can get through chicken wire fencing, so use something more sturdy. You can, however, cover young plants with chicken wire to keep them safe. For fruit bearing bushes, netting can work to keep the birds off before you get a chance to harvest.
Container gardening is one way to help keep nibblers away. You might still need some other form of protection for your plants—like chicken wire—particularly when they are young and at their most nutritious for animals to feast on.
If you want to keep deer out of your garden and you don’t have a fence, thorny bushes and a well placed wind chime can help, as they don’t care for those and are skittish.
No fence will stop raccoons, unfortunately, so before you go to a lot of effort building one, make sure you have tracked down what animals are infiltrating your garden. The one thing that does repel raccoons is ammonia. If you soak rags in ammonia, put them in containers with holes in the top) and leave these where the raccoons are hanging out, they’ll go find a better smelling area to play in!
Mulch Between Plants
Adding a good amount of mulch around your plants is good for moisture retention and temperature regulation but it also helps to discourage digging, particularly by cats or rodents of all types. River rocks and other stones can also help in this regard.
Pick Plants That Aren’t Tasty
You can minimize your garden being used as an open air grocery if you choose at least some plants that animals are less interested in. Like what?
- Ornamental grasses
- Holly bushes
- Lily of the valley
- Bee balm
- Daffodils — if squirrels like your tulip bulbs, try daffodils. Squirrels avoid them so you can protect an area of plants by surrounding these with a row of daffodils.
- Rabbits and deer don’t care for strong smelling herbs like rosemary and sage, so planting those with your other flowers and vegetables can help repel the notorious nibblers.
- Rabbits and chipmunks also don’t like the strong smell of onion or garlic, so planting some of these will also help.
- Smaller rodents avoid things like lavender and mint, as well as marigold flowers.
No creature likes to be doused with water while feeding, so a motion activated sprinkler system might be just the ticket to make your garden unpalatable. If they get sprayed a couple of times, they might find your neighbour’s dry yard far more interesting.
However you protect your garden from the wee beasts out there, just remember to be humane in your choices and, if all else fails, get some help from animal / pest control professionals.