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How to Safely Deter Animals that Steal from Your Garden

Gardeners know there's nothing worse than having a garden full of flourishing fruits, vegetables and flowers only to have it invaded by pests. When local critters have outstayed their welcome, here are 14 ways to safely deter them from your garden.

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Garden Fencing how to keep animals out of gardenAnn Moore/Shutterstock

How to Keep Animals Out of the Garden: Garden Fencing

A fence that surrounds your garden is one of the most effective ways to keep pests at bay. Short, mesh fencing will keep most small invaders such as rabbits away, while a higher fence of at least 5 feet should keep deer out. Talk with a gardening expert to see what type of fence would be best, depending on your needs and how much you want to spend.

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cage over vegetable plantPeter Turner Photography/shutterstock

Wire Cloche

If you find one specific plant comes under attack, try using a wire cloche. These are easy to use—just place them over the growing plants in your garden to keep animals from chewing on the delicate leaves. Chicken wire can also be used; just wrap it around the plant and secure it so it creates a little protective cover.

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If you are an avid bird watcher, you’ve likely used or at least seen squirrel baffles. They are the domes that are often hung or attached to poles to keep squirrels away. If you have hanging planters you need to protect, these are a good option.

Photo: Courtesy of Droll Yankees

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Hot Pepper SauceJiri Hera/Shutterstock

Hot Pepper Sauce

A homemade hot pepper mixture sprayed on your plants will make them taste bad to potential pests and keep animals out of garden. Mix 1 ounce of hot pepper sauce (the hotter the better), 4 drops of natural dish soap and 1 cup of aromatic leaves from plants that rabbits avoid (such as marigolds). Place the mixture in a blender and add a cup or two of water and puree until smooth. Strain the puree to remove any solids, then transfer the mixture to a spray bottle and add water to fill the bottle. Spray the mixture on your garden plants once a week or after every rain. Label the bottle and store the spray in your refrigerator.

Check out these 15 DIY pest control options.

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Store-Bought RepellentsAndris Tkacenko/Shutterstock

Store-Bought Repellents

Depending on your pests, you may be able to purchase store-bought repellents that are made to work for specific animals. A popular option is predator urine. Talk to an expert at your local gardening center to see what has worked for other area gardeners.

11 Strategies for Do-It-Yourself Pest Control.

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bird seed for pest controlAlexander Mogilevets/shutterstock

Alternative Food Sources

Try providing alternative food sources to distract pests from your garden. Put a bird feeder at each end of your garden. Since many smaller animals will eat bird seed, this might distract some pests. Just be sure to keep the feeders full.

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Milk is a known deer deterrent. Mix 1/4 cup milk (any kind will work) and 4 drops of natural dish soap. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and fill the rest with water. Spray the mixture on garden plants every 10 days and after rain to keep deer away.

Use an empty milk jug as a handy scoop!

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Soap can keep deer and squirrels from munching on your garden. Skewer a bar of soap and stick it into the ground around young plants. The soap should be at a height just above the plants. You can also hang bars of soap around the garden, just wrap the bar of soap in some cheesecloth and attach a rope.

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Marigolds flowersvilax/Shutterstock

Nasty Tasting Plants

Some gardeners have success in keeping pests away by incorporating animal repellant plant species in their garden. Marigolds are good container plants, as they keep rabbits away and they don’t require much maintenance. Herbs such as mint and lavender have been known to keep pests away due to their taste. Before planting, do some research to see what plants are safe and what species can work best depending on your pest situation.

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Noise may keep some pests, most notably deer, away from your garden. Try spooking animals by hanging a wind chime near your garden or if possible, keep a radio nearby. Some gardeners say they’ve had luck by keeping Top 40 radio running 24/7.

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Plant garden tentphotowind/Shutterstock

Plant Tent

If there’s a plant that is particularly appealing to local pests, consider covering it with garden fabric. Use garden hoops to support the fabric and secure the fabric to the ground on all four sides, creating a small enclosure.

Check out these incredible gifts for gardeners.

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If neighborhood cats are getting into your plants, lure them away from your garden with catnip. Try placing catnip in small pots on your patio, or in a planter box on the other side of your yard, away from your garden.

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raised plant beds keep animals out of gardenPeredniankina/Shutterstock

Containers or Raised Beds

If you have just a small garden with a few plants, consider moving the plants off the ground. An elevated vegetable planter may work for you. Sometimes elevating your plantings is enough to keep animals out of the garden and other small animals, such as rabbits, away.

Check out this DIY self-watering raised garden bed.

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Prickly Mats fake grassSUJITRA CHAOWDEE/Shutterstock

Prickly Mats

Area cats doing their business in your garden? Keep animals out of the garden by laying down some prickly mats around the garden, as cats won’t want to walk across them. Bramble stems will also work as a barrier.

Top 10 DIY Ways to Keep a Cat Off the Kitchen Countertop.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.