11 Worst Garden Pests and How to Get Rid of Them
They may be cute, but birds and mammals can wreak havoc in your garden. Here are some of the most irritating garden pests and how to deal with them.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Ali Pashang / 500px/Getty Images
How to Get Rid of Chipmunks
Moles are amazing underground tunnelers that chase down grubs and parasites while devastating your lawn and garden. They may not intend to target your veggies, but they can do an incredible amount of damage while pursuing their prey.
How to Get Rid of Moles
Unfortunately, crushing their tunnels is ineffective and most moles will simply dig around live traps. The most common way to deal with moles is to either plant poisoned bait in the tunnels, or redirect them by saturating the mole hills (where they exit and enter their tunnel system) with a liquid they find distasteful, like castor oil.
How to Get Rid of Squirrels
While you may be able to eliminate some squirrels with a live trap, replacements likely will move in to take their place. Instead, consider putting a squirrel feeder further from your garden to distract them, and install baffles or other obstructions to protect hanging plants and bird feeders.
Noisy and messy, crows travel in groups and make short work of unprotected foodstuffs. They are perfectly willing to target vegetables on the vine, but they also chase grubs and other insects, tearing up your garden along the way. They’ll even rifle through your trash if they see something appealing.
How to Get Rid of Crows
You can always go with a scarecrow as long as you’re willing to change its position and outfit from time to time. Another option is an owl statue or wind chimes. The trick is to add enough variety to keep the crows guessing. They’re clever critters and will quickly learn to ignore a scare tactic if it’s not refreshed regularly enough.
If you haven’t seen a deer in person, you probably think of them as beautiful and majestic. If, on the other hand, you’ve had to deal with deer stumbling into your yard, tearing open your garden, then getting confused and damaging your trees, fence, shed and anything else in their way as they leave, they seem distinctly less majestic and more irritating.
How to Get Rid of Deer
Most deer travel in set routines, revisiting the same yards over and over again. The goal of deer repellent is to convince them to take your home off their list of stops. Most deer repellent consists of something that smells bad to deer. A mix of pepper, eggs, and scented oil is a popular choice, as are shavings of Irish Spring. Your best bet is to try a couple of options to see what works for your particular deer.
Smart and dexterous, raccoons can bypass and out-think almost every obstacle a gardener puts in their path. Mostly nocturnal, an active raccoon can make off with a stunning amount of food in a single night.
How to Get Rid of Raccoons
Because they’re so smart and determined, the best way to deal with raccoons is generally a live trap, set by you or an animal management professional. Raccoons can be relocated far enough away so that they won’t be back in your garden the next day.
Woodpeckers are among the most interesting birds to watch in the wild, as they drill into tree trunks and other wooden structures in search of insects. Unfortunately, they can do damage to young trees or even your home if they begin to frequent your garden.
How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers
Try a three-tier approach to removing woodpeckers. First, use bright deterrents like streamers or reflective scare tape to deter them. Add a bird net to make it difficult to get to vulnerable young trees and wood structures. Lastly, use bird repellent gel so that if a determined bird gets through, they won’t be rewarded by a treat.
“Blackbird” is a general term for a variety of species, including grackles and starlings. These birds will happily devour your sunflowers as well as popular garden vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.
How to Get Rid of Blackbirds
As with most of the bird pests on this list, expect to try multiple tactics before finding one that works. Whether it’s noisemakers, screens or streamers, the important thing is to put something in place when the birds first start showing up, so that they are less likely to consider your garden as one of their regular stops.
Of all the animals on this list, the cutest is the rabbit. Unfortunately, there’s a reason that the Peter Cottontail stories always involve trying to sneak into a farmer’s patch to make off with garden vegetables. That’s what rabbits do!
How to Get Rid of Rabbits
Rabbits will often avoid yards where there is evidence of predatory animals, such as dogs, cats or coyotes. If you don’t have a pet dog or cat, you can ask for some fur from a friend who has one, or a grooming station. Scatter the fur around your yard. You can also buy coyote urine that you can spray around the perimeter of your property.
Especially common in the Northeast and upper Midwest, groundhogs are mid-sized and relatively slow moving, but can do a significant amount of damage in an average residential garden. Perhaps most annoying is when they eat a little bit of several different fruits or vegetables, spreading the damage around and making an entire harvest a waste.
How to Get Rid of Groundhogs
One of the best ways to get rid of groundhogs is to eliminate their favorite hiding places, such as wood piles and low-lying shrubbery. Fencing is also an effective way to keep them away from a garden, as they will often move on to easier pickings elsewhere.
Robins are particularly pretty birds. But they can be damaging to your garden, especially when they arrive in force in spring during their north migration across the continental U.S. A flock of robins can tear up grass and scatter mulch in their hunt for worms and grubs, and they can decimate an unprotected berry crop.
How to Get Rid of Robins
Noisemakers such as wind chimes and wind spinners as well as brightly-colored ribbons or Mylar streamers can be used to scare off robins. If those don’t work, you can opt for a high-tech solution like a sonic repellent.