Garden deterrents can harm wildlife

A rabbit
An Eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) eats the buds of a plant.
Photo by Leo Malsam / Getty Images

A rabbit chewing off the first growth of summer squash is heart breaking. A squirrel digging up onion seedlings can lead to a litany of colourful Canadian curses (son of a biscuit, eh!). While keeping small animals out of an edible garden is a rite of passage, some deterrents can create significant problems for wildlife.

Classic examples of these DIY deterrents include pepper solutions, mothballs, or chemical-based variants. When applied to eyes, skin, noses, or mouths, these items can cause significant distress – particularly when one can’t use soap and water to wash themselves.

Instead of using caustic substances, here’s a few solutions to help keep small animals away from edible gardens:

  • Fencing. Be it fully enclosed deer/bear fencing, or a low border, fencing is one of the best ways to keep specific plants safe from wildlife. Chicken wire, while sometimes effective, can be chewed through by some rodents. We recommend a heavier gauge steel fabric, secured with screws to wooden or metal frames.
  • Raised beds or containers. A raised bed (or a series of containers) will keep out many species and make creating a cover easier. Many hardware stores and garden centres sell completed raised bed kits, but they can also be easily constructed with wood or other materials.
  • Motion-activated deterrents. Toronto raccoons laugh when motion activated lights turn on, but motion-activated sprinklers and “predator eyes” may be much more effective. Moving these devices or switching them out regularly will help keep them novel to wildlife – and more efficient.

If you believe someone is munching on your edible gardens, we also recommend setting up some kind of surveillance device (like a trail camera or smart home system) to determine who is visiting. Some solutions – like a raised bed – will resolve issues related to skunks and rabbits, but additional measures may be needed to keep squirrels and chipmunks out.

Coexistence practices remind us that where we’re planting our edible gardens is likely where wildlife have found food sources for generations; it’s up to us to find compassionate solutions.

Do you have unique solutions to keeping wildlife out of your garden? Let us know by emailing or commenting on our social media channels at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn!

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