4 Tips for Humanely Keeping Animals Out of Your Garden

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Rachael Baihn lists 4 top ways of keeping unwanted visitors from getting at your home-grown fruit and veg.

Being a vegan can be challenging and sometimes comes with a touch of irony. We choose a plant-based diet in part to show kindness to other living animals. Many of us grow our own fruits and vegetables in an effort to be more eco-friendly. But we're not always welcoming to certain animals that stop by looking for a quick meal.

Deer against blurred green background

We get it. After putting all that time and effort into your garden, the last thing you want is for hungry animals to reap the rewards.

These tips will help you keep animals out of your garden, humanely.

1. Identify the Culprits

First thing's first: Identify the common suspects in your area. Knowing which animals are trying to eat your plants will help you defend your garden. There's no sense in putting up an 8-foot high fence to deter deer when you only notice plant damage close to the ground.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst lists the common animals that will stumble upon your garden in search of food — including deer, rabbits, and squirrels — and the telltale signs that point out the guilty party. Deer will leave hoof prints and pellet droppings in the yard. They also tend to trample plants. Rabbits will devour most of the vegetables within reach, with the exception of tomatoes and potatoes. What rabbits don't eat, squirrels will.

2. Install Fencing

Fences are the most humane and foolproof way to keep hungry visitors out of your garden. But keep in mind that deer can sometimes jump over fences, and rabbits can crawl under. As for squirrels, you'll have a tough time finding a fence they can't climb.

Consider fortifying your wooden fence with bird netting over the top. This will protect your seeds from birds and keep the squirrels from feasting on the finished products. Make sure the fence is tall enough to stop deer in their tracks and reaches several inches into the ground as well. This will defend your garden against our burrowing friends.

3. Plant Smarter

Instead of setting up a buffet for the deer, surround your garden with plants they find distasteful. Deer don't care for coneflowers or catmint. Rabbits avoid onions and most herbs, and daffodils repel deer, rabbits, and squirrels. 

Another option? Go in the opposite directions and give your furry friends their own plants. Choose their favorites and plant them far away from your prized veggies. They'll soon learn which restaurant is worth invading.

4. Adopt a Companion Animal

In addition to being your best friend, a dog or cat can deter other animals just by being in the yard. Your companion animal’s scent helps convince hungry critters that a predator is nearby (even if they wouldn't hurt a fly). The animal may think twice and decide the reward of food is not worth the risk.

You can also use your companion animal’s fur when you’re done brushing them. Place the fur near the garden's entrance or around your important plants. This method provides a line of defense even when your animal isn’t present.

Gardening can be frustrating if you're dealing with hungry animals eating your plants. But remember, there are humane ways to deter these animals and keep your plants safe.

Rachael Baihn is an avid gardener, both indoors and in her backyard sanctuary, and can often be found entertaining her friends for dinner with her vegan creations.

The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.

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