Identifying Deer Damage
Deer are fickle eaters and will often only take a bite or two out of your plants – especially your fruits! Look for rough, jagged edges on discarded fruit lying around your garden. Other common signs of deer include trampled plants and damage to tree trunks about three to six feet above the ground where they like to rub their antlers.
Solving Your Deer Problem
As prey animals, deer prefer to stay in densely vegetated areas where they can hide from their predators. Pruning your trees and bushes and thinning out your overall vegetation removes all of their cover, discouraging them from venturing out into the open. You can also rely on their prey instincts to trigger their flight response using your sprinklers. If your system has the option to add a motion sensor, just leave it on overnight and they’ll quickly learn to avoid your garden.
If all else fails, commercial deer repellents are a tried and true method to keep deer away. Repellents use a mixture of concentrated chemicals to mimic the smell of predators. Deer will completely avoid the area, thinking that it’s too dangerous to venture nearby. There are also thousands of plant varieties that are deer-resistant (but most deers will eat almost any plant when hungry). Here is a comprehensive list of other deer prevention methods to mitigate deer damage; however, the most tried and true way to keep them out is adequate fencing around the area(s) you want protected.
Identifying Rabbit Damage
Rabbits are voracious eaters and, unlike deer, rabbits tend to eat entire shoots of plants, chomping them off cleanly at the base and devouring the whole thing. If you think rabbits may be ravaging your garden, look for clean cuts near the base of the soft plants like flowers and grasses, and gnaw marks on the skin of any dense, woody plants. Aside from damage to your plants, rabbits also leave other evidence of their presence: long footprints in any loose soil and the unmistakable piles of “buttons.”
Solving Your Rabbit Problem
Chicken wire fencing is by far your best method of deterring pesky bunnies from gobbling up your prized plants and veggies. The fence should be 4 feet high and buried at least 6 inches underground. The top foot of the fence should be bent out, like a security fence, to prevent them from jumping.
If you have a dog, deterring rabbits can be as simple as letting your dog spend more time around your garden, especially if you let it mark the area. Like deer, rabbits are less likely to venture into a predator’s territory. If you don’t have a dog, or its smell isn’t working, deer repellent may also work on rabbits.
Rabbits are excellent sniffers, and not only do they smell the air for signs of predators, they also spend quite a bit of time smelling anything and everything they come across in the search of edible treats. Use their own noses against them by sprinkling powdered red pepper or talcum powder on and around you plants. One sniff will burn their noses and trigger a reaction to flee. Planting onions around the perimeter of your other veggies might also help since these have a very potent smell.
If you’ve tried it all and nothing seems to work, humane trapping and relocation may be your best option. Place cages where the rabbits have been most active and fill them with tempting offerings like fruits (use ones that have already been partially eaten or you wouldn’t otherwise harvest) and, once you’ve caught yourself a rabbit, drive it out to a rural area several miles away to release.
You don’t have to let deer and rabbits ravage your garden year after year. With the right plan in place to protect your plants, you can grow gorgeous flowerbeds and delicious fruit and vegetables without worrying about the local wildlife destroying all of your hard work.