Rabbits, Raccoons, and Squirrels, Oh My! A Guide to Keeping Little Beasties Out of Your Garden
When you’ve spent an entire season carefully tending your fruits and vegetables, it’s absolutely devastating to see your garden completely obliterated by the work of a few furry pests. However, keeping the little buggers from getting into the garden in the first place isn’t always the easiest of tasks. Rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels are particularly difficult to exclude, so if you’re fighting a losing battle with one or more of these critters, you’re not alone.
Here are some tips to bar their entrance to your garden.
The first defense against rabbits is by clearing brush piles, tall grass, low-growing shrubs, and rock piles from around your home. Rabbits are prey animals and will only feed where they can take cover from predators. It’s also prudent to block openings beneath sheds, porches, and low decks to prevent them from sheltering there.
A perimeter fence around the garden is the best way to exclude rabbits. It should rise to a height of at least two feet, but three or four is better. Bury it three to six inches below the ground and turn part of the buried portion out away from the plants to prevent burrowing.
If you don’t want to build a perimeter fence, place chicken wire with one-inch or smaller mesh over young plants, and form a cylinder with it around larger plants. Be sure to anchor it to the ground in order to keep it from simply being pushed aside.
Raccoons can climb, dig, and flat out calculate their way into your garden. The only way to get rid of raccoons is through some serious fencing — traditional fencing won’t do. To create a raccoon proof fence, start with a six to eight foot solid privacy fence. Bury the fencing at least six inches deep to prevent digging. Next, install three to five electric wires at an interval of three to four inches — starting close to the ground and spaced six to eight inches out from the solid fence. Run one or two more electric wires across the top of the solid fence.
It’s important to make sure there are no trees or outbuilding near the fence, or the raccoons will simply use those as a way to avoid the fence.
Squirrels often prove that the best defense is a good offense. Hang a feeder filled with sunflower seeds, walnuts, or other squirrel-friendly foods, a good distance from your vegetable garden. You’ll find that most squirrels are far happier to go for an easy meal rather than scavenge in your garden.
That being said, squirrels seem to get a real kick out of digging up bulbs. Plant your bulbs at a depth of two times the bulb’s height, and then place an inch or so of pea gravel just under and on top of the soil’s surface. Squirrels won’t dig through sharp gravel.
While the extra expense of reliable fencing and squirrel treats isn’t exactly fun to shell out, it’s far preferable to dealing with the loss of your entire harvest. As gardeners, tenders of the earth, it’s our job to find a way to coexist with wildlife — rather than eliminating animals we see as a problem. This may not always be the simplest of tasks, but it’s certainly the right thing to do.
Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.