Tip Sheet from Messina Wildlife Management on Making Friends with Garden Intruders This Spring

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There is simply what a deer will eat first, and what a deer will eat later. Even harsh plant material like andromeda, barberry, boxwood and holly are, at best, least preferred to deer browsing, and selecting plants like these is a great way to start a defense against their voracious appetite.

As the warm weather moves in for good and garden enthusiasts make their way outside to enjoy the yard this spring, gardeners may find paws in the dirt before their hands. It seems like every year, more and more animals are finding their way into backyards, flowerbeds and gardens than ever before, causing homeowners more problems than ever.

For some, the occasional deer that decides to pass by a deck on a spring day or the rabbit that quietly hops through the grass is nothing more then a pleasant reminder of the flora and fauna that spring brings each year with its arrival. However, if cute animals become unwanted intruders prying on beloved tulips and roses, they can most certainly be met with equal parts of fear and disdain.

Throwing hands up in defeat or taking drastic measures in defense of gardens by erecting a high fence at the cost of natural aesthetics isn’t the answer. There are a few things to help send a message to these unwanted guests who’ve chosen a yard as a preferred buffet stop that the party is over.

Most likely, the deer in the garden this spring is the same deer that was there last fall…though this time, they may have brought company with them. As the number of predators has fallen in recent years, the rise of healthy offspring has grown from the occasional fawn to twins or triplets in some cases, and they stick by mom’s side until they can learn to survive on their own, which means as she teaches them the best spots on the block to fill up, they’ll be sure to remember to come back when they’re on their own.

The unfortunate fact that spending so much time planning the perfect back yard oasis is that female deer do not migrate, instead they will seek haven in the familiar settings of the same neighborhood year after year. The same will go for any female offspring that successfully learn to forage and survive the harsh winter. The bucks, however, will migrate for miles in search of habitat and a mate, which, unfortunately, leads to more deer to deal with next year.

To stop the damage caused by these animals call your local extension service or university to find out what native plants are the most deer resistant. After all, an adult deer can consume over ten pounds of foliage a day and there’s no such thing as a deer-proof plant, no matter what any local garden center says. There is simply what a deer will eat first, and what a deer will eat later. Even harsh plant material like andromeda, barberry, boxwood and holly are, at best, least preferred to deer browsing, and selecting plants like these is a great way to start a defense against their voracious appetite.

As for the rabbits, groundhogs and other nesting animals that have begun their exploration of the yard and ground attack on newly emerging flowers, consider their size and use it against them. Small decorative fences and walls can be a great way to hide the true intention: protection. Find out where these animals tunnel and make their nests, and then consider decorative ways to close and cover them up. A large potted flower pot can take up the space that they’ve been using in a way that provides some color to a spot that might have been neglected, while freshly mulched beds can disrupt a familiar nesting spot just enough to relocate unwanted guests.

And when all else fails, there are plenty of homemade remedies and commercially available products to help. For years, Irish Spring’s soap has been shaved and sprinkled in flowerbeds to keep animals away, but rain and watering will wash it away quickly. For something a little more professional, try a local garden center or hardware store for commercial products like Messina Wildlife’s Animal Stopper line. The company uses a mix of organic ingredients to create a full line of animal repellents in both liquid and granular delivery methods for domestic and wild animals. Messina’s products feature pleasant to use formulas that should last about 30 days regardless of weather, and the best part is that each one is 100% guaranteed. You can visit http://www.Messinawildlife.com for more information.

When looking for options to defend turf this spring, remember that while the expression may be that good fences may make good neighbors, learning to live with nature makes for a good life. By being able to coexist with the animals that pose a threat to gardens, there is a discovery of a new joy in seeing how wonderful they look in the garden when they don’t destroy it.

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Chris Beatty
Messina Wildlife Management
908-320-7009
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Chris Beatty