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Grow summer gardens for people, not wildlife
STARKVILLE, Miss – Many of us look forward to a summer garden every year, especially after a long winter.
Unfortunately, many wildlife species find garden vegetables and plants just as delicious as we do. This leads to a battle -- a battle to keep the fruits of our labors to ourselves rather than providing a meal for the local wildlife.
Gardeners attempt many forms of deterrents to keep away the critters. The trusty old scarecrow is one that comes to mind immediately. Set up in the middle of the field, we hope that he will keep away birds or other animals. Unfortunately, this has not been the most effective way to keep food from being consumed by the neighborhood animals.
Some people use scented or flavored deterrents with some success. While these can help, they must be reapplied regularly, as well as after any rainfall.
Other means of deterrence, such as motion sensor lights, sirens, strobe lights and motion sensor water sprinklers, have initial success in repelling undesired visitors. But over time, hungry garden raiders become accustomed to these methods and take advantage of them as an extra resource, such as light to see what they are eating. If you use these deterrents, mix up the methods so the visiting wildlife will not become accustomed to your efforts.
Fencing has been used with moderate success, as well. It does a much better job keeping out the pesky humans than the agile wildlife we have around our state. White-tailed deer have the ability to jump 8 feet vertically, so that 4-foot fence just will not keep them out. Raccoons are excellent climbers, so the height of the fence won’t keep them away from your delicious watermelons.
Something as simple as hanging fishing line with old CDs or aluminum pie pans can deter wildlife by spinning and reflecting light. This could be enough to startle them from your garden space, but, as with other methods, it loses its effectiveness over time as they learn that no one is actually there watching them.
An offset double electric fence can be a very useful deterrent. Offset the wires at different heights -- 18 inches and 48 inches, and add another single line on the outside at 24 inches -- to trick unwanted visitors’ depth perception. Many people have found success with this method.
Baiting animals to an electric fence will teach them to avoid the area. A simple shock to the nose or mouth is often all a deer or raccoon needs to learn to stay away from an area. When using electric fencing, be sure to label the wire and area as one that carries an electric current that will shock anything that touches it. If the animals continue to put pressure on the garden, add additional strands of wire.
Now, let’s get outside and grow some great food.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.