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Garden Gadgets: Keeping Critters Out

by Nellie Neal

You’ve grown the strawberries, tended the tomatoes, and can boast to anyone about the quality of your sumptious lettuce. The landscape you’ve carefully tended finally has taken off with flowers and shrubs in all their glory. Then comes the surprise: bunnies, birds, deer, and an assortment of critters arrive to devour your work.  

Gardeners hang plastic owls and snakes, aluminum pie plates, and all sorts of whirlygigs in the garden to distract the birds and squirrels. They fence out the deer and bunnies, cover the fruit plants, and hide ripening fruit under boxes overnight. Sometimes nothing works. 

Protecting your plants must begin early. Fencing will keep deer away only if it securely surrounds the entire garden and is tall enough to prevent them jumping over. There are no deerproof plants; some sprays seem to repel, but must be reapplied frequently.

 Wire rings around trees and clumps of perennials may slow down bunnies and squirrels bent on a garden dinner. Hardware cloth with half inch mesh works best. Located the barrier several inches from the trunk or clump, with at least one foot above ground and four inches sunk into the soil.  

Simple window screen cages work to shelter many plants, and also can deter moths whose egglaying produces chewing caterpillars. If you’re no carpenter, find a slatted wooden crate, remove all but the basic frame, and cover it with screen or row cover material.

Garden nets work well when tossed over blueberry bushes and other fruit plants to deter birds from ripening fruit. Look for a closeknit netting if fruit are small sized and remember to tie it at the bottom of the bush or anchor it into the ground. 

Harvest timing can thwart the pests, too. Pluck tomatoes as soon as they begin to turn pink, before the squirrels and birds can get a bit. Leave the fruit to ripen on a kitchen counter; never refrigerate. Pick ripe, soft fruits like berries and figs at sunrise in order to beat the birds before they get your breakfast.



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