Protecting Your Garden From Rodents and Other Small Animals

The other day I was talking to a friend who lives in one of the Rocky Mountain states.  It seems that they have an unusual heavy influx of voles this year. These voles have killed several of his young fruit trees by girdling them.

Now, I have talked to a surprising number of people who live in my area, who have never even heard of voles, even though they are fairly common. People are just not used to growing and having to depend on their gardens to survive. If they did, they would certainly know what animals in their area had the potential to destroy their crops. I know some who try to grow a garden and if they get lucky once, they think they are great gardeners and if the garden fails, they just give up and go to the store.  So, how do you go about protecting your garden?

The solutions range from an all-natural spray, to repellant pellets, and hi-tech electronics that emit electronic sounds and flashing lights. I suspect that what works for one person in one situation won’t work for another somewhere else. Kind of like the year we were inundated with fleas and tried everything from diatomaceous earth to spray containing essential oils to outright flea-killing poison. Nothing worked, by the way. We just had to wait it out until winter arrived.

Now, if your family’s survival depends on the food you raise, it all changes. You have to take the time to learn about protecting your garden. What do you do when voles, woodchucks, squirrels, gophers, rabbits, moles, and other furry little mammals attack your gardens? I am sure your  first impulse is to grab a shotgun like Elmer Fudd and blast them to smithereens. But there are better alternatives.

Start by identifying the animal that is causing the damage and then learn a little about the habits of that animal. This knowledge is essential for putting together an effective solution.

Make your garden less attractive to wildlife. Eliminate hiding or nesting areas, such as brush piles and tall grass. Seal off access to crawl spaces beneath your porch or deck. Minimize other food sources. Covering your compost pile will discourage raccoons, cleaning up bird seed will discourage squirrels, and using Milky Spore and beneficial nematodes on your lawn will reduce grub populations, which are a favorite food of moles and skunks.

A 4-foot-diameter circle around the base of young trees or vines that is free of vegetation or a buffer strip 4 feet or more along a row of trees can reduce problems, because voles and many other small animals prefer not to feed in the open.

See also  How to Get Rid of Fleas when There are No Pesticides Available

Voles and meadow mice cause damage by feeding on a wide range of garden plants including artichoke, beet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, and turnip.

protecting your garden

Gophers are difficult to scare or repel. Castor oil sprayed on the garden may work. If gophers are a serious problem, you may want to go to the trouble of lining the sides and bottom of your garden (at a depth of 2 feet) with hardware cloth. Gopher-resistant wire baskets can be placed in planting holes before planting. For persistent problems, use traps and poisons. 

Moles are carnivores and don’t eat plants, but they burrow in search of grubs, earthworms, and other insects. This can damage the plants by disturbing the roots.

Squirrels are likely to eat fruits, nuts, berries, seedlings, bark and bulbs. You can’t get rid of squirrels permanently. You can try deterrents, like spraying bad-tasting sprays on favorite plants and protect your bulbs in fall by covering them with chicken wire; the bulbs will grow right through it in spring. You can shoot them with a pellet rifle, and use them for food. Squirrels can be good eating.

Rabbits eat flower gardens and plants of vegetables. In fall and winter, they damage valuable woody plants. You can fence them out, use traps, or even poisons.

Some ideas for protecting your garden.

protecting your garden
Protecting your trees with wire fencing. The holes need to less than 1/4 inch.
  • There are poison baits that are effective against most, however they pose a danger to pets that may consume them.
  • Smoke bombs and traps kill many types of pests and can be a method to help reduce the population. Trapping can also be a food source for either you or your dogs.
  • A dog or even a cat can help with protecting your garden from pests
  • Scent repellents, such as garlic clips, castor oil, and predator urine can be effective temporary solutions but they need to be reapplied to remain effective. Products made with hot peppers can deter nibbling rabbits.
  • Don’t leave dishes with pet food outdoors.
  • Don’t put your trash out in plastic bags; use metal cans with locking lids.
  • Don’t pile firewood up against the side of a home or shed; it creates a perfect place for rats and other small animals to nest. A friend made this mistake.

Just remember these small animals hate to be in the open where they are exposed to predators, so keep the areas around your gardens and trees clean.



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8 thoughts on “Protecting Your Garden From Rodents and Other Small Animals”

  1. Voles come out at night so when you spot a Vole hole place a mouse
    trap with peanut butter on it. Then put a box over it to make like it is night time. They will come out and get caught.

  2. Small solar electric fence. Run it around the edge of the garden. Put a low wire 1-1.5 inches above a bare strip of ground to keep out rodents, a second wire 4-5″ to peep out rabbits and a 3-4′ wire to keep out deer.

  3. My big problem is woodrats (also known as packrats). They come in the spring and late summer to harvest plants to store for winter. The can chew down a whole garden in just a few nights. I use plastic mesh cages for my deck pots and over the tops with bird netting held down with clothes pins. That way I can easily open the tops for harvesting. I can also lift the cages to tend the plants. – Margy

    1. It’s fall and they have returned. We used our Havahart life trap and relocated 14 woodrats to a nearby island in our lake. I have read they have a strong homing instinct and can return up to three miles. We’ve outlived the siege and will be free to finish our gardening in peace. – Margy

  4. tinfoil hat davy

    I have had a problem with mice and chipmunks. I learned the “Mexican mouse trap” method of trapping and have reduced the population substantially. Fill a five gallon plastic pail (spackle bucket) 3/4 full with water and float sunflower seeds on top. Put in a location where the rodents can see and jump in, like along a low wall or by steps (or partially bury in your garden). Leave a few seeds around the bucket to increase interest. Like the roach motel, they can’t get out. Don’t put in too much water, the critters will lean in to feed instead of jump in. I use gloves to empty- mice are big disease carriers.

  5. I have tried the good old fashion bugs bunny trap, but these vermin do a lot of damage to your garden. While electronics and chemicals can help, being preventive by cleaning your garden and making it less habitable is one effective way to prevent them from coming in.

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