Rabbits, squirrels, deer, and other backyard wildlife can quickly go past the line of “Oh honey, look at the cute…”, to imagining elaborate ways to dispose of your garden visitors without your wife ever catching on to your evil plot.
Wild mammals like the same foods as we do, especially when you present them in such nice, tidy groupings in your garden. When tulips, tomatoes and sweet corn are so easy to access, why should they try to find food elsewhere? That’s where garden fences can save the day. Fences installed properly and of the correct height and depth can be very effective for keeping out deer and rabbits. But for climbers like squirrels, and jumpers like deer, unless you create an actual cage, fences are pretty useless. And fences sturdy enough and tall enough (7 feet) to deter deer can be very expensive. This is where animal repellents like Liquid Fence are very useful.
Mothballs are toxic
Years ago, gardeners would place mothballs around their flower and vegetable gardens, and they did indeed work. Rabbits, deer, and rodents detest the smell. Unfortunately, mothballs were and still are made from toxic substances. Back in the day, napthalene was the main ingredient, a substance derived from the distillation of coal tar. Today they’re made of 1,4 Dichlorobenzene, a chemical slow to break down in garden soil and a suspected carcinogen in humans. If animals roaming your garden sample the mothballs, there’s a good chance they’ll die.
The safest way to deter most animals is with a liquid or granular repellent. I’ve tried a few of them, and by far the most effective in my experience is Liquid Fence, a fact which I’ve mentioned previously. The active ingredients are putrescent (rotten) egg solids and garlic, a combination of scents that mammals – including us – are repulsed by.
The idea with any kind of repellent or deterrent is to “train” an animal away from your garden. In most cases, deer, rabbits, and the like are just wandering by your vegetable or flower garden, sampling as they go. Repellents are most useful in early spring when food sources are sparse and animals will eat just about anything. It’s also the time when you have little to share with them and every flower bloom and leafy green is precious. If you can keep animals moving past your garden early in the season, they’ll go where the non-rotten smelling food sources are. And they’re more likely to settle in and frequent areas where the easily accessible food is.
There are two downsides of Liquid Fence. The first is that it must be applied after every significant rainfall. One spring I got a little lazy about this, because we didn’t see rain for a couple of weeks. The repellent was doing a great job. But the night after the rain ended, rabbits and god knows what other neighborhood critters attended my garden smorgasbord and ate until they must have been the size of whales. Most of my tulips and snapdragons were gone and all of my leafy green veggies – every last leaf of spinach and romaine. Lesson learned.
The second downside is that Liquid Fence smells bad to us, too. Fortunately, we can only smell it when it’s fresh, as in when it’s first sprayed. After a day or so, it will be relatively undetectable to our noses, but will still be terribly odorous to animals.
So while it can get a little pricey in a rainy season, there is no better spray repellent for your garden than Liquid Fence. When you apply, it, don’t spray it directly on vegetables and flowers, as it will ruin the aroma of blooms and the taste of fruits and veggies. Spray it around the perimeter of your garden – on the border of your flower garden or on the sides of your raised vegetable beds. These are the areas an animal will encounter first, and when they encounter the smell, they’ll keep moving. Early in the season I’ll also spray it on topsoil around the plants.