Tips from Tower Hill for Minimizing Critter Damage in the Garden
Notes from a presentation by Joann Vieira, Director of Horticulture at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 2012
Mice dig up roots and bulbs and eat them. Cats are good for controlling mice. Mice don’t like strong scented herbs like Artemisia or Lavender.
Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything including small pets. They are generally shy. Placing decoys around the yard helps as long as you move the decoys around periodically.
Voles eat bulbs, roots of hosta and other plants, and nest in standing dry plant debris. In the fall, cut plants and rake to eliminate nesting sites. They will eat the bark of shrubs at the soil line. Keep mulch 4 to 5 inches away from the plant.
The most easily identifiable sign of voles is an extensive surface runway system with numerous opening when the snow melts in the spring. There are locally 3 kinds of voles. They are the size of small field mice, dark and furry. They don’t like daffodils but are very fond of tulips. To protect them, you can fold ¼ inch hardware cloth into cages, but be careful of the sharp edges.
Moles tunnel and create air pockets among the roots of plants, causing them to dry out. Mole Med is an oily product that the moles avoid. There is also a sonic (solar) mole and vole deterrent which periodically produces sound and vibration.
Rabbits- eastern cottontail- like to inhabit stone walls and stumps. Liquid Fence or Deer Off is effective, because the rabbits don’t like the scent and taste. Egg products and vinegar can work as well.
Woodchucks primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation and can strip a vegetable garden. To protect your garden, a fence of 6 foot wide chicken wire, with the bottom 8 to 12 inches buried and leaning a bit. Woodchucks can dig and climb but like good footing. If you find their holes, fill them with used kitty litter and they will leave.
Squirrels and chipmunks- use Tangle Trap (castor oil based) onto poles, cables and feeders edge. Cut off the bottoms of soda bottles to make access to the feeder difficult. Mix capsicum (hot pepper) and safflower seeds- birds will come but the critters don’t like the heat. Attach a slinky over the pole. Avoid low feeders.
To protect crocus and tulips, plant the bulbs deep so the top of the bulb is 3” below the soil surface.
Deer deterrent- Hotel soaps (still the in the wrapper) tied onto trees; garlic; a mix of eggs, soapy water, and tabasco sauce. Sprays (Liquid Fence or Deer Off) wear of and have to be applied again. They often smell bad and leave a milky deposit on foliage. You may need to change products, when the deer are no longer sensitive.
Sources for sprays: Gempler’s Greenhouse Supply; A.M. Leonard’s Gardeners Supply.
Sources for deer fencing: Benner’s Gardens Fence Products.
You can also plant deer resistant varieties, but if the deer are hungry, they may have lunch in your garden anyway.