November 9, 2022

When you consider keeping pests out of your garden, you may first think of a fence. While fencing is a great way to keep some critters out of your growing spaces, it won’t work on many who can squeeze, fly, or burrow, and it robs others of the opportunity to enjoy your hard work. However, there are ways to keep the nuisance critters away while still allowing some beneficial insects and animals to do some good.

A vole sitting on ground near fallen tree in winter.

Which Critters are Beneficial?

While it’s tempting to just try and eliminate anything you see in your gardens, there are plenty of animals and insects that are helpful. Some are pollinators, some prey on other pests, and some improve the soil. Getting rid of them can cause more issues. Pollinators are very useful to most gardens, and pollinators include some bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, bats, and others. Predators such as garter snakes, chickens, frogs, toads, and certain bugs will take care of the pests, and earthworms, ants, and mud wasps can improve the soil. The important thing is to know what species you are dealing with and how they will work with your particular garden.

Which Critters are Pests?

Pests are usually destructive to your garden in some way, either because they are eating the plants or causing other issues with the health of your planting. In general, pests are:

  • Insects: Many insects feed on plants. The worst for gardens are caterpillars, slugs and snails, mealybugs, Japanese beetles, and aphids.
  • Rabbits: They’re cute, but they love feasting on anything in your garden and can squeeze through holes as small as three inches and burrow over a foot underground. Low lying vegetable gardens and berry bushes are their favorites, but they will nibble on flowers if necessary.
  • Squirrels: Squirrels, like rabbits, are incredibly difficult to keep out of gardens. Squirrels will often dig up newly planted seeds in addition to eating the plants.
  • Raccoons: Although they aren’t always known as garden pests, raccoons will eat anything and do love certain garden plants, such as sweet corn and watermelon.
  • Moles, Voles, and Gophers: Although they eat insects, which is usually helpful, their burrowing and tunneling can cause serious damage to root systems, and voles will eat soe veggies.
  • Deer: Deer do most of their destruction at dusk. They can jump fences up to 8 feet high and love garden vegetables, as well as many flowers.
  • Crows and Blackbirds: While they do eat insects, these birds also eat seeds, especially when planted in mulch.

Critter Control Strategies

Once you know you have a pest in your garden who is causing more harm than good, it’s time to work on getting them out of your beds. A clean garden is a great first step. Many animals are attracted to material that has fallen off plants. If you keep the garden pruned and weeded, you rob many animals of their hiding places and can keep your plantings intact. Another good strategy is companion planting. Many animals attracted to certain vegetation are repelled by others. Planting members of the onion family or aromatic herbs alongside desirable plants can repel deer, rabbits, and other pests. In addition to the odor, another strategy is to plant thorny or prickly bushes around the tempting plants to make them harder to reach. If you don’t want to plant something new, sprinkling cayenne pepper, garlic spray, vinegar, or peppermint oil around your plants can cause pests to avoid your beds for a more appetizing target somewhere else. Finally, bringing in the threat of a predator, by using an owl statue or coyote urine, can give the message to pests to steer clear.

The best strategy to keep pests from destroying your garden is to be aware of which critters are helping and which ones aren’t, and to focus your attention on the most troublesome pests. Inviting birds and ladybugs to your garden can be a great way to eliminate the insects eating your flowers while increasing the pollination, and introducing a predator – even just an illusion – may help keep the prey at bay! Twin Oaks Landscape is your local lawn and garden design experts. To learn more about our seasonal services, contact us today!