Deer Rabbit Squirrel

How to Win vs. Deer, Rabbits & Squirrels in the Garden

Aren't they cute?  Until they start chomping away... (Photo courtesy of

Aren’t they cute? Until they start chomping away… (Photo courtesy of

“Life finds a way.”

Though furry bunny rabbits, 1/2 pound squirrels and doe-eyed deer aren’t even close to the same realm of terrifying as a T-rex, this quote from Jurassic Park is still scarily accurate in the battle for the gardens of Western NY.  Those cute animals go crazy for young summer shoots and they are surprisingly creative in finding a way to get at them.  There is nothing more frustrating than to see your lettuce sheared off to the ground, one day before you were planning to pick it.  (How do they know?!?)  So, please read on for tips and tricks of the trade to hopefully outsmart nature this season (until those pesky critters find another way)!

  • Try raised bed gardening. This one is mostly for rabbits, because they are loathe to leave ground-level — makes them more visible and thus susceptible to predators — so they will instinctively avoid higher ground.
  • Plant animal-repelling plants WITH your veggies.  Garlic, onion, marigolds, lantana, rosemary, chives, mint, sage, and lavender are all distasteful to deer and other animals, so try planting them amongst your lettuce, corn, potatoes and beans to trick them.  Even better, plant the repelling plants in a border around your garden if you can.  Plus, interplanting will keep your soil healthier.  Bonus!
  • Plant animal-attracting plants.  “What!” you say?  Well, planting clover, alfalfa or wildflowers in a perimeter outside your repelling plants will keep animals right where they belong — anywhere but in your garden.
    Dog: "Hi there!  Now go away." (
    Dog: “Hi there! Now go away.” (
  • Get more animals.  We’re not talking another rabbit here, but rather a dog or cat that is often outdoors.  A constant dog or cat presence will teach wild animals that your yard is not to be trifled with and hopefully they will move on to snacking on your neighbors’ garden buffet.
  • Spray veggies with an animal-repellent, or shake repelling granules around your garden.  Our favorites are Liquid Fence, Repels All and Go Away.  They’ve got a mix of different active ingredients including putrescent whole egg solids, garlic, dried blood, white pepper, and fox and coyote urine, none of which sound the least bit tasty.  No wonder they work.  Add a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes all around the soil for maximum effect.
This garden has two great deterrents -- raised beds AND tall fencing.  Serious gardening going on here!  (Photo courtesy of

This garden has two great deterrents — raised beds AND tall fencing. Serious gardening going on here! (Photo courtesy of

  • And of course, fencing.  The most obvious, yet also one of the most effective methods for dealing with animals.  Make sure to leave yourself an access point, and if burrowing animals are an issue, extend fencing 6″ below ground too.  Another great deterrent for just deer is to run a length of white rope around the garden at about 3.5-4′ high.  Deer are leery of the color white (the flash of a white tail means danger) so rope or any other white object (plastic bag tied to a stake?) at that height should help.

All we can say now is good luck, and leave you with another inspiring quote, this time from the battle-hardened general Napoleon:

“Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.”

Triumphing over those crafty critters may seem impossible, but we’re sure you can do it 🙂  And please share any other tips or tricks you’ve discovered over the years in the comments below!

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