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Organic Gardening: Dealing with Animals

One of the challenges of organic gardening is dealing with animals. Here are some of the steps we’ve taken to protect our organic garden.

organic gardening

We have been planting a garden in these planters for several years, but our organic plants must be especially tempting to animals, because they are eating our plants, for the first time ever! We have done organic gardening with heirloom seeds in previous years; this was my first year planting organic seedlings.

The photo above is my garden in the morning; the photo below is a few hours later:

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I knew the animals would go after the Swiss chard, but I was surprised when they went after the flowers (which were actually planted to deter pests) and ALL of my pea plants! I think they actually do not like the flowers, because they dug them up this morning (I replanted them). I have planted the peas every year, and this is the first time they have been eaten like this! Then, this morning, some animal ate the tomato plant in this planter (they did not touch the plants in the other planter), which I have always understood that animals aren’t supposed to ever touch! At least the tomato plant we reserved for the kids to build a fairy village is untouched, possibly because it is in a pot near the house:

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Our blueberry bush is also fine:

blueberry blossoms

And our strawberry blossoms are also beautiful!

strawberry blossoms

I’m contemplating covering our strawberries and blueberries in protective mesh, since we usually do have animals stealing the berries once they approach ripeness – have any readers ever tried it?

I read about chopping citrus rinds to keep critters away, but our animals seem to think that it’s worth working around the smell – I found a wild turkey sitting in our garden a few minutes after I spread it on the garden!

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We’ve actually seen as many as three at a time, which is a record in the many years we have lived here. Maybe that is our problem?

At least the kids think the bunnies are adorable! I’m contemplating pop-open plant protection tents, but somebody burrowed into our garden, and no fences can prevent that!

animal burrowing in the garden

I planted peas in containers near the house, and they are doing all right. I’m grateful that I followed my gardening sister’s advice to plant a lot in different ways in hopes that something could survive! We have baby carrots growing, too.

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How do you deal with animals in your garden? Do you have any recommendations for me to try? Should we try a hawk decoy?

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

29 thoughts on “Organic Gardening: Dealing with Animals”

  1. I generally use fox/coyote urine granules bought at the home store to keep bunnies and squirrels out of my gardens. It seems to work pretty well, although you do have to reapply about once a week. My strawberry bed does have a mesh net over it to keep the birds out. My biggest problem is bugs now. I hate using Sevin powder, but haven’t found any other way to stop them.

  2. Elisa | blissfulE

    Oh no! How disappointing to see your beautiful plants eaten. I’m so sorry. My mum tried everything to defend her garden from rabbit invasions (including spreading coffee grounds, which were supposed to be a deterrent, and even installing an automatic sprinkler that was supposed to turn on when it detected movement (she got sprayed several times, but the rabbits built a nest just about a foot away). Burrowing animals are particularly difficult to defend against, unless you put mesh under, around, and over your raised bed?? I do hope your other plants continue to thrive! My seedlings are supposed to be delivered tomorrow.

    1. I never would have thought to put mesh under, but that would prevent burrowing! Maybe for next year? I hope the animals leave your seedlings alone!

  3. I feel your pain. We have 2 house bunnies that have free reign of the garden during the day and some rather large cats. The damage my furry friends do is shocking. I had to plant my blueberry bushes in large containers to lift them off the ground as they were stripping the berries before we got a look in (they don’t eat the flowers). They love sweet peas and would chomp them down to the ground. This year I’m growing them up high and letting them trail down rather than up. I’m about to pin chicken wire over the top of my wooden raised beds to make it harder for them to get on to them and the plants should manage to grow through. Maybe I should blog all the things I’m going to try this year and update how we get on. xxx

    1. I would love to read more about all that you are doing! My first grader brought a pea plant home from school, and we planted it in a tall container in hopes that the animals will leave it alone!

  4. Lavender? Maybe that only works for deer?

    I don’t know. When I had lavender, I didn’t have any problems. Thing is, that stuff can take over. It’s almost like a weed. You have to cut it back year after year.

    But you know me. It grows well and survives through everything (even when you don’t touch your garden year after year) :)

    Good luck Mama! This is annoying.

    The bunnies are very cute though.

  5. the first thing i have to say is: i love your backyard!!! we tend to get a lot of opossuums and raccoons in our yard. there is an outdoor wildlife repellant granule that Top Paw makes. if i sprinkle it regularly, it will keep them away. the only thing is that you can’t actually use it on areas that grow food, so your citrus peel idea is much better than that. i’m amazed at how much they chewed away at your plants. i have heard though that the organic varieties are tastier to them.

    1. Our backyard is my favorite thing about where we live! It must be the organic plants tasting better, because animals have always left our garden alone!

  6. I tried some of the mesh, and that worked for the birds that were bothering my one semi-successful gardening, but no great suggestions.

    1. I’m hoping to avoid that since I want the garden accessible to my kids, and mesh interferes with that. We’ll see how frustrated I get. It’s good to know that it worked for you!

  7. We got our first produce this week (a green bean and a strawberry)! We’ve had better luck with potted plants vs in the ground when it comes to protection from animals. However, the racoons still get our sunflowers before we can harvest them. We found a small planter at our local hardware store that came with a cover (like a trashbag that comes with clips and you cut holes for planting the plants) and some watering system (something like this, though I’m not sure it’s the same: https://www.amazon.com/EarthBox-1010002-Garden-Terra-Cotta/dp/B000JUW8RE/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top). The bag helps with weeds and bugs, and the plants seem to be flourishing! It might be our best harvest year yet! I’ll post on Nerdy Science later in the week about our gardening set-up.

    1. I’d also say the hawk decoy is worth a try. I have a friend who put an owl decoy out to keep other birds from the area. It worked wonderfully on the birds. I’m not sure about animals.

      1. I just posted about our small, but bountiful, garden. I did a search and our planter is no longer available at our local hardware store, but Home Depot has it at least online. We got it mainly for the size and wheels. Now it’s too heavy to wheel, but the plants like their current location.

  8. Oh my goodness! That is so discouraging. I planted squash once year and they spouted up so perfectly only to be entirely eaten a few days later. I gave up but the garden shop suggested dried rabbits blood.

  9. Oh I’m sorry – all that work and the wildlife reaps the rewards. I know a number of things that are supposed to work for bugs but apart from fencing I don’t know anything to deter wildlife – and I agree that fencing keeps the kids out too which is counter productive. I know a farmer’s wife who used to tell her husband to just plant an extra field for the animals but unfortunately the animals don’t seem to understand what is meant for them and what is meant for your family!

    1. I love that the farmer’s wife was thinking about the animals! I’m peppering my plants this week, and it seems to be keeping the animals away!

      1. That is a great idea – chili pepper? There are a bunch of projects here planting chili peppers around a field to deter elephants – also mixing chili peppers with elephant dung and burning it around the fields. Apparently elephants don’t like chili – I wonder if it’s the same for other animals?

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