Wildlife and Pests in the Yard and Garden

Wildlife and Pests in the Yard and Garden
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Living in Michigan, I've always loved wildlife and I appreciate living in a state that has so much of it. However, I'd like to watch them outside my garden, not in it! Many of you seem to have the same problem. Traps that injure, guns and bows are just not an option so we try all of the other methods that come along. I wanted to share some tips on how to deter certain garden visitors using safe methods. Remember though, depending on location and amount of wild food available to them, some deterrants simply don't work.

-Birds will sometimes pull up sweet corn as it germinates (plus I've had starlings nip off new plant growth on some flowers too). If you have this problem sprinkle lime lightly on the rows and on each side just as the corn is popping through the ground. This will keep the birds away.

A subscriber asked about treating tomato plants for mites: You can use soap sprays but they must be sprayed on ALL parts of the tomato plants--especially the underside of the leaves and then again 2-3 days later. They also are very low on the tomato near the ground-- may be attached to stem with a webbing of sorts. Watch for this and spray there too.

-a reader had read that flax would keep beetles away from potatoes and decided to try it. She planted 3 seeds in each hill, just covering them with a big of dirt. All the hills with flax had no insect damage at all! Plus the flax is a pretty blue flower that will add a cheerful look to your potato hills!

-Wormwood makes a foul smell tea that repels pests! Add a couple of handfuls of chopped wormwood to a bucket and cover it with boiling water. Stir it occasionally until it starts to ferment. At this point you can sprinkle it on the plants to repel insects on potatoes, eggplant and okra. It has a sticky residue so it "sticks" to the plants!

-The plastic lids on coffee cans or other products can be painted with honey or a commercial sticky solution, and they can be hung in greenhouses to catch aphids. If the lids are washed regularly they will last a long time and can be reused over and over.


-Spreading diatomaceous earth or finely crushed eggshells to deter slugs is a lot easier if you save your Parmesan Cheese containers. The holes are large enough to just "sprinkle" the shells or powder and you can close it up and store it in the shed until you need to reapply.

I've always loved collecting sweet gum balls (they are small perfectly round spiky balls that come from the sweet gum tree) for crafts. The kids love them too! But you can also use them around your plants to deter the slugs. Ask around, and if you don't have them on your property, someone who does would probably be glad to have you pick them up!

-I've always crushed up my egg shells after rinsing and allowing them to dry to keep slugs away from my hostas and other plants, but here is another option. Poultry graded oyster shell is available from most feed stores very cheaply, and if you use it to cover the soil around the stem of plants, it will keep away the slugs. They hate it! It's also good for your soil...unless you have a very alkaline soil already then you may want to opt for another method.


-A gardener from Wisconsin had trouble with rabbits eating their vegetable crops and had tried every solution they read about but none worked until they tried plain ground black pepper. They sprinkled it around all the plants and on the plant itself and it did the trick! Buy the cheapest variety of pepper ( dollar stores are a good place to look) and reapply when it's washed away by rains. (If you have cats this isn't a good option if they are in the garden because it may injure them.)


Deter Deer: One couple from Louisiana couldn't even keep the deer out with an electric fence, but baby powder did the trick! They sprinkled it on the ground outside the rows of vegetables. They applied again after rains. The deer stayed away! This tip was from 1984, so I'm sure the baby powder contained talc. You can find this in dollar stores and pharmacies fairly cheaply.


Raccoons are another problem for many people, both in the county and the city. First rule of thumb is to not ever leave food or garbage out in the open. They are scavengers and will be looking for food! That is especially important in the city. Motion sensor lights are something that may work, or may not---but it's worth a try if you are having problems. Also put in reflectors that will reflect the light when it comes on to give them a little added scare. Some people have had success using timed sprinklers that go off in the evening. For several pests you can try soaking rags in ammonia and placing in the areas they are bothering. You'll have to resoak, plus watch that the kids don't get into these.


Ant wars? A very interesting tip on taking ants and soil from one ant hill and placing it in a second hill, and then doing the same to a third hill with ants/dirt from the second hill. Those ants move to the first hill and they all start fighting. Within a week all three hills were empty (or dead) and the tip writer didn't see them again!

More ant tips: another person who tried it all to get rid of fire ants finds a method that worked for them! He stirred the nests with a stick, then put about an inch of Epsom salts in and around the hill. He hasn't seen them since. Do we all wish we had a nickel for every ant tip out there? It's amazing that with all the technology we have today it's the home gardener who is coming up with things that work! Maryeileen shared this with me after reading last week's tip about using black pepper to deter rabbits: "My concern is that if there are any cats around, black pepper can be fatal, or make them very sick". So, if you have kitties please don't use this method. I wonder if having cats would deter the rabbits?


Leonie asked if I could find some tips for deterring grasshoppers. I had to do some research because we don't really have a problem with them here. I saw two during the entire summer last year!

Neem Oil-mixing the Neem oil with a fish emulsion/seaweed blend. Just use the recommended amount per neem and the fish/seaweed mix, per gallon of water. You may have to reapply after three to four weeks. I found a few sources mentioning this as controversial, but nothing conclusive and it is organic. Gardens Alive has neem products:

Chickens and Guinea Fowl love to eat grasshoppers- if you are set up to have a few this is a great alternative! Also insects such as paper and parasitic wasps prey on grasshoppers. Try planting clover, coriander, dill, anise and caraway to attract these. (plus they are great herbs!). Birds, snakes, toads, and preying mantis love eating them too so anything you can do to attract this wildlife will help. Set up a bird feeding area and plant shrubs and plants that are bird friendly.

I'm afraid grasshoppers are hard pests to deter. A strong pepper and garlic spray was mentioned a few times, but it can also be damaging to some plants. On very young plants use row covers to protect. One interesting tip I read is that the eggs die when exposed to cold. So, in the fall it's important to till the soil. rake your lawns and turn over the flower beds. Horebound and Calendula are mentioned as herbal deterrents. Planting a border of both around a garden plot might help also. Gardener's Supply also carries a powder that is earth friendly.


Do you by any chance have a safe homemade spray for a shrub that seems to attract mosquitoes? We have grandchildren that visit and do not want to use anything toxic if we can keep from it. ~Katherine

First, empty ALL standing water in your yard every day. Let the kids help if they are there, make it a game, but don't allow any water sit. For the bush try making a garlic pepper spray. Using gloves and protection for your eyes blend 2 garlic bulbs of garlic and 2 hot peppers (hotter the better) in a blender 1/2 full of water. Strain the solids and add enough water to the garlic/pepper juice to make 1 gallon of concentrate. Use 1/4 cup of concentrate per gallon of spray or you can cut it in half as well. But the first batch is the CONCENTRATE, not the spray. It's powerful stuff. Keep it up and label it as you would any garden spray. Try spraying this on the bush and see if it helps. Clear the kids away first of course:)


Interesting that you should ask (about cats deterring animal pests) A friend and I were just commenting on this last Saturday. We have two indoor/occasional outdoor cats who have eliminated mole, vole and field mice from our territory so they are good hunters. Also a neighbor has two tomcats who also hunt. We haven't had any rabbits for a long time, so maybe its true that cats do deter rabbits. Now what about groundhogs? We have one fellow in our yard who eats off the dandelion blossoms which we all thought was cute. Then this morning he came right up to back porch and feasted on my parsley planter; not cute! Any tips on deterring these fellows? Traps and shotguns are not an option........... jmc

Unfortunately groundhogs are a lot harder to deter than rabbits. The most mentioned deterrent for a garden area is a fence. At least 4 foot tall, and it must be dug 6-12 inches under too to prevent them from digging underneath it. It should be a mesh type wire such as chicken wire. A state source out of Ohio even suggested adding a row of electric wire to the fence row! They are aggressive like you found out with your parsley! Live traps are another option-sometimes you can rent them and receive help with removal from animal control or the state wildlife department. If you have a nature center near by call them to see if they have suggestions also. Now, in your case, you mentioned seeing them eating--what could have happened is they started feeling comfortable munching the dandelions and then eyed the parsley. Any time you see them go out and scare them away. Try anything that makes a very loud noise--pennies in a soda can--that type of thing. If you've only seen one, this may work for you, and nothing else will be necessary. Yardiac garden center has some products that may help too.


Currently we have some discussions going on cats and squirrels in the garden, and some great advice on non-toxic methods to get rid of some common critters like earwigs, aphids and beetles. Click Here!


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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