Answer: Unfortunately, in my experience the most reliably effective method of protecting the garden is in fact to fence it off. (I have a number of gates into my garden so it is easy to dash in and out of it.) All of the methods you mentioned have been used with some success by gardeners, and there are many more "folk remedies" for animal control, but to be honest sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Your satisfaction with these methods will depend on how many critters there are, what types they are, how hungry they are, and how much tolerance you have for damage to your plants. It will also depend on how much time you have to apply and reapply the various repellents and so on. With a little experience and experimentation you will find the methods that work best for you.
With regard to the pepper sprays, if you are careful to wash the veggies and fruits (and melon rinds, for example, before cutting them open) there shouldn't be any pepper taste. Be careful, though, not to get any in your eyes accidently.
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