The Q&A Archives: Deterring Animal Pests

Question: I had some beautiful corn growing one day and the next, it was chewed off at the soil line. I suspect it was a raccoon or a squirrel. I fear my squash, beans, peas, cukes, etc. are in peril! Any enviro-friendly suggestions? Killing them is not an option. An inexpensive way to protect a 30ft X 30 ft veggie garden? Does human hair work? Any suggestions? Many thanks in advance! Cecilia Winter Park, FL

Answer: I'm sorry to hear about your corn. Did you see any tracks in the soil around your plants, to help identify the culprit? There are lots of possibilities--birds, rabbits, chipmunks, skunks, or woodchucks--in addition to the ones you mention. Knowing which it is will help you decide on a deterrent. For the land animals, the best deterrent is fencing. One-inch mesh chicken wire fencing, buried a foot deep in the ground and extending 2 feet high, will deter rabbits, woodchucks and the like. Birds canbe deterred by stretching lines of string or fishing line at regular intervals across your garden, about 6 inches above the tops of the seedlings. It seems the birds are confused by the string and are afraid they will get tangled up in it when they tryto take off. You can certainly try spreading human hair around your garden. Some people spread hot pepper flakes, wood ashes, or talcum powder around their gardens, with varying degrees of success. You can purchase "scare-eye" balloons or hang strips of mylar tape to flutter in the wind to deter birds; inflatable snakes and owls are reputed to frighten off small mammals. Some people keep a radio on in their garden, tuned to a talk show. Unfortunately, most pests will quickly get used to any of these. Perhaps by then, though, your seedlings will be large enough to endure.

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