The Q&A Archives: Rabbits/Squirrels eating my young vegetable plants.

Question: HELP!!! Last year rabbits (and perhaps squirrels too) ate 45 of my young vegetable plants. I put out fox urine, but that only helped for 1 - 2 days. What can I do to keep them away so I can have a vegetable garden? Thanks!

Answer: It's hard--the bottom line is that the creatures are hungry and you planted a salad bar in their territory! NGA's Charlie Nardozzi includes solutions for animal pests in his book Vegetable Gardening for Dummies. To keep rabbits out he recommends installing a 2-foot high fence made of 1 1/2 inch mesh. The bottom should be tight to the ground or buried 12 inches. For squirrels, try to cover the soil around planting beds with sheets of 1-2 inch diameter wire mesh. Squirrels don't like to walk on it. How to keep a squirrel out of a tree? That's a tough proposition. You can try baffles that prevent them from running up the trunk, or bird netting. You'll have to secure it around the trunk so the squirrels can't get in. Depending on how low the lowest branches are, you could wrap a wide metal band around the trunk, just as the fruit is ripening. That would prohibit squirrels from climbing the trunk. If the lowest branches are within squirrel jumping distance--or if there are other trees around that the squirrels could jump from, it wouldn't help. You can also try pruning trees so the lowest branches are at least 6 feet above ground and placing 2 foot wide metal bands around the tree trunks, positioning them so the bottom of each band is at least 2 feet off the ground. This prevents them from climbing trees and discourages them from taking up residence in your yard. Various repellents and scare tactics are generally not effective for the long-term. They need to be reapplied and scare devices moved frequently or creatures get used to them. The best method is exclusion, i.e., fencing them out, or surrounding individual plants with wire. Good luck with your garden!

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