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10 New Ways to Critter-Proof Your Garden

10 New Ways to Critter-Proof Your Garden

What’s more frustrating than adding flower bulbs to your garden, only to have critters dig them up for their dinner entrée? Not much! You put a lot of effort into planting your bulbs, so let’s figure out how to critter-proof your garden so you can actually enjoy it. Here are 10 tips for critter-proofing your garden. We’re betting a few of these will do the trick for you!

  1. Identify the offender.

    This is important — if you don’t know whether it’s deer, rabbits, or groundhogs who are chomping on your flower bulbs, it makes foiling them more difficult. Look for foot/hoofprints, evidence of digging/tunneling, or animal droppings as your clues.

  2. Install fencing.

    Fencing is a must when dealing with critters, and if you have deer, you’ll need an 8’ tall fence (or taller) to keep them out. (Yes, deer really can jump that high!) Or refer to the next tip for an interesting alternative.

  3. Create a 2-fence system.

    Build two (2) 4-foot tall fences, 4’ apart. Deer can jump amazingly high, but they can’t scale two shorter fences in a row. What to do with the space in between? Use it for storage, and remember to add gates in so you can easily access the area with wheelbarrows.

  4. Dig your fence into the ground.

    Critters that burrow and tunnel (Hello, groundhogs, rabbits, and chipmunks!) easily dig underneath fencing, so try creating a fence that’s 3-4’ tall with 10-12” buried below ground. These critters will start digging, hit the obstacle, and reverse their course.

  5. Select critter-proof plants.

    When you’re bulb gardening and have a critter problem, it’s important to use the types of bulbs that animals tend to dislike, such as daffodils, anemones, amaryllis, hyacinths, or crocus. Mass plant the critter-resistant bulbs, or cleverly intersperse them with bulbs that are more tempting.

  6. Plant bulbs properly.

    Plant your flower bulbs at their proper depth, and make sure you thoroughly clean up the planting area to avoid luring any curious critters to your bulb garden.

  7. Cover bulbs with wire mesh.

    Use a wire mesh like chicken wire and lay it on top of the bulb garden bed after planting. Extend it 3’ beyond the edges of the planting bed and stake it down — this prevents animals from digging up those flower bulbs.

  8. Offer other food alternatives.

    Animals are attracted to many different types of food sources, so consider keeping some unmowed areas along the edges of your property to lure them away from your garden. If critters have an alternative area to hang out in and dine, they might leave your bulb garden alone. Might.

  9. Cover your compost pile.

    Use enclosed bins or completely cover your compost piles so critters aren’t attracted to the area in the first place.

  10. Experiment with repellents.

    Look for scented animal repellents at your local garden center — but keep in mind that they need to be reapplied after rain and that some animals become used to the scent after a period of time, making that particular product ineffective. You might need to switch repellents every other month. Experiment, experiment, experiment!

Play around with what works for you and your garden, keeping in mind that you might need to combine techniques to get the best results. And remember, in the gardening world, we know that if a critter is unusually hungry or persistent, they may find a way past many barriers or repellents — but keep at it! It'll be worth the effort when everything is blooming.

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  • Katie Elzer-Peters