Keep Critters Away

Here are 6 ways to prevent pesky animals from feasting on your yard or garden.




When Mom said to eat your greens, she wasn’t talking to that racoon in the backyard. Yet he seems to have gotten the message. Many Bergen County homeowners—especially those with woodsy properties, and especially in summer—face unwanted visitors such as racoons, rabbits, deer, slugs and Japanese beetles. Some of them lunch on your garden plants and flowers; others dig tunnels into your manicured lawn. So, what to do?

  • Try coyote pee. Chain stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot sell inexpensive organic repellents specific to different species, products that won’t harm animals or plants. Some are made of coyote urine, as your unwanted visitors will steer clear if they smell a predator, and others contain repulsive-to-animals ingredients like garlic or spices. Just spritz them on your vegetation to deter the creatures from chomping (or even approaching). One caveat: you’ll need to reapply repellent after a rainstorm, as moisture washes the stuff away.
  • Get hairy plants. Speaking of vegetation, most unwanted animals steer clear of foliage that is prickly, pungent-smelling or “hairy,” so you may wish to introduce some fauna that they find a turn-off. Azalea, boxwood, lamb’s-ear, peony and marigolds are all unappealing to rabbits, while deer are deterred by bleeding hearts, daffodils and hyssop, and beetles avoid magnolia, dogwood and red maple.
  • Fence it. Another (albeit more expensive and involved) solution is to put up a fence around your property. If deer are your issue—they’re numerous here in Jersey—it’s best to install an electric fence that’s at least eight feet tall, as deer can easily leap over fences that are lower. A professional fence contractor can install one for you, whether you’d prefer it be solarpowered or plug-in.

More worried about rabbits and groundhogs? A smaller fence made of chicken wire installed just around the perimeter of your garden or flowerbed may do the trick. This should be about three feet above the ground and buried to a depth of six inches, to prevent critters from burrowing in. Or consider a “cloche” of chicken wire, which can be placed over a plant you particularly wish to protect.

  • Keep your lawn tidy. Need another motivation to do yard chores regularly? Remember that rabbits love to find hiding places in overgrown shrubs and bushes. And maintaining a relatively dry and sunny garden discourages slugs, which feed off shady, moist areas such as those on wooden planks or under flower pots. Regular lawn maintenance, either DIY or done by a professional landscaper, helps to guard against animal interlopers.
  • Put in a sprinkler. The pelting, three-second spurts of water from an automatic sprinkler system will scare away deer, racoons, rabbit and geese, and you’ll get a lush, green yard in the process.
  • If all else fails, try trapping. Havahart, available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and True Value in Westwood, makes traps that aren’t harmful to animals, and the stores can advise you on how to use them safely. You may even be able to borrow a trap from a local shelter or the Humane Society of Bergen County in Lyndhurst. If you have a dog or an outdoor cat, you’ve probably already found that your pet’s presence in your lawn or garden helps ward off potential pests. There are myriad other strategies for keeping munching invaders at bay.

To choose the right one it obviously helps to pinpoint the species that’s giving you trouble. With a bit of patience and research you can find a way to reclaim your outdoor spaces so you can plant flowers and host alfresco dinner parties once again.

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