Animals and the problems they create in the garden.

It's typical you just get your prize specimen plant to finally flower and some creature decides to have it for breakfast. Below you will see some suggestions of how to protect your blooms.

Table: A list of animals, the problems they cause and possible solutions.
Animal Symptoms Suggestion
Deer General damage to new shoots and plants. Fleshly leaved plants and flowers disappearing overnight. Deterrents
  • Plastic carrier bags on the end of plant supports.
  • Wire netting.
  • Fence at least 6 foot high and of a close mesh (I still had a muntjac deer squeezing through stock fencing, which has a 6in gap!! I ran a length of cheep chain link against the stock fencing which solved the problem).
  • CD's tied to fishing line and hung from trees, deer see a flash of light and thinking that it's the tail of another fleeing deer are frightened off.
  • Bars of perfumed soap or wood preservative/human urine (good luck with that one) soaked rags hung where the deer are entering the garden. Deer use their sense of smell as an early warning system, if there is something with a strong odour that will impede this sense, they will likely go elsewhere, where they feel safer.
Plants that deer don't like:-
  • Rhododendrons, azaleas, laurel, beech, heather, lupins, foxgloves, geraniums, gladiola, hydrangea, helichrysum.
  • Bulbs - daffodil and snowdrop although they do particularly like tulip and crocus.
Cats General damage to plants, scaring away birds and using your garden as a toilet.

Whilst under the Animals Act of 1971 owners are obliged to keep their pets under control, it excludes cats, which are treated as wild. Under law you are allowed to remove or scare away the cat, but you may not cause it harm.

Try some of these methods to try to deter them:

If there is a particular area of the garden that cats are using as a toilet, the veg patch for example or newly dug over soil, which seems to appeal to them, cut some holly, rose or burberis branches and scatter them loosely over the soil, the cat is unlikely to venture over the prickles and will hopefuly go elsewhere.

Keep a super soaker waterpistol to hand and squirt the cat when you see it. After a few drenchings it should get the message.

Cats don't like the smell of moth balls, so hang some of these where the cat is entering the garden, or where the cat is using a particular area of your garden. Pepper powder or orange/lemon peel will have a similar effect, although the smell from them will fade over time.

The American television show "Mythbusters" recently debunked the theory about mirrors and filled water bottles detering cats, the theory was that cats see an enlarged reflection and think they are entering a larger cats territory. They also went on to prove that lion poo, placed around the garden, whilst actually smelling worse than the cat poo, didn't deter the cats either.

Whilst I haven't actually tried the Contech Scarecrow, as I don't seem to be having any cat problems at the moment, it does get some good reviews on Amazon.

A YouTube video of it in action is available here Contech Scarecrow Sprinkler.

Heron Eating of fish and other pond wildlife A heron can clear a pond of fish very quickly, I should know - I lost 50 odd in one go!!
  • Cover the pond with netting, or if you have small children that visit the garden, install a steel grate over the pond
  • Place a decoy heron in or around the pond, herons are territorial and will be discouraged from landing, if they see a bird already feeding.
    Move the decoy regularly, herons will realise that it is a decoy if it doesn't move.
  • Fishing line supported 18" above the surface of the pond, will discourage herons from feeding from your pond. Herons land and walk into the water, they do not like anything touching their legs.

Herons, like other wild birds, are protected. Please do not harm these beautiful birds.

Squirrel Digging up newly planted bulbs and bedding plants and eating food put out for birds. Add chilli powder to bird food mix, it doesn't seem to effect the birds, but the squirrels dislike it. Also sprinkle some on the top of soil used to plant pots of bulbs, small pebbles can also be placed on the top of the soil, else chicken wire layed on the surface, and then covered with more soil/compost.
Rabbit Rabbits can cause a lot of damage in the garden, especially to fruit and vegetables, newly planted or young trees and fresh spring growth. They can also dig holes in the lawn and borders.Notes:

They were first introduced into Britain by the Romans as a food source. They feed between dusk and dawn, hiding from predators during the day. The females produce litters up to 4 times per year with litter sizes of 3 to 6 young.

Without doing the rabbits harm by trapping. The only effective method of control is a physical barrier. If your garden isn't too big, use a close mesh (2.5cm) wire fence 120-150cm (4-5ft) high, around the garden, burying the fence 30cm (12in) underground with an outward bend of 15cm (6in) to stop the rabbits digging under it. If your garden is bigger than would be economical viable to fence, erect a fence around the areas that are being attacted, around the veg patch, particular shrubs or young trees.
Wood pigeon

They will eat most large, fleshy, leafy vegetables, especially brassicas (cabbages and cauliflowers), that the wood pigeon can reach will be pecked apart and devoured. They also seem to love to sit on the ridge of my greenhouse, often making a mess on the glass roof.

The collard dove, which is fairly common and looks similar to a wood pigeon (although thinner) eats seed, grain and berries, so whilst you might need to net any newly sown grass seed, they won't attack your vegetables.

Ultimately, you'll have to build some sort of sturdy frame and cover this with netting. You can use upturned pots or jars on bamboo canes or poles to lay the netting over, but the birds seem to have worked out, if they sit on the top of the netting, it will sag and they can still get to the leaves.

Tip: If you lay a finer mesh net over the top of this netting, it will prevent the adult cabbage white from laying its eggs on the foliage.

Dogs Damage to plants, using your garden as a toilet.

Whilst not technically a problem animal as it's likely that a dog in your garden belongs to you, there are some things that you should bear in mind if sharing a garden with a dog.

Don't use cocoa shells as a mulch, dogs find these delicious but they can cause them to choke. If you are going to use weedkiller and or slug pellets, check to make sure they are suitable to use around dogs. Dogs have a similar digestive system to humans so avoid growing toxic plants, they should instinctively know not to eat them, but dogs are often daft enough to try chewing something they like the look of which could mean an expensive trip to the vets.

To reduce the brown patches on the lawn, caused by the dog's urine, add a desert spoon of good quality tomato ketchup to the dog's evening meal.

To reduce the brown patches on the lawn, caused by the dog's urine, add a desert spoon of good quality tomato ketchup to the dog's evening meal.

Other gardening pest and disease pages: