Steamboat Springs They're fascinating and fun to watch, but wild animals in the garden can quickly devastate plants and trees.
Last fall I planted snow crab trees thinking these sterile ornamentals which produce flowers but no fruit would be resistant to the deer nearby our house. No such luck. Almost as soon as the trees were transplanted into our yard, a doe and her fawn were seen gently nibbling on the tender buds.
Frustrated gardeners have tried many different remedies through the years to keep pests away from their trees and plants. Solutions such as hanging bars of perfumed soap, human hair or smelly clothing from trees work for a while until the wildlife become accustomed to the scent. However, trees lose some of their attractiveness with junk hanging from the branches.
Probably the best solution is to eliminate the obvious sources of food and shelter around your premises and replace them with plants that are not attractive to the animals that visit you. Reputable garden retailers and catalogs will be able to identify deer and other wildlife-resistant plants that will grow in our Zone 3 - 4 mountain environment. If that's not possible for your garden, try these other ideas.
Dried blood, bone meal, and commercial repellents such as Deer-Away, Hinder or Miller's Hot Sauce spread on the plants and on the ground around the garden also work for a while until animals get used to the smell. Don't forget, the repellent must be reapplied after a heavy rain.
I successfully used a solution of Tabasco sauce diluted in water and sprayed it on some groundcover that was particularly tasty to chipmunks last fall. The remaining buds on the snow crab trees were salvaged the same way by spraying the branches with my hot sauce solution.
Another way to protect young trees from wildlife damage is by wrapping them with a protective coating for the winter and keeping mulch at least 3 feet away from the trunk so small animals won't make a winter nest there.
Deer have a tendency to rub the bark off tree trunks with their antlers. Wraps can help stop this as well as stop animals such as voles, porcupines, rabbits and squirrels from chewing off the bark.
To discourage burrowing and digging animals from going after your bulbs, seeds, rhizomes and tubers, products such as Mol-Med can be saturated into the soil. This non-toxic product claims to give the soil an unpleasant taste and smell similar to castor oil. So far, the voles have avoided my bulb garden where this spray was used.
A fence is another solution for repelling wildlife from your garden, but it must be at least 8-feet high to keep deer from jumping over it, and often needs to be planted 6 to 12 inches deep to hinder burrowing animals.
This is expensive and may detract from the aesthetics of your garden.
Be wary of solutions that include trapping, poisoning and shooting. Many of the animals discussed here are protected by local, state and national regulations.
Check with the state wildlife agency before using any lethal controls.