Pest Patrol

By Catherine McNulty

January 24, 2013 5 min read

Are you at the mercy of rodents and pests taking over what should otherwise be your sanctuary, your garden? Do not be the Wile E. Coyote to the Roadrunner-esque pests and rodents that can destroy your garden! To form an effective plan of attack, first you must identify what you are dealing with. Before you pick up the phone and call a professional, why not try to get rid of them yourself?

A lot of specialists will automatically recommend poisons and pesticides. While these are very effective, they can also be damaging to the environment, pets and family members. When going this route, contact a professional, do as much research as possible and follow all directions.

There are certain tips that work for many different types of pests: Research what you're planting and see what feeds on it. If you have the same tastes as deer and they live in your area, you can expect to find deer rummaging through what they consider a spring buffet. In this instance, it's best to keep deer favorites near the house and make a natural border with plants they don't like. For example, deer rely heavily on smell when feeding and don't like strong smells. Plant things like chives and mint around the edges of your garden to discourage them. Often, you just have to make your garden less appealing and harder to forage in than your neighbors. If you don't want those herbs in your garden, there are many homemade anti-deer remedy recipes available online. Just remember, you may have to suffer through the smell, as well.

While deer may be a suburban and rural scourge to gardens, rats and mice are more likely to destroy urban gardens. Rats and mice are sneaky and hard to get rid of; they burrow under fences, will eat almost anything, are not bothered by smells the way deer are and breed like crazy.

If you have a small enough garden, you can surround it by chicken wire. Bury the wire about 2 feet into the ground to discourage burrowing. It might be unattractive, yes, but it is effective. Rats and mice rarely stay in the garden; once they breach that space, there's no stopping them from taking over your house. Prevention is your friend. If you live in an area know to have rats and mice, make sure you keep your garbage securely covered (keep your compost securing covered, as well) and fill any rat and mouse friendly holes in your garage, attic and basement. Keeping out pests now is easier than evicting later.

Moles, another tunneling pest, are unlike rats and mice in that they are strictly carnivorous and not after your plants. Moles live off of a diet of earthworms and insects and, if you can stand the unsightly tunnels they create on your lawn, can actually be quite beneficial to a garden. Moles are attracted to water, so if you notice moles taking up residence at your place while ignoring your neighbors, it may be that you are overwatering. If you do want to remove them, traps seem to be the easiest way. This, however, can treat the symptom but not the real problem, as other moles can move in to the vacated mole holes.

If you have a large population of rats, mice, moles, voles and squirrels, one cure is constructing an owl habitat. These birds of prey love dining on rodent-sized vertebrae and will help clean up an existing problem while deterring new arrivals. There is no guarantee that an owl will want to move in, and you could find limited success with prominently displayed plastic owls.

What if nothing is helping? What if you cannot muster the time or the energy to fully commit to ridding your garden of whatever plagues it? Are you destined to have a garden overrun with pests and nothing to show for it? Of course not, but it won't be cheap.

Now is the time to call the professionals. The cost will vary greatly depending on what area you live in, the extent of the problem, and finding someone with that area of expertise. Many experts will offer guarantees, be sure to read the fine print to make sure it is worthwhile. As stated before, many professionals are licensed to use chemicals against pests. Be sure to find out how it can affect your family, your pets and your environment. Sometimes the cure is worse than the problem.

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