Garden Pest Analysis - Are Other Garden Pests Eating My Garden ? 

If it isn't the deer eating your garden, .then the next most likely garden pests are Rabbits, Rodents or Groundhogs.    Below are some garden pest analysis hints.  There is also a wonderful book called Backyard Battle Plan.  The author addresses virtually every type of garden pest the average gardener may encounter and then some.

Rabbits                  

Rabbits are generally very gentle animals. Chances are if a rabbit sees you and becomes scared he/she will freeze in place, hoping you donít notice his/her presence.

Nevertheless, rabbits can do a lot of damage in the garden. If you have something they really like they will eat every plant in the garden down to the ground. However, it is more typical for them to nibble on seemingly every plant in sight, just enough to make it ugly. They also like to nibble on tree bark in the winter.

Fences are reasonably effective against rabbits. You need to bury the bottom of the fences into the soil a few inches and the fence should be at least two feet tall above the ground. When putting fences around trees make sure the fence extends about two feet above the snow line. The fencing should also be several inches away from the tree.

The repellants that are reasonably effective at deterring deer generally arenít as effective at deterring rabbits.

I am told Thiram, a bitter tasting spray, is rather effective. However,  Thiram is not a great solution - it is poisonous; it may damage your plants; and it has to be reapplied after rain. If it were my plants and the deterrent I was applying to protect them from animals was going to damage them, Iíd rather let the animals eat them!

The following are a list of plants that are, to some degree, rabbit resistant:

Botanical Name

Common Name

Shrubs

Aucuba japonica Japanese laurel
Berberis species Barberry
Buxus sempervirens ĎSuffruticosaí True English boxwood
Cornus sanguinea Bloodtwig dogwood
Cotoneaster horizontalis Rockspray
Daphne species Daphne
Euonymus alatus Burning bush
Fuchsia ĎTom Thumbí Fuchsia
Gaultheria mucronata ĎMulberry Wineí Pernettya
Hypericum kouytchense Shrubby hypericum
Kalmia angustifolia f. rubra Red sheep laurel
Prunus laurocerasus Cherry laurel
Rosa ĎRosy Cushioní Shrub rose
Ruscus aculeatus Butcherís broom
Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary
Sambucus nigra Golden elder
Skimmia japonica Skimmia
Spiraea japonica ĎAnthony Watererí Spiraea
Vinca minor Periwinkle

Perennials

Aconitum vulparia Wolf's bane, Monkshood
Agapanthus Headbourne Hybrids Lily of the Nile
Anemone species Windflower
Aster novi-belgii New York Aster
Astilbe species False spiraea
Bergenia species Elephantís ears, Pigsqueak
Convallaria majalis Lily-of-the-valley
Crocosmia species Montbretia
Digitalis species Foxglove
Epimedium x rubrum Bishopís hat
Geranium sanguineum Bloody cranesbill
Helleborus orientalis Lenten rose
Iris Bearded iris
Kniphofia species Red-hot-poker
Lamium maculatum Spotted deadnettle
Lysimachia clethroides Gooseneck loosestrife
Nepeta x faassenii Catmint
Paeonia officinalis Peony
Pulmonaria saccharata Lungworm
Sedum telephium sedum subsp. maximum ĎAtropupureumí Atropurpureum
Tradescantia species Spiderwort, Wandering Jew,
Trollius europaeus Globeflower
Vinca major Large periwinkle

Rodents: Rats, Mice, and Voles

Rats, mice and voles are everywhere outdoors! They are the most serious garden pest of commercial farmers. Although a mouse only weighs about an ounce, it eats its weight in plants every day. Multiply that by dozens, maybe even hundreds of rodents and that equals a lot of plants!

Forget about deterrents and fences. They just donít work on these critters.

If you are so inclined, you can put out traps and poison. However, if you choose this route chances are your garden will turn into a poisoned landmine before you totally eradicate the rodents!

You could also get an outdoor cat. However, do you really want your pet eating mice and bringing them home to you?

The first thing I would recommend is to survey your yard for conditions these critters find desirable and then change them. They love raised beds, such as terraces made from railroad ties or rock walls. They scoot in and out of the railroad ties and/or rocks. Up and down between the elevations they go. Flat ground, even though it may be on slope, is nowhere near as fun as terraces and planting boxes!

They are also very partial to grass. They like to hide in tall grass. Grass also contains a chemical that makes them sexually active, resulting in even more rodents! Consequently, keep your grass short. You may even want to consider replacing some of your grass with new planting beds (just don't make them raised beds).

Mother Natureís methods of controlling rodents are birds, owls, and bats. Turn your garden into a bird sanctuary, including many of their favorite plants. Many garden centers now sell bat houses, which like birdhouses provide a safe haven for the little critters. You can even put out food for your bats in their houses!

Most rodents also prefer clay soil rather than sandy soil. However, donít mix sand into your clay soil as this will create concrete. A better method is to amend your clay soil with lots of organic matter, gradually turning it into rich loam. Realistically though, I doubt this will make a serious impact on your rodent problem.

Donít expect to eradicate every rodent from your garden. Remember, the outdoors is the home of animals and nature, not a sanitized flower shop. While you certainly donít want your garden over run with rodents and destroyed, it is normal to see a furry face every now and then.

Groundhogs (a.k.a. Woodchucks or Whistle pigs)

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks or whistle pigs, can be a challenge. They are large rodents, adults weighing between four and twelve pounds, which dig burrows in the ground. They arenít very particular about what they eat, as long as they can eat a lot, about one-third of their weight a day! The entrance holes to their burrows are also quite dangerous, as they are twelve to eighteen inch diameter holes in the ground.

You donít have to worry about groundhogs from late fall through early spring. They are notorious for hibernating. Legend has it that groundhogs wake up on February 2 to look for their shadow. If it is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow he supposedly stays outside, as spring is just around the corner. If he doesnít see his shadow he goes back into his burrow to sleep. Truth is, groundhogs typically wake up in February long enough to mate, then they go back to sleep until the warm weather.

Just because your garden is deer resistant doesnít mean it is groundhog resistant. Remember, groundhogs are not finicky about what they eat. If it isnít poisonous they may very well eat it! I planted dozens of Gayfeather (Liatris spicata Ė a deer resistant perennial) only to have my resident groundhog eat them! However, they do seem to stay away from herbs and mints, such a lavender and sage.

Other than planting mints and poisonous plants, there isnít much you can do about groundhogs. Animals seem to know when a plant is poisonous and stay away from it. If you have very young children who put everything in their mouth this isnít welcome news, as you well need to closely supervise your youngsters when they are outside. Most plants that are poisonous to animals are also poisonous to humans.

You may want to consider other alternatives, but typically they arenít very effective either. Sometimes fences work, then again sometimes groundhogs climb fences. Sometimes hot pepper wax is effective, but predator urine generally isnít. Given their size and sharp teeth, trapping them and moving them to another location can be dangerous. Some people go as far as poisoning their burrows or shooting them, but this can be dangerous for people too, especially in urban areas!

Generic Solution - Poisonous Plants

Many attractive landscaping plants are poisonous. While some are deadly, many will just give you or, your garden pest, a bad tummy ache or a skin rash. Animals seem to know when a plant is poisonous and stay away from it. If they do nibble on it, chances are they wont come back for seconds!

The following is a list of poisonous plants that can be used against most garden pests. If you have been struggling with deer in your garden, you recognize many of these plants as being deer resistant. If you do plant poisonous plants in your garden, please be careful that pets and young children do not eat them.

Botanical Name

Common Name

Trees and shrubs

Aucuba japonica Japanese laurel
Berberis species Barberry
Buxus sempervirens Boxwood
Cytisus species Broom
Laburnum watereri Golden chain tree
Melia azedarach Chinaberry
Nerium oleander Oleander
Pieris species mountain Andromeda
Prunus serotina Black cherry
Robinia pseudoacacia Black locust
Ruscus aculeatus Butcherís broom
Sambucus canadensis, S. pubens elderberry Black and scarlet elder
Skimmia Japonica skimmia
Ilex aquifolium English holly
Ilex opaca American holly
Ilex verticillata Black alder or Winterberry

Perennials and Bulbs

Achillea species Yarrow
Aconitum vulparia Wolf's bane, Monkshood
Arum species includes Calla lily
Convallaria majalis Lily-of-the-valley
Daphne species Daphne
Delphinium species Delphinium
Dicentra species Bleeding hearts
Digitalis species Foxglove
Euphorbia species Poinsettia and spurges
Helleborus species Christmas and Lenten rose
Iris species Iris
Lantana species Verbena
Lupine species

Lupine

Narcissus species Daffodil
Sanguinaria species Bloodroot
Solanum dulcamara Deadly nightshade
Solanum nigrum Black nightshade
Tanacetum vulgare Tansy
Tradescantia species Spiderwort, Wandering Jew
Vinca minor Periwinkle

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