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 are generally very gentle animals. Chances are if a rabbit sees you and becomes scared he/she will freeze in place, hoping you don’t 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 aren’t 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, I’d rather let the animals eat them!
The following are a list of plants that are, to some degree, rabbit resistant:
Aucuba japonica Japanese laurel Berberis species Barberry Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ True English boxwood Cornus sanguinea Bloodtwig dogwood Cotoneaster horizontalis Rockspray Daphne species Daphne Euonymus alatus Burning bush Fuchsia ‘Tom Thumb’ Fuchsia Gaultheria mucronata ‘Mulberry Wine’ Pernettya Hypericum kouytchense Shrubby hypericum Kalmia angustifolia f. rubra Red sheep laurel Prunus laurocerasus Cherry laurel Rosa ‘Rosy Cushion’ Shrub rose Ruscus aculeatus Butcher’s broom Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary Sambucus nigra Golden elder Skimmia japonica Skimmia Spiraea japonica ‘Anthony Waterer’ Spiraea Vinca minor Periwinkle
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 Elephant’s ears, Pigsqueak Convallaria majalis Lily-of-the-valley Crocosmia species Montbretia Digitalis species Foxglove Epimedium x rubrum Bishop’s 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 ‘Atropupureum’ Atropurpureum Tradescantia species Spiderwort, Wandering Jew, Trollius europaeus Globeflower Vinca major Large periwinkle
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 don’t 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 Nature’s 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, don’t 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.
Don’t 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 don’t want your garden over run with rodents and destroyed, it is normal to see a furry face every now and then.
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 aren’t 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 don’t 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 doesn’t 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 doesn’t mean it is groundhog resistant. Remember, groundhogs are not finicky about what they eat. If it isn’t poisonous they may very well eat it! I planted dozens of Gayfeather (Liatris spicata – 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 isn’t 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 isn’t 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 aren’t very effective either. Sometimes fences work, then again sometimes groundhogs climb fences. Sometimes hot pepper wax is effective, but predator urine generally isn’t. 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!
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.
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 Butcher’s 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
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