Friend or Foe: What Wildlife is a Threat to Your Garden?

Whether you use your garden for growing fresh summer veggies or making your yard look better than the Jones’s, you don’t want animals ruining your hard work. But you also don’t want your yard devoid of all wildlife.  Here are some animals that help your plants, and some that don’t. Knew what to watch for to give your plants that helping hand.

Insects

As annoying as the little buggers can be when you are out in your yard (or worse—when they come into your house!), insects can do a lot of good for a garden—as long as you have the right kind.

beneficial insects in the garden

Here are a list of insects that help your garden grow by eating the bugs that harm it:

  • Green lacewings feed on plant pollen and eat other harmful insects including aphids, thrips, mealybugs, scale, leafhoppers, and more.
  • Praying mantis eat other insects in the garden, helping to control populations of both good and bad bugs.
  • Ladybugs feed on aphids, scale, thrips, mealybugs, and spider mites—all of which feed on the plants in your garden.
  • Ground beetles dig through the ground (thus their name), helping to mix and aerate the soil.

You can increase the population of beneficial insects by purchasing them from a gardening store or planting plants that attract them.

Small Mammals

Small mammals, although much cuter than insects, can cause just as much damage, if not more. And unfortunately, there aren’t any small mammals that are beneficial to your plants. Many rural and suburban locations don’t have much of a problem with these animals, but any garden is at risk—especially if located close to a wooded area.

Squirrel in the garden

Small, plant-trampling, leaf-eating, root-burrowing animals to look out for include the following:

  • raccoons
  • rabbits
  • moles
  • mice
  • opossums
  • chipmunks
  • squirrels
  • woodchucks
  • voles
  • gophers

According to North Shore Pest Detective Ltd., a Victoria pest control company, small mammals aren’t just a threat to the life of your plants, they can also cause health problems in your family by spreading parasites and bacteria. Keep small animals out of your yard and garden by constructing fences, planting animal-repelling plants, or setting traps (if allowed by local ordinances).

Large Mammals

Large mammals are even less common than small ones in urban and suburban areas, but they can wreak havoc on a garden close to woods or mountains. The most common large garden pests include deer, moose, and bears.

Deer are infamous for grazing on leaves, stems, and buds of different plants, as well as for eating grass seed. Some gardeners have successfully controlled deer invasion by spreading animal or human hair over freshly seeded grass, or planting shrubs with furry leaves. Fences and motion sensing devices are also effective ways to keep deer out of your garden.

Moose and deer have similar grazing patterns, as well as large, plant-trampling feet. Moose won’t typically travel as far out of the mountains as a deer will, so they are more of a problem for cabin-dwelling gardeners. Try diverting the moose with a salt lick, or putting up a fence.

Bears, also found in more rural locations, eat produce including berries, corn, honey, and melons. They are attracted to birdseed, so it is best to only feed birds when bears are in hibernation. Quickly harvest your fruits and vegetables, and keep all food scraps out of your yard.

Birds

Nothing says springtime like the sound of birds chirping outside your windows. But the same birds that call in the spring may also be stealing your harvest in the fall. Some birds to look out for include

  • crown sparrows
  • finches
  • robins
  • crows

However, you don’t have to completely rid your yard of winged creatures. Even the birds that will potentially harm your crop can provide some good benefits to a regular flower garden: hummingbirds, orioles, robins, finches, and buntings help pollinate crops and eat pests, such as slugs.

One way to keep birds at bay that doesn’t include creating a scarecrow, is hiring a pest control company to install spikes on the tops of your fences or bird nets around your enclosures. Or you can try installing birdfeeders to distract them from the food growing on the ground as well.

The types of pests you deal with will depend on the ecosystem you live in, and the plants you are trying to grow. Before it’s time to plant, know what type of wildlife you will be dealing with. Take precautions to control the pests, and your garden will grow without the threat of unfriendly wildlife.

Erin Emanuel

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