Imagine sitting on your porch on a beautiful spring or summer morning, sipping your coffee and enjoying the peace and quiet, when out of the corner of your eye you see movement in your garden — a deer helping itself to the crops that you spent days working to plant.
Though your first impulse upon seeing a pest wreaking havoc on your garden may be anything but calm and peaceful, there are better options to consider.
Being diligent and changing your methods often are what Garland County Cooperative Extension Agent Allen Bates says are the No. 1 ways to keep wildlife and insects out of your garden.
“The main point I want to make is that nothing is a cure-all. You do have to change your methods up often, maybe every other week or two,” he said.
Because deer are highly sensitive to smell, Bates said one method they suggest is using human hair.
“We go to the beauty shops and the barber shops and we get human hair and put
it in some nylon stockings and hang it around the garden,” Bates said. “If the deer smell some type of human activity, that will deter them for a while.”
Another method he recommends is hanging Irish Spring soap around the garden, as it contains something that deer are repulsed by, or hanging up your work clothes or any other item that has a human scent.
Bates said you can use other repellents that emit sulfur odors, like those found in egg products, but those products don’t seem to work as well as other deterrents.
Another way, and perhaps the most effective way to keep deer at bay is to use physical barriers around your garden, such as electric fences and chicken wire.
“Electric fences work with deer and you don’t really have to put them up that high if you stagger them. What I mean is set one fence up, maybe 3-4 feet high, and then move in toward your garden another couple of feet and set another one up about 6-8 feet high,” Bates said. “Deer have very poor depth perception. They’ll get stung by that wire once or twice on that fence, and if they try to jump the first one, they’ll hit the second one. They have very bad depth perception so that works as far as exclusion.”
Other varmints often seen in gardens are raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and gophers. While scent deterrents will work with these types of pests, visual and auditory scare tactics can also be used.
Some of the methods Bates suggests include placing solar lights around the garden or setting up a radio and letting the noise and volume deter the animals. But, because these critters are adaptable, they will quickly learn whether a repetitive noise or sight poses a real threat and will begin to ignore it.
“Some people will use those motion sensors attached to a water hose so when the animal comes up, their movement will set off the water sprinklers,” he added.
When it comes to insects, squash bugs and tomato horn worms are among the most often-seen bugs in gardens in this area.
“One of the main things you can do if you’re a homeowner is lay a board or something down between your rows and, during the night, these squash bugs will accumulate
under that board. First thing in the morning you can turn it over and dispense of them. That’s kind of a natural, organic control,” Bates said.
Because squash bugs lay their eggs in a row on the lower side of the squash plant leaves, gardeners can simply check the leaves daily, pick the eggs off and dispose of them by hand. This method applies to most insects.
“A lot of people will pick them off and drop them in some soapy water in a container and that will kill them,” Bates said.
If the above methods don’t seem to be working, Bates recommends using organic pesticides or insecticidal soaps.
“For caterpillars, a very good, organic product is BT. It’s Bacillus Thuringiensis, but BT is just a lot easier to say. BT, I believe, is made from bacteria and works very good on caterpillars. Spinosad is another that works very good on insects,” he said.
Pre-mixed insecticidal soaps can be found at any big box store, or a concentrate can be purchased and self-mixed, but Bates cautions anyone who mixes the solution themselves to be careful about over-applying the soap into the water as that can cut off the photosynthesis in the plants.