Gardening Tips I Never Knew – Cool Wildlife Hacks For Gardeners

By Leslie Garner, Early Childhood Educator | September 6, 2020
Image by Leslie Garner
by Leslie Garner
Early Childhood Educator September 6, 2020

Not long ago I decided I wanted to attract birds in the front yard. We hung and filled two new feeders, but it wasn’t long until the squirrels came. At one point there were ten squirrels and we were filling the feeders multiple times a day. Of course, hubby’s solution would have been to permanently rid the yard of the bushy-tailed rodents, but not me. While they were a nuisance, they’re also fun to watch and I didn’t want them to get hurt. A few days later, my husband randomly asked if I could order him an original metal Slinky. I had no idea why but ordered two. And this is how the gardening tips I never knew existed got started”¦

Wildlife Hacks and Other Cool Tips and Tricks for Gardeners

Finding ways to enjoy wildlife while controlling pests in the garden ain’t always easy. But here are some gardening hacks that just might help:

Squirrels and Slinkys – Apparently, my hubby saw a trick on Facebook to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder by using a metal Slinky, yes, the toy he asked me to order. It only works if you have feeders hanging on shepherd’s hooks. If your squirrels are regular to the feeder, I suggest getting the video camera ready once the slinky is set up. It is quite funny to watch as they figure it out (ours were quick learners). We did have one, after many weeks, that learned a way around the Slinky trick and I’ve heard of others occasionally figuring it out as well but, overall, it’s been months now and the feeders stay full much longer. We also have an area set up specifically for the squirrels with their own food. 

Pie Pans in the Garden – Driving home on back roads where I lived there were several fields full of garden crops. I noticed many of these were surrounded by pie pans. Since I had learned while training my dog that a pie pan helps to prevent jumping, I figured this must be something similar. Turns out, I was right! It works as a visual deterrent for deer and other animals, and the noise they make when banging together keeps the critters away. Apparently, aluminum cans can be used as well, although this may not be for gardens close to home if the sound bothers you. 

Essential Oils and Critters – I recently moved and realized there were mice at the new place. While they may be cute and furry outdoors, I do not like mice in my house, especially in my kitchen! I immediately started looking up ways to keep them out and learned that spraying cotton balls with peppermint oil and then strategically placing them in certain areas around the kitchen (and the garden) can keep them at bay. So, what other essential oils work to repel critters? 

  • Orange, Lemon (and pipe tobacco) – deters cats
  • Peppermint – deters squirrels, mice, rabbits, spiders, and ants
  • Lavender – deters fleas
  • Lemongrass – deters mosquitoes and fleas
  • Rosemary – deters fleas and flies
  • Thyme – deters chiggers, ticks, roaches, and other biting insects
  • Eucalyptus – deters flying insects, including mosquitoes
  • Spearmint (peppermint) and Castor oil – burrowing animals dislike these smells
  • Patchouli – deters gnats
  • Cayenne – deer and raccoons dislike the strong scent of cayenne

Fruit Pest Protection – All that I learned up until this point made me curious as to what other tips and tricks existed regarding critters and creepy crawlies that I didn’t know before. Placing Ziploc bags over developing fruit, for example, helps keep birds from eating them as well as caterpillars and other insects. Once your fruit is set, just place it in the bag, seal it up as closely as possible, and harvest once ripe, blemish-free.

Plastic Fork Border – Sounds silly right? It may even look silly in your garden, but it works! Placing plastic forks throughout your garden or around young plants protects them. The tines ward off small animals, such as mice and rabbits, and even larger animals like raccoons, stray cats, and deer steer clear because who wants to step on something sharp and pointy? 

Beer for my Slugs – I did not know this, and since we have a slug issue lately, I’m ready to try it out”¦slugs love beer! Trap slugs without using toxins by filling a shallow container or dish with beer (or oatmeal). Also, they do not like copper either. If you have any pennies predated 1983, glue them to an old ball and place in your garden to repel slugs. 

Coffee and Eggs – Both coffee grounds and eggshells are said to have pest controlling properties. Coffee grounds are supposed to be good for mosquitoes, wasps, ants, fleas, and snails. I don’t drink coffee, so I haven’t tested this one yet. Eggshells keep slugs, beetles (especially Japanese beetles), cutworms, and other insects away. They don’t like crawling over them or the crunch. Made into a powder and sprinkled directly onto pests works the same way as diatomaceous earth, but without the cost. 

Bananas for Butterflies – Ever have a bunch of bananas and eventually realize a couple of them have become overripe? Well, now they never have to go to waste. Hang them up outdoors; butterflies love them! You could also create a DIY butterfly feeder area to ensure these pollinators are always around. 

Aphids and Yellow – Apparently, aphids aren’t too fond of yellow. Taking something yellow, such as a plastic cup, and covering it in Vaseline acts as a “trap” for these pets. Of course, other methods combined with this trick may be most beneficial to completely ensure your garden is rid of them.

Strawberry Stones – Who doesn’t love picking and enjoying a fresh, ripe, juicy red strawberry? They are my favorite! Unfortunately, many birds enjoy the berries too. This one can be time consuming but, if you have a smaller patch, paint stones to resemble strawberries. Then, before you have ripe berries, surround your plants with them. By the time you have bright red berries, the birds have already figured out the “berries” aren’t real and leave them alone. 

Yarn for Birds – If you’re like me and my toddler, you may enjoy watching and even helping the wildlife critters around your home. I thought this was a neat way to help out birds who nest nearby. Use an old suet feeder and fill with scraps of yarn. The birds can use these for their nest. Even cooler is when you find an old nest that was built with the yarn!

Ladybug Ladybug – Create a ladybug garden! This is one everyone can enjoy. It’s fun and exciting for the kids, keeps the ladybugs around, and they are beneficial – helping rid garden areas of pests (like aphids). You can find ideas online for building ladybug feeders and specific plants for attracting ladybugs. (Raisins are also good for attracting ladybugs to your feeder).

Don’t Pull Your Hair Out – Human hair works to repel wildlife from the garden – keep this in mind the next time you empty out the hairbrush. Supposedly, our wildlife friends hate the smell of human hair and sprinkling it throughout the garden keeps them at bay. Bonus: it doubles as a natural mulch and fertilizer!

Bye-Bye Chipmunks – Personally, I enjoy chipmunks but not everyone does, and I suppose they can be a nuisance in the garden. A safe way to repel them is by planting daffodils. These are toxic to Chip and Dale, though normally chipmunks do not like the smell and avoid them. 

Wildlife Area – This is one of my favorites, though I know this won’t be for everyone. I love animals and enjoy sitting outside and watching them. Create a “wildlife area” that encourages wildlife with plants they enjoy (such as clover and dandelions for rabbits) and gives them a place to feel safe while eating. Having their own grazing area can actually help to deter them from your prized veggies and plants. Of course, this isn’t guaranteed to protect them 100%, so include other deterrent methods too. 

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