Animal Pests – How To Deter

Posted in Prevent Rose Pests And Diseases

Bunny and Rose
“How do I stop the rabbits and deer from eating my plants?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked.

It can be very frustrating…you just planted a beautiful miniature rose and two days later you discover bunnies munching it down to the ground. Or those lovely shrub roses you added to your garden turn out to be a big all-you-can-eat buffet for the local deer population.

Rabbit Proofing Your Roses

Chicken Wire CylinderThe best defense against rabbits I’ve found is a 3-foot-tall chicken-wire fence (use 1-inch mesh or smaller) with another 6 inches buried in the soil so they don’t burrow under. Usually they leave my mature roses alone, but now when I plant a new rose I place a cylinder of chicken wire fencing around the tender young plant …

Make sure to secure with garden stakes or sticks so the wind doesn’t blow it away. Definitely wear gloves when cutting and installing the mini fence. The first time I attempted cutting the fencing I didn’t… and wound up with cuts and scratches galore on my unprotected mitts. Ouch!

You can also try odor repellents such as blood meal or powdered fox urine (available at garden centers). These usually need to be reapplied frequently…especially after it rains.

Some folks swear by spray on taste repellents such as hot pepper spray or homemade tonics. They must be put directly on the plants, so rabbits get a good taste of it when they settle in for their rose snack …

It also needs to be reapplied periodically. Because rabbits prefer tender, young growth, if you keep your young roses covered for a few weeks in spring, then switch to an odor or taste repellent when the make-shift fencing is removed, the rabbits may lose interest in your garden and go elsewhere to munch …

Types of Rabbit Deterrents:

Fertilizer Type Repellents

Blood meal and bone meal are natural soil amendments that can make good rabbit deterrents. Rabbits are herbivores so the scent of these slaughterhouse by-products can turn them off and may get the critters to look elsewhere for food.

Blood meal is high in nitrogen … bone meal is also a source of nitrogen and is high in phosphorous.

Both break down in the soil, and will need re-application every week or two. I’ve used blood meal in the past and found it pretty effective …

Plants As Deterrents

Some folks recommend using common marigolds as a rabbit deterrent. I have a neighbor who likes to create a border with them around her rose garden and vegetable beds. Other effective border plants include onions – rabbits don’t care for the taste or scent.

Around The House Remedies

Human hair, dog fur, black pepper, fabric softener sheets and homemade tonics are some of the many household products I’ve heard used as bunny repellents, with mixed success. I don’t have much experience using them, but I do figure they would have to be replaced frequently.

I have tried homemade tonics on tender young perennials and they did seem to work. I’ve never used them as a rabbit repellent on my roses though …

Pets As Deterrents

Pets can provide some deterrence. Our dog Daisy (a hound mix) loved to chase the bunnies from the yard …

Not all dogs share that enthusiasm … we have friends with small dogs who happily coexist in the backyard with the rabbits and don’t stop them from eating the flowers. For the most part, I do think a dog or cat will help keep the rabbit population in check at least.


Deer Proofing Your Roses

Most people that have roses have a lot of them (they are so addicting!). This can offer the deer population plenty to munch on. Deer prefer the nice new growth of a rose…just like rabbits.

We live in a densely populated suburban location so we have not had any deer visitors to contend with. However we know people that have yards backing up to wooded areas where deer grazing is a common occurrence …

I’ve asked them for advice and most have said dogs, high fences, or the spray on product Liquid Fence deter deer best.

For the most part deer pass on ferns, ornamental grasses, plants with fuzzy foliage, plants that taste like lemon, mint, or sage, and hot or spicy plants like peppers. Roses, unfortunately, are one of their favorite plants …

Types of Deer Deterrents:

Spray Repellents

Spray repellents such as Liquid Fence or Deer Off can act in two ways …

Some have a predator scent giving off an odor that deer are afraid of and they will avoid that area. Other sprays deter deer by taste … once the deer tastes the unpleasant flavor, they often leave that location in search of better tasting food.

If you decide to use deer repellents, it’s suggested to select 2-4 different products and rotate them often. This will prevent the deer from getting used to any one scent or flavor.

MechanismsDeer Deterrent ScareCrow

Other popular deer proofing products include items that are placed in your garden to physically scare away hungry deer. These include solar-powered devices that emit a flash of red light that repels night foraging animals.

There are also some motion-controlled sprinklers available that douse the deer and other pests with water when they get close to your plants …

Odor Aversions

Predator urine (such as coyote) is another popular organic solution. A powder formula is better than a liquid formula, as it won’t evaporate, sink into the ground or wash away as easily.

Some folks try hanging strong-smelling bars of soap (think Irish Spring) from trees or shrubs to keep deer out of your yard. Or scattering human or dog hair on the ground around targeted plants …

Barriers & Fencing

Although not entirely foolproof, a tall, sturdy fence can help prevent deer from entering your property.

Make sure the fence is tall enough. Deer can jump 9 feet, so a fence should be at the very least 8 feet to successfully deter deer. If you don’t want a tall fence, try putting in 2 fences that are 4 to 5 feet high placed about 3 feet apart. Bury the fence at least 1 foot underground so deer cannot get underneath the fence …

If the pesty animals have been returning for many years, or if they are particularly stubborn, consider a combination of the above methods to give the impression that your property is not a relaxing & inviting place to hang out.

A peculiar thing about deer and rabbits is how their likes and dislikes vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, and year to year.

Most years I never had a problem with animals eating my roses or hostas … then all of a sudden they took a shining to both. I recommend using more than one method of protecting your roses and alternating your strategy frequently. That seems to work the best with both deer and rabbits!

Please let me know what rabbit-proofing and deer-proofing systems you’ve used and which worked best for you.

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