How do you deter critters in the garden?

Ways to control wildlife in the garden

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We're looking for your tips on how to keep Bambi and Peter Rabbit from munching on your lettuce and turning your shrubs into dinner.

In response to the Q&A about some sort of animal munching on a hibiscus plant, Deborah King left a helpful comment that got me thinking.

She wrote: "In regards to the question about Hibiscus, I recently had a problem with our blueberry bush. Just as the blueberries were ripening, they disappeared. My husband observed a blue jay [did he say he saw a smile on the bird’s beak?] eating them.

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"We mentioned this to our nursery and they suggested we spray the bush with a light coating of water and dry mustard. They said animals and birds don’t like the taste of mustard - and now I’m off to the store to buy some."

There are many commercial and homemade repellents to keep wildlife from destroying your plants. Just about all work some of the time, in some situations, and for some people.

But rarely is there one that works for everyone all the time. The best commercial repellents come close, but they're generally expensive and most have to be reapplied fairly often -- although that's getting better. And some aren't recommended for edible plants.

So I always ask other gardeners what has worked for them. With the blueberries Deborah mentions, I buy bird netting and drape it over the bushes before the berries start to change color.

A few – usually small – birds sometimes figure out how to get beneath the netting, but mostly their damage is slight. And the netting can be reused for several years.

Pepper spray has worked for me in the past: Chop up a hot pepper (you want at least 2 tablespoons), and put it in a blender with 1 tablespoon dish-washing liquid, 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1/4 cup water. Puree. Then pour into 1 gallon of water and spray on plants. (Make sure you get it on all parts of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves).

Another touted deterrent, bone meal, however, just seems to me to attract dogs, not keep them away.

I wish I'd known about homemade cat repellents in my last house.

I'm fortunate never to have had deer problems, but wonder if I'd really get desperate enough to spray rotten eggs.

Maybe so. The recent article in The New York Times about people reaching their limits of endurance and killing marauding critters in their gardens included plenty who'd reach the end of their proverbial ropes.

Keeping wildlife at bay is tough – and not the least because gardeners tend to love animals and want to live in harmony with them.

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