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plants that repel animals

  • Subject: [cg] plants that repel animals
  • From: Cameron McLaughlin cmm2000@earthlink.net
  • Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2006 12:23:40 -0500

Here in Duluth, Minnesota, deer and rabbits are huge
problems in community gardens.  A number of gardeners
have fenced in their plots in various ways.  Fencing
has been done on an individual basis rather than on a
garden basis, mainly because of cost and differing
levels of concern about the "problem".  We'd love to
know how other gardens have addressed animal issues,
especially if any have found non-fence solutions or
deterrents to animals.
Physical barriers are costly and can usually be destroyed or thwarted somehow. I think a better and sounder solution is to use plants themselves to minimize the number of invaders in your garden. Gaia's Garden and Tiny Game Hunting both have extensive references for plants that will repel deer, moles, rabbits, groundhogs, voles, and others. Many are edible and can do double duty as organic pest control and harvestable produce. This is one case where you can use the garden itself to reduce the problem.

There are many deterrent plants which deer and rabbits do not like and will avoid. I run a rabbit adoption and education group and also have a bunny gardening list, so I can address what I know about what rabbits don't like.

There are many others, of course, but one of the very best, easiest and most useful rabbit repellents is garlic. Like many other members of the onion family, it also repels many harmful insects and is one of the most versatile organic repellents out there. In beds where I have fragile veggies that I don't want to share with wildlife or bugs, I surround many types of vulnerable plants with cloves of garlic purchased commercially from the grocery store that have been sprouted first indoors (some do better with garlic as a companion, but some don't like it, so check your companion planting guides first). Garlic shoots need to have a healthy root system and a couple of inches of leaf growth before they can survive being planted out here this time of year. If you have a ring of garlic growing all around your beds, the rabbits will smell the roots wherever they dig and eventually will move on to another more promising site. You can of course clip off the shoots continuously as they grow taller and use them in cooking. The sprouts have a milder and more interesting flavor than the bulbs, I think. Shallots, green onions, leeks, and onions will also work, but not as well.

Even when I'm cooking and make the mistake of offering greens and herbs to my indoor companion rabbits without washing my hands first, they recoil and run away. I've never met a rabbit--domestic or wild--who didn't hate the smell of garlic.

Cameron McLaughlin

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