12 Ways to Critter-Proof Your Garden


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Back in January, I asked on Facebook which specific critters, insects, or plant diseases have been the most problematic to your garden. So many of you chimed in with responses. Most people named one or more adorable but destructive critter; quite a few people mentioned insects; and no one mentioned any plant diseases.

To keep this post from becoming a novel, destructive insects and plant diseases will be addressed as separate posts.

Here’s how I see these adorable but destructive critters:

Nearly all of them will fit into one, some as many as three, category based on how they move about: flyers, tall walkers, short walkers, climbers, and diggers. Many solutions for one animal will prevent all animals in that category from getting into your garden. Of course, that won’t always be the case, but many times it will be.

I’ve included at the end of this post a nifty little table I created of various critters and the category in which they fit.

1. Cinder Blocks


Okay. This idea is not for the faint of heart. If you consider yourself a leisure gardener, this will NOT appeal to you. It will take a one-time big investment of sweat and brawn.

If you’re bound and determined to live off your land and keep persistent diggers out of your garden, here’s an idea I had:

  1. Dig a trench 8 inches wide x 8 inches deep around the perimeter of your garden.
  2. Place cinder blocks – with openings vertically oriented!! :) – back-to-back in the trench.
  3. Bury the cinder blocks with the dug-up dirt.

If you’re up to the physical workout, you could even go two cinder blocks deep. (It only took me about 5-10 minutes to dig one hole for a cinder block, as seen in above photo.)

Don’t get in so much of a hurry that you forget the simple things, like making sure the cinder block openings are vertically oriented. Otherwise, you’ve just unwittingly constructed an elaborate underground tunnel highway INTO your garden. :D

2. Motion Detector Sprinkler System

John is an engineer and an amazing problem-solver.

The first house we lived in, we had a very nice neighbor next door who had a few cats. When our gravel driveway got wet from rain or the late night or early morning dew, the cats would walk around gathering the gravel dust onto their paws, as much as their paws could hold, – oh, yes, it was intentional – and then jump onto our cars and make these *adorable* paw prints all over them.

One of the cars was a junker, so no harm there. The other car was as close to a new vehicle as either of us had owned.

Personally, I didn’t mind the paw prints BUT JOHN DID, so much so that he came up with a rather ingenious solution. He had it partially created in his mind: a motion detector sprinkler system. ;) He decided NOT to build it, but I have NO doubt that he could have made a successful contraption.

If you have animals getting into your garden and would rather not build a fence, AND if you or your spouse has an engineering mind, go for it!

3. Garden Fencing


© Michyn | Dreamstime.com

My vegetable garden is right at the edge of our woods. I genuinely love sharing our land with such a vast array of wildlife, but it does present a few challenges. After having deer pluck my young tomato plants right out of the ground, we finally installed a garden fence.

We’ve had no problems with deer since the fence installation, other than a little plant nibbling on one or two tomato plants that were too close to the fence. I don’t mind sharing a few leaves, even a few tomatoes, but enough with the plant devouring!

Fortunately, we haven’t had many problems with small, short walkers walking through the large square openings of the fence. If you find this to be a problem with your fence, consider attaching chicken wire or netting (or something similar) to the bottom perimeter of your fence.

Fencing does have its limitations; it won’t stop racoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and other climbers.

If you have diggers, you might have to go a step further and bury the bottom portion of fence vertically or slightly angled. We did something similar, but a little different, to keep some of our animals INSIDE a fenced area.

Our dogs have been known to dig their way out of their kennel mansion. Actually, just one did that. The other dog has a huge rib cage and never managed to get through the opening the smaller dog dug for herself.

4. Netting and Overhead Fencing

To help keep flyers and climbers out of your raised garden beds or fenced-in garden, consider placing a net (for birds) or overhead fencing (for birds AND raccoons and other climbers) above the garden.

For the netting, if you have a raised bed it will involve placing some posts around the bed and draping or attaching netting to it. If you have a fenced-in garden and the fence is your height or taller, you can place netting over the fence with a few large posts in the middle to keep the netting from caving into the garden. If your fence is short, you can still do this, but you’ll just need taller posts inside your garden area.

For the overhead fencing, if your fenced-in garden is your height or taller, using some interior posts and wire fencing material (e.g., chicken coop wire, rabbit cage wire, or various light-weight wire fencing) will keep flyers AND climbers out.

*If you have problems with the really small climbers like chipmunks and field mice, use something similar to rabbit cage wire because the fence holes are incredibly small (approximately 1″ x 1/2″).* They might chew through bird netting.

You can also use the rabbit cage wire for your raised beds by creating small structures (envision something like a cake lid but probably not circular) to fit over your beds.

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5. Alternative Food

If you know your garden is going to attract hungry tummies, provide them with an alternative.

I recommend barriers AND alternative food. The barriers (e.g., fencing, netting, etc.) will stop them; and alternative food will keep their tummies satisfied and minds preoccupied, instead of them trying to figure out ways to outsmart your barrier efforts.

For instance, if you have problems with deer, provide them with some chemical-free salt or mineral licks. Now this will sound crazy, but if the deer just won’t give up, spend a few bucks on some turnip seeds and plant them a turnip garden. Deer love turnips – and tulips and hostas! – so give them something they enjoy and can get to easier than your veggie garden.

Raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds love tasty bird food.

I suggest keeping the alternative food a strategic distance from the garden: close enough to see and be persuaded but not too close to the garden. Keep their minds off your veggies as much as possible.

6. Dogs

John had a really good idea. Try to envision this since I don’t have a sketch to share.

Picture, or imagine, your fenced-in garden. Okay, now imagine another fence around your garden. Three sides might have only a few feet between the two fences. The fourth side would be much bigger and would be the majority of your dog kennel. If you have ANY animals tempted to fly, walk, climb, or dig their way to your garden, they’ll think twice. Having a crazy, running, barking dog between your garden goodies and hungry critters is a great critter-proof mechanism. :)

7. Shower Radio

A guy in our Sunday school class told us how his dad approached the critter problem. His dad would place a shower radio in the garden and would turn the radio on. I’ve meant to ask him for months if this actually worked, but I only seem to think of it when I’m NOT at church or he’s not nearby.

(The purpose of it being a shower radio, in lieu of a regular radio, is that shower radios can get wet. It would be safe in the rain.)

8. String of Noisy Cans

I’m not sure how I thought of this. Maybe someone mentioned it in passing in some conversation … whenever??? Anyway, a low hanging string of aluminum cans with a little sand and pea gravel inside might create enough noise, when bumped, to startle your short walkers and cause them to dart the other direction.

9. Human Hair

I don’t know if it works, but I’ve heard some animals will stay away from human hair. If it works it’s easy and cheap.


photo used with permission and courtesy of Kristi at The Mind to Homestead

10. Marigolds

I’ve heard for years that marigolds will keep animals away, and I did read a blogger state that it worked for her dad’s garden.

11. Imitation Goshawk

A Goshawk is a bird of prey. If you’re having problems with birds eating your garden goodies, you might want to consider one of these. You can read about one guys experience with them over at Scarecrow Vs Birds.

12. Lights

Okay, I honestly don’t know if this one will work, but it’s a thought I had. Since some of the critters are nocturnal, maybe setting up some lights, BRIGHT lights, will keep them away. You could either turn them on when you go to bed or use motion detector lights.

Here’s a little table I created.

My world is a happy world when I can categorize, compartmentalize, and organize everything into nice little boxes. :)


Which critters cause you problems in the garden?

What have you done to keep critters out of your garden?

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29 comments to 12 Ways to Critter-Proof Your Garden

  • Amber

    Finally, thank you!! Since I consider myself the casual gardener, I think I’ll try the human hair and marigolds. Wish me luck! :)

  • Ann

    I’m continually looking for ways to keep critters out! Thanks for the great suggestions, will give some of them a try.

    • Holly

      You’re welcome! I hope a few of these ideas help you keep those adorable little (and big) critters out of your garden.

  • There are some great ideas in here. Lots of them I have never heard of! Thanks for sharing. Pinning so I remember,r too!


  • Holly,
    Great ideas!! Thanks so much for all the tips! Trish

  • Boy did I need this last year… :p No problems yet so far, but I’ll be keeping this in mind.

    • Holly

      Hopefully you won’t have any problems with the critters this year, but if you did last year, chances are … At least you’re now armed and ready for them. :)

  • Bob

    I’ve used the radio idea. Seems to work on the deer. Works for awhile on raccoons. My neighbor has used an electric fence for years. Seems to keep everything out. He spaces several wires close together.

    • Holly

      Oh, I’m so glad to hear someone validate the shower radio idea as an effective critter-proof “weapon.”

      I can’t believe I didn’t think of an electric fence. That’s a good idea. I bet that does keep the critters out.

  • Amanda

    We put up posts surrounding the garden, then we run a string around the whole perimeter and hang aluminum pie tins off of more string. The pie tins swing in the breeze and when they knock into each other they create sound so the shininess of the pie plates and the noise keep all of my critters out. It looks a little redneckish and it is ugly, but it works great. our garden is 30 X 40 and we use about 35 pie tins. I wish I had a picture to post.

    • Holly

      I love it! It’s inexpensive, very creative, and a bit unusual. It’s also very similar to a string of noisy aluminum cans, reason no. 8 in the post.

      It’ll be good for others to read what you’ve been doing and that it works.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Danielle Felt

      I love this! Maybe you could try painting the tins to make it look more put together? I find abstracts easiest and quickest to do. Thanks for the advice!

  • Cindy

    Similar to Amanda, after losing our entire blueberry crop the prior year, my father strung rope from posts in both directions across our garden blueberry patch. He then proceed to empty the recycling bin of various cans, milk bottles, pie plates and anything else, and had them dangling from the rope. It was definitely a sight to see. Words can’t describe my initial reaction. However, we had a huge blueberry crop, so it worked. He did the same last year, with similar positive results. We hang the rope just before the berries start to ripen.

    • Holly

      I bet that was … a sight to see. LOL.

      I’m wanting to add some raspberry and blueberry bushes to our garden. If I plant them outside our fence, I’ll remember that tip no. 8 – but a little more elaborate than I described – worked for you and Amanda.


  • Jamie

    I have found that sprinkling cayenne pepper around what you don’t want eaten works…. it’s organic, but will have to be re-applied after a rain. just be careful you are upwind when spreading it out so you don’t get it in your face :)

  • Rachelle

    We mounted steroe speakers on the outside of the garage pointed towards our gardens and for us rock and roll keeps out many. Towards the end of last year year were getting ‘something’ coming into the gardens and really fast came up with our version of red neck counrtyfied scarecrows. We took double hook shepard hook (we had three not being used) placed them in our gardens, put a plastic bag, used dog food bag, and a plastic pellet bag on the hooks, tie them in the middle and added plastic grocery bags for the arms-wind blows plastic moves and creates sound. This worked very well for the most part. Except on the squirrel that liked to eat half a tomato right under one of the scare crows!

    • Holly

      I’m imagining what that must have looked like. :) As funny as the mental image is, I can see how the plastic bags waving about in the wind could be a little scary to a bird. I like it. :)

  • Brenda Tuttle

    we have so many gophers in our garden need them gone , we live in hot Arizona we are in our 70 cant carry those heavy bricks .plus its to hot . any suggestion that might help.

    THANKS Brenda

  • Hi Holly,

    Thankfully, I don’t really have any major garden pests other than aphids. My husband haphazardly sprinkles seeds everywhere, which can drive me crazy, but this time he had planted some dill weed near a rose bush that usually is infested with those little green rose sucking boogers. We both noticed how the dill took the hit and was infested with the aphids instead of the rose bush, and the most amazing thing was that there were at least 15 ladybugs on the dill weed, and all of them were gorging themselves on the aphids!

    So like your suggestion of planting a salad bar for deer as a deterrent, perhaps planting sacrificial dill weed near roses will help others with their aphid problems.

    By the way, I love the photo of the little raccoon licking its chops through the chain fence. =)

    • Holly

      Go, ladybugs!

      I love that raccoon photo, too. I used it in a post a couple years ago, but I think it met it’s perfect match with this post topic. :)

  • I wish I had seen this post back when I started setting up my garden! Definitely pinning for next year, though.
    However, we might get the bright lights for this year still. Pretty sure it would deter the overly brave people who have apparently come into my yard and stolen my tomatoes!

  • Kenneth Brummett

    We were able to keep all critters out this year with dog urine, feces and dog hair. It was spread around the garden on the outside of the fence. My sister has three dogs that provided the needed product. This was the first year we did not have to go to extremes to rid ourselves of outside critters.

  • tony

    very interested in the picture of the rodent on the cable and any ideas to stop this. tree rats come down wire the power line post cables that merge with a fence for a super highway

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