Getting rid of those pesky critters

Originally published in The Taos News

How to pest-proof your garden

After you have toiled and sweated for weeks planting a garden, the last thing you want is to wake up one morning and discover that rabbits, prairie dogs, voles or other voracious critters have feasted on your beloved veggies the previous night. Or that deer have mistaken your plants and flowers for an all-you-can-eat buffet. To avoid such unpleasant surprises, Lori Priest, Rio Grande Ace Hardware Garden Center Manager, offers several suggestions and tips.

“Shake-away® works very well to protect your garden from chipmunks, gophers, groundhogs, rabbits, skunks and squirrels,” she said. “The product contains coyote and fox urine. Its odor signals danger; it tells small animals that there are predators in the area and discourages them from getting close to the protected zone.” Shake-away® comes ready to use. You only need to sprinkle it on the ground and let it work.

Plantskydd® Repellents are considered both cost-effective and environmentally safe.  They are the only repellents recommended by Peter Derano in his book Creating a Deer and Rabbit Proof Garden. Like Shake-away®, the product emits an odor that animals associate with predator activity. 

“It gives off a scent indicating that there has been a recent kill in the area, which makes unwanted animals stay away,” said Priest. “Plantskydd® works with big animals like deer, moose and elk as well as smaller ones like rabbits, voles, prairie dogs and moles.” It also comes ready to use, either in a spray bottle and or in granules.

As for burrowing rodents, Sonic Spikes are functional, eco-friendly devices to keep moles, gophers and other critters away from yards and gardens. The spikes are pounded into the ground and they produce a distressed call. This “alarm” mimics the sound that burrowing rodents emit when danger is near.

“One spike goes over a 60-foot diameter, but it is recommended to have two of them overlapping,” said Priest. Made by Wiser Living, the easy-to-install spikes can be used all through the year.

To get rid of the sneakier and tinier, but insatiable bugs, Priest suggests diatomaceous earth. This is an organic substance used to eliminate worms, parasites, fleas, roaches, ants, crickets and other crawling insects.

“It is safe to people and pets,” she said. “Diatomaceous earth comes as a dust that can be dispersed on foliage, tree trunks or any surface where the bugs may appear. It works well indoors, for example, to kill fleas and bedbugs, and outdoors, around the house, and in gardens and yards.”

Nolo Bait™ is a grasshopper suppression agent that she also recommends. It is safe for use around humans, pets, birds and wildlife.

Priest was a Master Gardener and a floral designer atCedar rapids,Iowa, before moving toTaosa year ago. She shares useful tips not only to protect gardens and lawns, but to make them more hospitable and inviting to winged friends.


Lori’s Tips

If a type of plant tends to attract a lot of insects, remove it or don’t plant it again. Certain plants just aren’t meant to be in our environment.

Bring ladybugs and praying mantises to your garden. Ace Hardware is planning to sell them by next year. We want to have more biological predators to help deal with insects and bugs!

If you have standing water, use Mosquito Dunks, a biological product that changes the water, making in uninhabitable for mosquito larvae without hurting fish and plants. This larvicide may be used in all types of standing water sites where mosquito larvae grow.

Make sure that unwanted animals like squirrels and prairie dogs can’t get to the birdseeds that fall from the feeder. That is a sure means to attract them!

To invite insect-eating birds to your garden, provide them with birdhouses and birdbaths. They will come and help you get rid of those annoying bugs. Among the plants that attract hummingbirds are agastache, penstemon and any kind of sage and salvia.

A great resource book on this topic is Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver, by Fern Marshall Bradley (Rodale Books, 2007). With a problem-solving approach, it contains safe and natural solutions to problems like garden pests, plant diseases and weeds, and specific information for different vegetable crops.

To contact Lori Priest, Garden Center Manager, call or visit Rio Grande Ace Hardware

1381 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur
Taos, NM 87571-5972
(575) 758-4268

Open Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm and Sundays from 9 am to 4 pm.