Master Gardener: Gardening with Wildlife

How can we coexist with wildlife and still have the garden we want? We must never forget that we share our land with wildlife, so removing them permanently is never an option.

Wildlife that affects our gardens can be both above and below ground. Some common above-ground wildlife include rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, moose, and deer. Underground wildlife includes pocket gophers, voles, and Wyoming or Richardson ground squirrels.

Animals, like us, need the basics to survive: food, water and shelter. By creating gardens, we naturally invite animals into our gardens. Other attractions include bird feeders, bird baths and exotic plants. No plant is foolproof to avoid attracting wildlife. What attracts them depends on the availability of natural food sources, taste preferences of individuals or groups of animals. Even resistant plants can suffer under the right conditions.

Assuming our gardens will be attractive to animals, what can we do to stop them from eating our plants? One answer is to offer less tasty options. Some unappealing features include strong aroma, bitter taste, spines and prickles, tough or leathery leaves, and milky sap. When shopping for plants, some plant, seed and bulb companies list the plant species as deer or rabbit resistant.

However, some animals are stubborn and we need to use safe and effective methods to keep them off our yards. Before going any further, it is important to be aware of the laws regarding the extermination of animals.

Safe and effective wildlife deterrents refer to cold frames and greenhouses, garden barriers (raised beds, wire baskets for small plants/bulbs, hardware cloth under whole beds, electric fence, high non electric fence), tree guards, window boxes, hanging baskets and tower gardens (aeroponic/vertical farm garden systems).

The Routt County Extension Office is located at 136 Sixth St. Master Gardeners are available every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to answer your gardening questions. Feel free to drop by or send an email to [email protected]

Tracy Zuschlag has been a Master Gardener in Routt County since 2000, living in South Routt and trying to keep the animals out in her vegetable garden with raised beds and tall non-electric fencing. Her cats help her too. The perennial gardens have proved successful with native plant species.

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