Keep Animals Out of the Garden Naturally

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

It's finally summer: the air is warm, the kids are out of school, and your vegetable garden is growing. But there are some pesky animals eyeing your kale, chard, and broccoli plants. Are you surrounded on all sides by deer, groundhogs, and other critters? Keep animals out of the garden naturally with a few Earth-friendly tricks.

hands holding three zucchini

The Best De-Fence

Your first line of defense for common garden pests is, of course, a fence. Keep it high and be sure it goes underground a few inches for the burrowers. I also like the idea of having a small "sharing garden" for bait outside the walls to keep these critters fed outside your real garden.

Your dog or cat is also a great deterrent of furry vegetable thieves. Let your pets (or the neighbor's pets) roam around your fence, and their scents may help keep pests away. ThriftyFun notes that you can also make a "scent fence" by sprinkling used cat litter around the perimeter of your garden or by saving the fur when you brush your pets and hanging it near garden entrances.


The largest animal pests (unless you're in moose country) can jump and reach over low fences, making them some of the most problematic garden munchers. One thing that helps repel deer is aromatic plants. They're not fond of the smell of lavender or marigold, so pick these up next time you're at the garden center. Deer will not want the scent of these plants to rub onto them, so if you plant a thick enough perimeter, they won't walk through.

These hoofed marauders are also offended by the scent of tallow or deodorant soap. The University of Vermont Extension suggests cutting bars of soap in half and hanging them in cheesecloth on stakes in your garden (not on the plants themselves). If you're willing to spend a little bit more to keep them out, some hardware stores sell bottled coyote or bobcat urine that you can hang in the same way.

Deer travel a lot, so it's hard to make sure your garden is not a prime habitat. What you can do is disturb their trails. Deer usually trek through the same route for food and water every few days. You may even see a narrow path through your bushes or grass. If you make it so they can't travel this same path by trimming long grass or sprinkling animal hair or urine on the trail, they may just avoid your property altogether.

rabbit in grass


Rabbits create their homes underground with their entrances in thick brush, so clear your yard of any overgrown areas to deter bunnies. Create a spray for your vegetables by steeping a few chopped hot peppers and garlic in about a gallon of water. Spray the perimeter of your garden as well as the plants themselves. Both the smell and the taste of this spray will deter rabbits, but it can be easily rinsed off by rain or by washing vegetables in the sink.

Bunnies don't like the scent of rhododendrons, verbena, impatiens, goatweed, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, marigolds, or echinacea, either, according to Lawnscape Systems. Design your flower garden with rabbits in mind or plant a natural flowering border around your tastiest herbs and vegetables.


Groundhogs live out of burrows, so the first step to nixing them is making sure your property does not have prime groundhog real estate. Look for areas where a cat-sized marmot could dig under a porch, shed, or compost bin, or pop out and be protected by a row of bushes. Concentrate your pest-control efforts on potential burrow areas as well as on your garden.

Groundhogs can be easily deterred by spreading materials around your garden that will make them think predators are nearby, such as used cat litter, dog fur, or human hair. You can also hang up coyote or bobcat urine the same way you would for deer. The hot pepper and garlic spray that works on bunnies will also repel groundhogs.

gopher popping out of hole in grass


Gophers will be more interested in your root vegetables and flower bulbs than your salad greens and tomatoes. They can build extensive tunnels in your yard and will leave distinctive dirt mounds to make them.

Gophers are also repelled by the predator scents that groundhogs don't like. Additionally, gophers are bothered by the scents of peppermint, castor oil pellets, and even dryer sheets. They are also said to really dislike the taste and smell of the roots of the plant gopher spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), but you should be careful if you have pets since this plant is poisonous to dogs, notes Wag!.

Do you have unwelcome visitors to your veggie garden? Will you be adding any of the plants we've found to keep animals out of the garden naturally? Let us know on Twitter!

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Why It’s Good

Being kind to the Earth is all about your light footprint and how you treat its inhabitants, especially your animal neighbors.