GBtulip2Today, I have a guest writer on Vicki’s Garden Tips:
Her name is Trisha Miller, from


You can find more about Trisha at twitter @thatdangvegan, or email her at thatdangvegan (at) gmail (dot) com.
Thank you, Trisha for your timely article! Thursday, this week, I had a gopher tunneling through my front door flower bed, eating my tulip bulbs.

Spring Plants That Repel Animal Pests
Animal pests are inevitable when growing any fertile garden. However, some early spring plants actually attract critters much more than others. Often times, pesky intruders will chomp on just about anything living – seemingly without purpose. Even if this seems the case, annoying animals always leave behind clues of their identity and exactly which plants are their favorites to nibble on. We are here to show you that there are steps you can take to ward off any trespassing animals that intent to destroy or eat all of your hard work this spring.

Quickly identify the Culprit

If flowers, bulbs, and veggies are going missing early in the season, it’s definitely the time to spring into action. It can be so disheartening to see plants being destroyed after caring for some starters indoors for weeks only to have them eaten by animal pests. Don’t fret, there are ways to tell exactly what is demolishing your plants. Once you are sure about what is wreaking havoc on your sprouts, you can effectively rid them from your garden and make them never come back. Here is a quick breakdown of spring plants and the critters they could be attracting:

● Deer love to enjoy a tasty snack of luscious flowers from any garden. You’ll know you have a pesky deer when the tops of the plants are being chewed off and the stems are left alone. Plants at risk: Early blooming flowers like tulips and pansies.
● Rabbits can swallow up most of a garden quick, fast, and in a hurry. They aren’t terribly picky eaters, but leafy greens are their absolute favorite. Rabbits tend to leave behind clean and angular bite marks on all the produce they nibble on. Plants at Risk: Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, arugula, and cabbage.
● Gophers and moles both dig and live in the earth. So, it can be extremely hard to spot the culprit when they are constantly hiding. Yet, before you know it a gopher or mole can ruin an entire garden by digging it up. Gophers like to chew on roots under the soil. On the surface it will look like plants are just mysteriously dying unless you can happen to find a nearby mound. Moles do eat some roots, but mostly like to dig up loose and damp soil in search for bugs and worms – a garden is the perfect place to look. Plants at Risk: Just about any visible roots, but especially nutrient rich roots like bulbs, carrots and potatoes.

Plant Pungent Herbs & Flowers Around the Garden

Even if you do happen to have a pest tearing up your garden, there is a silver lining. Some early blooming flowers and herbs can be used to scare away destructive animals who might be lurking nearby. Here are some ideas to ward off specific animal intruders:

● Not only are bleeding heart flowers gorgeous to look at, they are also quite bitter tasting and stinky to deer. One bite and they will steer clear of the area surrounding that plant.
● Lavender is a great plant to keep in any garden. It is a versatile herb for cooking and smells just as great. It even attracts bees that are incredibly beneficial to any blossoming garden. The best part is, rabbits hate the smell and texture of this herb.
● Gophers can be deterred by keeping areas surrounding the garden well weeded and mowed. They dislike revealing themselves in open areas. However, gophers can be quite tenacious. Try planting some marigolds or daffodils near your garden. They do not like the smell or taste. They are mostly interested in water rich roots. Moles on the other hand, can be tricky. Both Marigolds and daffodils are suggested as organic deterrent as well as castor beans and mole plant. Although, castor bean and mole plant are considered poisonous to pets and could be harmful to children. They should only be used under extreme circumstances. What’s more, these plants should only be used under strict supervision while wearing protective wear. A better option would be to use some castor oil directly on the soil where moles are living or have been known to dig.

White bleeding heart- I love them and the deer do not!

White bleeding heart- I love them and the deer do not!


Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum) with sprouts of lily-of-the-valley in the background. Both of these plants are not appreciated by deer.

Use Animal-Safe Repellents

If none of the above seems to deter these animals from gnawing at your garden, animal repellents will usually do the trick. Of course, putting up fences, plant coverings, and nets can keep out many tenacious critters. However, some of these animals are truly intelligent and persistent and can’t be persuaded to leave. If this is the case look into some non-harmful, but serious animal repellents.

Strong scents and tastes are an easy way to rid your garden of any animal pest. Many folks swear by strongly scented soap, perfume, and even predator musk that scares away just about any vulnerable animal. Just make sure that if you choose to go use an extreme method, such as predator musk, that you won’t be attracting more of that predator to start hanging around.

Lastly, garlic and pepper spray or granules seem to be a crowd favorite for those who are growing a garden year round. The mixture is pungent and spicy enough to stop many animals (and even bugs) from even thinking about coming near. Be sure to do your research if you are purchasing or making your own repellent from home. Something that is too severe could end up damaging the mouth, eyes, or stomach of an unsuspecting animal. Many companies sell an animal-safe and vigorously tested formula that is just strong enough to deter an animal from the area, but won’t cause them any physical injury.

The joy of growing delicious spring vegetables or alluring early budding flowers can be obliterated by irritating animal thieves. These critters seem to come out of the woodwork as soon as the first spring blossom appears. But anyone can arm themselves with the knowledge to know which plants could be attracting notorious animal offenders. In addition, investigating the signs of the common suspects will keep anyone ahead of the usual furry crew. Taking some time to add a few herbs, flowers, spices, or scents around a garden can be just the thing to make any animal think twice about snacking on all your hard work.

Centaurea montana - a deer resistent perennial.  They just don't like those fuzzy leaves!

Centaurea montana – a deer resistent perennial. They just don’t like those fuzzy leaves!

A reliable resource to find if your plants are deer resistant, check out this site: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance