Wildlife is wonderful to watch unless of course you’re watching it munch on the vegetables in your vegetable garden! Not all wildlife should be banished from your vegetable garden, however, as some wildlife are beneficial predators that eat harmful animals, insects, and slugs.
Types Of Wildlife In The Garden
Animals found in the garden include badgers, bats, birds, deer, foxes, hedgehogs, mice, rabbits, and toads. Some animals will feed on newly‐planted vegetable seeds, seedlings, and mature crops. Others eat harmful insects and are welcome additions to the garden. Still others are both good and bad, ridding your garden of pests, but also eating beneficial wildlife or creating other problems.
Badgers In Your Garden
The badger’s natural diet consists of earthworms, grubs, frogs, slugs, snails, and small rodents, but it will also eat your vegetables ‐ especially carrots, potatoes, and sweet corn. The good news is that badger problems may be seasonal. Fencing ‐ preferably chain link, to keep out these powerful animals ‐ may be required. The fence should be at least 125 cm (4 feet) high, and buried 30‐50 cm (12‐20″) deep with an additional 50 cm (20″) bent at a right angle to prevent digging underneath. An electric fence may be an easier and less expensive option. Note that badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Badgers have no natural predators among animals.
Are Bats Beneficial To A Garden?
Bats have the distinction of being the only mammal that can fly. There are 17 species of bats in the UK, all of which are protected by government regulation. While some people are afraid of bats, bats are even more afraid of humans, and rarely bother people. Bats are insect‐eating machines, and should be welcome in the vegetable garden. They eat huge volumes of beetles, midges, moths, and mosquitoes. Commercially‐available or homemade bat houses are one way to encourage bats to make their home in your yard. Position your bat house 3 to 6 metres (10 to 25 feet) above the ground in a sheltered, draft‐free spot, facing south or southeast.
Birds In The Garden
Although they can sometimes be pests, birds should be encouraged in the garden. They eat aphids, caterpillars, grubs, and slugs, all of whom can ruin vegetables. Bird feeders, bird baths, bird houses, and garden ponds will all attract birds to your garden. Crows are often a problem in the garden as they are scavengers and will eat just about anything, including your just‐planted sweet corn seed among other vegetables. On the other hand, they’ll also eat insects and mice. Use barriers such as bird netting, cloches, or row coverings to keep birds off newly planted areas of vegetables.
Bird deterrents such as scarecrows need to be moved around frequently to be effective, and often don’t work at all. They may scare the crows at first, but birds quickly discover they are harmless. The same goes for plastic owls. Birds don’t like jangling, shiny objects. Try hanging wind chimes, foil tins, or old CDs to scare away unwanted birds.
What Deer Can Do To Your Garden
Telltale hoof prints will give away the fact that deer have been visiting your garden. Another clue is that vegetable plants will be torn off rather than cut off cleanly. The best option for a persistent deer problem is a fence 2 metres (6.5 feet) high. Deer can jump even a 1.5‐metre (5‐foot) fence. Have a 6″ section bent at a right angle at ground level, to keep deer from getting under the fence. An electrically‐charged fence may also provide protection. Hot pepper spray or predator urine are other options. Plant catnip, chives, garlic, lavender, onions, spearmint, thyme or yarrow to deter deer ‐ they don’t like the scent. Note that it is against the law to shoot deer in the UK without a licence.
Foxes In Your Garden
Foxes dig holes in the garden looking for food, including cutworms, wireworms, and earthworms. They also eat earthworms, birds, rabbits, mice, rats, slugs, and snails. A less desirable trait with particular type of wildlife is that they also mark territory with their scent. If foxes are a problem, note that live trapping doesn’t work with foxes, and catching and releasing foxes in another area is illegal. If foxes digging burrows in your garden are a problem, fill the holes with rocks. Fencing may be required (and is certainly recommended if you raise chickens!)
Hedgehogs Hep In The Garden
Hedgehogs are a welcome addition to the garden. They eat cutworms, caterpillars, beetles, slugs, snails, wireworms, and earthworms, all of whom eat vegetables. Keep hedgehogs happy by providing an overgrown area for cover and a source of water. Do not feed hedgehog’s cow’s milk, which is harmful to them. The hedgehog’s wildlife predators include badgers and foxes.
Mice In your Garden
Mice will eat early vegetable plantings of peas and beans, as well as snack on your root vegetables. To find out if mice are the culprit, dust the area around the plant with fine sand or white flour and check for tiny footprints. To get rid of mice, try physical barriers such as thorny brambles or shiny, moving objects such as those used to frighten birds. The best deterrent: get a cat!
Rabbits love garden vegetables, especially leafy greens. Plants chewed off at ground level or cleanly sliced stems are marks of a rabbit. Rabbits have many predators among animals including dogs, foxes, and snakes. Predator urine, human hair, and hot pepper spray can be used as deterrents. Rabbit fencing is another option: it should be 1.24 cm (1/2 inch) wire mesh at least 92 cm (3 feet) high and buried 46 cm (18″).
A toad is the gardener’s best friend. Toads eat insects ‐ primarily the bad ones for vegetables ‐ by the thousands. Their menu consists of cutworms, maggots, slugs, snails, and weevils. One way to keep toads happy: make a toad house. Break a small piece off the rim of a clay flower pot and place it rim‐side down in the garden. Since these amphibians need to absorb water through their skin in order to “drink”, provide them with an in‐ground “toad bath” (sunken flower pot saucer or other shallow container).