12 Ways To Keep Wildlife Away from Your Vegetable Garden

The appeal of a vegetable garden is hard for anyone to resist — including your local wildlife and small critters like rabbits and raccoons. Not to mention deer and birds.

These animals can destroy your hard work in a single night, so it’s important to take proactive measures to protect your garden. Implementing these strategies can deter small and large wildlife from your vegetable garden and keep your precious harvest safe for you.

Consider integrating multiple methods for the best results, as no single solution is foolproof. Plan and build your garden with these deterrents in mind to create a more resilient and protected growing space.

What Critter Is Raiding Your Vegetable Garden?

Angry raccoon.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

A wild animal’s diet is not a picky one, and they will absolutely pilfer your vegetable garden. From tender leafy greens to crunchy root vegetables, many small critters are eager to feast on the bounty of your hard work. The sweet, fresh produce is a great source of nutrition for them, making your garden a prime target.

Small critters will eat your vegetables before you can harvest them, often causing significant damage to plants as they forage. They nibble on leaves, gnaw at stems, and dig up roots, leaving a trail of destruction that can be disheartening for any gardener.

Look for droppings as different animals leave distinct signs. For example, rabbit pellets are small and round, while raccoon droppings are larger and tubular. Groundhogs and squirrels might leave gnawed stems and half-eaten vegetables.

The only way to be certain is to set up a trail cam and catch them, or be up very early (before sunrise) and try and catch them in the act. Observing their behavior will help you identify the culprits and tailor your deterrent strategies accordingly.

Raised Beds

Raised beds.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

One of the top benefits of raised bed gardening is that a raised bed can be enough of a deterrent for small critters, especially when paired with some other ideas from this list. Raised beds elevate your plants, making it harder for animals to access them. In our garden, we’re using a combination of tools to keep the neighborhood critter population away from my precious vegetable garden. Raised metal beds are a big part of that.

Keep in mind that the raised beds need to be high enough to actually deter small wildlife. They should be at least 24 inches (2 feet) high — or even higher — to work their best. Small critters, like rabbits and groundhogs, are less likely to jump into a raised bed that high, reducing the risk of them getting to your plants.


Fencing in veggie garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Kinda obvious? Yes. Expensive? That depends. Regardless, this is likely the best way to keep small wildlife from your vegetables. You can cheaply and quickly throw up some snow fencing and t-posts, which can serve as a temporary fencing solution for your garden.

T-posts and hog or cattle panels can be used, but you will still have to wrap hardware cloth or chicken wire around the bottom as small critters can get through easily. It will take more work, and cost a bit more. In the end, you will have a sturdier, more attractive fence.

Motion Activated Sprinkler

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A motion-activated sprinkler can be a great deterrent for small critters who do not like getting wet and will be startled at the sudden water spray. These sprinklers are equipped with motion sensors that detect movement and release a burst of water, scaring off any animals that come near.

This method works for a variety of critters, including rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons. Just remember to turn it off before you go into the garden yourself to avoid getting soaked. Motion-activated sprinklers are also beneficial because they help water your garden, providing a dual function.

Trap or Decoy Garden

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Small critters are prey animals and if they can limit the amount of time spent searching for food, they will. So plant a trap garden, also called a decoy garden. A great crop for this is clover, something that small wildlife absolutely adores. A thick patch planted around your garden and even in various spots on your property (like hidden nooks and crannies critters will love) can really deter them.

Clover is also beneficial because it attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects, improves soil health, and serves as a great ground cover. By planting a decoy garden, you can lure small critters away from your main vegetable garden, giving your vegetables a better chance to thrive.

By the way, rabbits absolutely love grass so leaving an unmowed patch by your garden might be all it takes to keep them busy.

Predator Scents

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Your local hunting store will sell scents from natural predators — scents like coyote urine. These scents are amazing repellents because they trigger a fear response in small critters, making them believe a predator is nearby. This alone can be enough to keep small critters and many other creatures far away.

Predator scents need to be reapplied regularly, especially after rain, to maintain their effectiveness. You can also use hair clippings from dogs or cats and scatter them around your garden. The scent of these domestic animals can also act as a deterrent.

Blood Meal

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Certain small critters hate the smell and taste of blood meal fertilizer. You can sprinkle some around your soil or even just around your garden beds and see if that is enough to deter them from setting foot into your garden beds. Blood meal is a high-nitrogen fertilizer, so it not only deters animals but also enriches your soil.

However, be cautious with the amount you use, as too much nitrogen can harm your plants. Follow the application instructions on the package to ensure you’re using it effectively and safely.

Hot Pepper Spray

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Mix up a simple spray of red hot chili peppers and spray them on your plants. Just soak a few peppers (or use hot sauce) in hot water for 24 hours and then spray the mixture on your vegetable leaves. This homemade repellent can be just as effective as commercial repellents.

Small critters, like rabbits and squirrels, dislike the spicy taste and will avoid plants treated with hot pepper spray. Be sure to reapply after rain or watering to maintain its effectiveness. This method is also safe for plants and won’t harm them.

Shiny Objects

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Stringing shiny mylar tape or foil around can scare small critters away by fluttering in the wind. These objects look strange and might not be worth exploring, even for a juicy vegetable. The reflective surfaces can also confuse and deter small animals.

You can also use old CDs or aluminum pie plates, hanging them from strings around your garden. The movement and reflection of light can be enough to keep small critters at bay. Regularly move these objects around to prevent the animals from becoming accustomed to them.

What About Deer?

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Deer can be a significant challenge for gardeners, as they are capable of clearing most barriers and can consume a large quantity of plants in a short period. If deer are getting into your garden, the most effective solution is to install a deer fence that is at least 8 feet tall.

Deer are excellent jumpers, and they can easily leap over shorter fences. An 8-foot-tall fence is typically sufficient to deter them, as it exceeds their comfortable jumping height. This height creates a physical barrier that deer are unlikely to attempt to cross, especially if they feel it might be unsafe.

While other methods like repellents, motion-activated devices, and plant selection can help reduce deer activity, they are not foolproof. A tall deer fence provides a consistent and reliable defense, ensuring that your garden remains protected. Investing in a proper fence is the best way to safeguard your plants from these persistent herbivores.

Birds Can Be A Big Nuisance

Fenced vegetable garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

To keep birds out, physical barriers and deterrents are the most effective methods. Bird netting is a great solution, providing a protective cover over your plants without harming the birds. Ensure the netting is properly secured and covers all vulnerable areas to prevent birds from accessing your crops.

Scare devices are also effective at deterring birds. Shiny objects like aluminum foil strips, old CDs, or reflective tape can be hung around the garden to create visual disturbances that birds find unsettling. Additionally, moving objects such as pinwheels or inflatable scarecrows can add an element of motion that birds typically avoid.

Another effective method is to use decoy predators. Placing plastic owls, hawks, or even rubber snakes around your garden can trick birds into thinking a predator is nearby, keeping them at bay. Be sure to move these decoys regularly to maintain their effectiveness, as birds will become accustomed to stationary objects over time.

Raccoons Can Do A Lot of Damage

Baby raccoons.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Raccoons are notorious for raiding gardens, particularly drawn to sweet fruits and vegetables. To keep raccoons out, consider installing a secure fence. A fence should be at least 4 feet high and buried a few inches into the ground to prevent raccoons from digging under. Adding an outward-facing overhang or an electric wire along the top can further deter them from climbing over.

Motion-activated sprinklers are another effective method for keeping raccoons at bay. The sudden burst of water startles raccoons, making your garden a less appealing target. These devices are easy to set up and can protect a significant area of your garden.

Securing garbage cans and removing food sources is crucial. Raccoons are opportunistic feeders, and any accessible food can attract them to your garden. Ensure that trash bins are tightly sealed and consider using raccoon-proof containers. Additionally, harvesting ripe produce promptly and avoiding leaving pet food outside can reduce the appeal of your garden to raccoons.

The Underground Thief

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Critters that dig underground, such as gophers, moles, and voles, can wreak havoc on your garden by tunneling through and damaging plant roots. One of the most effective ways to protect your garden from these pests is by installing hardware cloth underneath your raised beds.

Hardware cloth is a durable, mesh-like material that acts as a barrier, preventing digging critters from accessing your garden from below. When setting up your raised beds, lay a piece of hardware cloth at the bottom before adding soil. Ensure that the mesh size is small enough (typically 1/4-inch) to keep out even the smallest pests.

Secure the edges of the hardware cloth to the sides of the raised bed to prevent gaps. This will create a continuous barrier that digging critters cannot penetrate. By taking this preventative measure, you can safeguard your plants’ roots and maintain a healthy, thriving garden, free from underground invaders.

Related: What Should You Put at the Bottom of a Raised Garden Bed?

Benefits of Raised Beds

Lettuce growing in a raised bed garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Learn More: 22 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening {And The BEST Alternative}

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