Monday, June 28, 2010

Paging and/or Mythbusters; Wanna Do A Gardening Episode?

Actually, Mythbusters already did a gardening episode. It was awesome! And not just because it was also the episode where they used bug spray to blow up a house.

This question started off (via Facebook) with a girl I went to high school with, who asked about deer- and mole-proof plants. From there, we acquired a few more participants in the conversation, and branched off into repellent options. Everybody who's been gardening for more than five minutes has heard at least a few of these. Feel free to contribute yours in the comments! I'd love to collect and maybe test the as-complete-as-possible list.

Q. Is it rabbits that don't like marigolds? My grandfather always took hair clippings and scattered them around the perimeter of the garden . . . he swore the scent kept the deer away.

A. A lot of critters don't like marigolds and won't eat them, but as far as repellent goes they're mostly effective with certain bugs, so I think people tend to generalize that principle to everything. There really needs to be a lot more research on this stuff, but everybody's busy testing pesticides (not an entirely fair/accurate statement; more on that later).

I've been working (well, volunteering) with a lady who sells plants, and she says a lot of people swear by celosia for deer repellent, which I'd never heard. The hair clippings MIGHT (?) work for deer, but I doubt it, and I know from experience they don't work for woodchucks. Another thing I've heard is to put pee around your garden. Yes, human pee. Only works if you're a carnivore/omnivore, though. Critters aren't scared of vegetarians. Again, more research is needed. Can you imagine writing THAT grant?

General rule of thumb: deer and other wild critters will leave your plants alone as long as a) it's difficult for them to find them (hence my policy of interplanting things rather than having separate beds of a single crop, when possible), and b) there are plenty of other things for them to eat. When you're the only greenery around, though, or at least the tastiest greenery, some snacking is inevitable. About the only thing that works reliably for deer is very tall, properly placed fencing. About the only thing that works for rabbits/woodchucks is the same fencing, only set so it extends quite far underground. Moles? Container gardening might be the only sure-fire solution.

Also effective (not so much for moles, but for larger pests) is what one of my former employers calls the "hot lead method." Not generally practical for urban agriculture . . . .


  1. We've tried pee to keep deer away. We've also strung up pie tins to make noise to keep things away. The hot lead method is my mom's preferred method for getting rid of groundhogs now that we don't have a dog. :)

  2. Added bonus: groundhog is tasty. :) Can't tell I grew up in West Virginia or anything, huh?

    I used to shoot a pellet gun at the one in my Morgantown garden, leaning out the back window to get him when he came up from his burrow by the compost pile. I'm good with projectile weapons, routinely hit him right in the rear. His only response was to give me a dirty look. How dare I disturb his snacking??

    Did the pee solution seem to work? My mom swore by it when we lived out in the middle of nowhere, but . . . well, we have neighbors now. :/

  3. I have a gardening buddy that uses eggs,pepper and some other hot like spices on his plants. He mixes them up lets it sit in the sun for a few hours then mixes it again and sprays it on his plants. He says that the Deer and other herbers don't like the eggs and the ones that don't mind the eggs... don't like the spices :D