Rabbits and squirrels are cute and fun to watch, but they become considerably less adorable when you are watching them tear up your garden. Since it’s almost impossible to simply keep these critters out of your yard without walls and specialty fencing, use a combination of the techniques below to encourage them to feast elsewhere.

Choose the right plants. While almost no plant is safe from a very hungry animal, you can discourage rabbits and squirrels by planting some of their least favorite plants. They will usually avoid any plant with sharp thorns and prickels, like Roses and Barberry. Plants with strong aromas, such as Chives and Sages, will also discourage garden pests. Plants that have silver leaves look less like food so use of Artemesia, Butterfly Bush, Dianthus, and others is encouraged. Other shrubs that repel rabbits and squirrels include Cotoneaster, Penstemon, and Lavender. It’s also worth noting that these animals appear to be repelled by daffodils, and they don’t usually bother with ornamental grasses that have colored leaves or sharp blades.

Alter the habitat. Small animals prefer habitats that include good hiding places, so make sure your garden doesn’t provide convenient shelters for them. Clear brush piles out of your yard, mow tall grass, and remove debris such as old flower pots. Prune low-hanging branches and remove dead trees that provide nesting spots for squirrels.

Use repellents. Some repellents are based on old wives’ tales, but many gardeners find that they actually do work to some degree. The key here is experimentation to find out what works for your yard. Some gardeners swear by blood meal, bone meal, hair (human or pet), or black pepper to the soil. Commercial pest repellents are also available, but never use mothballs in your garden as their poisonous elements leach into the soil and water supply.

Compromise with nature. Some gardeners find that offering rabbits and squirrels something they really love is enough to keep them away from more valuable plants. Try planting a patch of clover away from your main garden to distract pests. Also, keep in mind that small animals often enter your yard in search of water or bird feeders. If you want to use these elements in your garden, place them far away from your most prized plants.

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