Pests, both mammals and insects, are the bane of a gardener's life. They munch on plants, destroy landscaping and generally make a mess. Finding an effective repellent is almost as hard as finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. As a general rule, vary the types of repellents you use and always reapply repellents after rain; for those special and expensive plants, use containers or fencing to keep them safe.
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Homemade repellents come in two forms: those that affect taste and those that affect smell. Both types are designed to make a plant or area less desirable or palatable to animals. To be effective, these repellents need to be applied frequently, usually once a week or after it rains. On the plus side, homemade repellents are generally safe to use on edible plants and around children and pets. The downside to homemade repellents is that animals may become accustomed to them over time. For example, I have a deer that will only eat the leaves of plants sprayed with hot chilli pepper flakes. He seems to like the additional seasoning. Keep changing the repellents you use and where you place them to keep your yard and plants safe from marauding animals.
Human and dog hair will repel deer and rabbits. As prey animals, deer and rabbits are hesitant to go into areas that smell as if a person or dog was just there. To use hair as a repellent, take several handfuls of human or dog hair and place in a mesh bag or scatter around plants you want to protect. You will have to replace the hair every 2 to 3 days and after every rain.
Soap is another repellent based on smell and is effective against deer. You can take a soap bar on a rope and hang it from trees and shrubs or grate soap into flakes and scatter it among your plants. The stronger the smell, the more likely it is to work. Most gardeners swear by Lifeboy or Irish Spring soaps. Don't use soaps with floral scents as they won't be as effective. You can also make a spray using dishwashing liquid soap and water. Use a 1 quart plant spray bottle and several squirts of the liquid soap. Fill to the top with water. Spray the underside and top of leaves as well as stems. This mix will discourage most insect pests as well as deer and rabbits. The liquid soap affects both the smell and taste of plants.
Strong smelling herbs will repel deer, moles, rabbits, insects, rodents and cats. You can use the essential oils from lavender, geranium, pyrethrum, and mint and a paste of garlic or onions to repel deer, rabbits, insects and rodents. Or you can plant lavender, geranium, rue, pyrethrum, alums (garlic and onion), basil, sage or caster plant near doorways to deter insects or scatter them among the plants you want to protect from moles, cats, deer and rabbits. These animals and insects find the strong smell of these plants offensive and will avoid that area of the garden unless they are particularly hungry in the case of deer, rabbits and moles. An effective way to deter cats is to sacrifice a corner of your property and plant catnip or spray catnip essential oils. Most cats find catnip irresistible and will be too busy playing with the catnip plants or rolling in catnip oils to bother the rest of your garden.
Deer, rabbits, mice and rats are all prey animals. Scattering pelleted predator urine in your garden will make them think your property is unsafe. For rabbits, mice and rats use pelleted bobcat, fox or coyote urine. Deer will react to coyote urine but lion or bear urine is more effective.
The hotter the pepper, the better the repellent it should make. Deer and rabbits usually won't nibble on plants covered with a substance that burns their tongues. However, you may find one or two individuals that actually like the taste of hot peppers. Use dried hot pepper flakes mixed with water to spray on plants. Or scatter the dried flakes on the ground around plants. You can also use a purée of hot peppers diluted with water to spray on your plants.
Chemical repellents depend on an offensive smell to keep animals away. Ammonia, mothballs, castor oil, blood and bone meal as well as rotten eggs will keep deer, rabbits, squirrels, and moles away. Chemical repellents, with the exception of blood and bone meal, should never be placed on or directly under plants and should not be used near plants intended for food. Mothballs can be placed in a mesh bag and hung from trees and shrubs. The rest should be sprayed on the soil and into holes leading to mole tunnels.
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