Gardening with Wildlife

I am an unabashed lover of nature and forty-two years of being a professional gardener have given me more than my fair share of wildlife encounters. So, I thought that I would tell you about a few of these and couple them with some advice on how to minimize animal impacts on your garden, with an emphasis on prevention.


Blue Heron

While these are beautifully majestic birds, they are also prolific eaters of fish, including Koi and goldfish. So, if you are considering installing a pond, then forget the marginal shelf (a shallow ledge for placing plants) as this is nothing more than a "wet bar" for Blue Herons, where they stand perfectly still until your unsuspecting fish swim by and become an instant sushi snack. Having a pond with steeply sloping sides and an adequate depth (4’) in the center will discourage wading. Blue Heron decoys do work at certain times of the year, provided they are moved occasionally, but during the mating season, I have literally seen a Blue Heron doing a dance with his plastic imposter. Erecting netting or a series of fish line string barriers will provide a deterrent, but these also ruin the aesthetics of the pond. A "Scarecrow" motion detector sprinkler can also discourage them temporarily, at least until they become accustomed to it.


Cats

cat

Keeping cats out of your garden is next to impossible, particularly if you own one yourself. While we keep ours leashed when he goes outside (due to coyotes) that doesn’t stop other neighborhood cats from stopping by and tormenting ours by sitting on the fence, just out of reach. Cats are also attracted to the dry, sandy soil commonly found under the eaves of the house, which they use as a litterbox. Your best approach here is to mitigate these areas by covering them with a good quality landscape fabric and river rock. Other cat deterrents include lemon-scented plants such as thyme, lemon balm, or even Citronella geranium.



Rabbits

Wild rabbits are very common on properties with a forest interface, but the worst scenario I have ever come across was a rooftop garden in Burnaby where someone had released domestic rabbits. A few years down the line, that rooftop had dozens of bunnies who along with keeping the lawn well-mowed also killed every tree planted up there by eating the bark all the way around the base, essentially girdling them. You can prevent this by encasing the tree stem to a height of 18” (as high as they can reach) with a cylinder of metal hardware cloth with openings no larger than ¼”. For vegetable garden raids I suggest a blood-based (usually bovine) repellent, as they are deathly afraid of the smell and will avoid the area altogether.


Snakes

My Dad -- who was a big man! -- was mortified by snakes and I always found it kind of ironic to see this former football player suddenly running away from the lawn mower because he had stumbled upon one. We commonly find garter