Many vegetable gardeners don't like to use chemical pesticides on their gardens due to their inherent risks near food crops. However, if left unchecked, pests and rodents such as deer, aphids and rabbits can put a quick stop to a bountiful harvest. If you are trying to deter animal and insect pests from damaging your vegetable garden, there are numerous non-chemical approaches that may do the trick.
Rabbits and gardens go together--and not only because of the famous stories of Peter Cottontail. Many of the vegetables grown in a garden--particularly cabbage, lettuce and broccoli--are especially enticing to a hungry rabbit.
The traditional way of keeping rabbits out of gardens is to plant two rows of the most fragrant marigolds you can find. This doesn't always work though, since even if marigolds aren't the first thing on a rabbit's list of favorites, if he's hungry enough, he'll hop right over the marigolds and into your garden. In some cases he may even eat the marigolds themselves.
Some of the better methods of controlling rabbits include putting up fencing high enough they can't hop over, using an electric fence, keeping a dog or cat in the yard, and putting blood meal around the perimeter of your garden.
"Bambi" is cute on the cartoon, but you still don't want a deer chomping on your vegetable garden. Deer, like rabbits, will eat almost anything if food is scarce enough, and to most deer, your vegetable garden is an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Deer are skittish animals and will avoid your garden if they sense danger. Deter them with loud noises played at various intervals. The types of noises should vary as well as their location. You can accomplish this with any type of electronic sound device. A dog, of course, has it's own built-in sound and motion device and instinctually scares off deer.
Strong odors, such as garlic and rotten eggs, also tend to repel them. There are several commercial products on the market as well that can be sprayed around the perimeter such as Liquid Fence.
Aphids can be an annoying part of any vegetable gardener's life. These insects will damage your plants until there is little left to show for youreffort. With a little forethought, these tiny pests are easier to control than even deer and rabbits. Many insects dine on aphids and won't harm your garden, among these are lacewings and ladybugs. Insect predators naturally work within your garden's ecosystem to remove pests. In addition to aphids, ladybugs also eat spider mites, mealybugs and whiteflies. Gardening supply stores sell adult ladybugs by the thousands very affordably. You can also purchase ladybug larvae.
Mice and Voles
According to Dr. Leonard Perry at the University of Vermont, "Although these rodents look similar and cause similar damage, they are only distantly related. Both live in grassy areas and leaf mulch and travel in tunnels. They feed on any vegetation, including bulbs and tubers, as well as bark on young trees and shrubs."
Having a cat or a dog will keep mice and voles at bay without having to buy or do anything extra. If you don't have a pet and don't want to get one for this purpose, consider traps with peanut butter as bait. Despite the stereotype of mice and cheese, peanut butter is a better lure. This is especially true if it's competing with the food already growing fresh in your garden. You can also use barriers such as small fences. Avoid using poison as it can be dangerous near food.