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How to prevent pet damage in the garden

Pea trellis

What do you do if your pets are scratching up your newly sprouted seedlings?  Here are the best options I've come up with:

  • Put up a trellis.  If you're going to need one anyway (such as for your fall peas), go ahead and erect your trellis as soon as you put the crops in the ground.  A determined cat might still play in the bare soil, but you'll at least keep the dogs out.
  • Gathering sticksLeave most of the mulch in place.  If you're planting large crops like peas or transplanting seedlings like broccoli, you can just rake back mulch from small patches of earth.  It's the bare soil that your pets find so attractive, so mulch will prevent damage.
  • Stack small sticks on the bed.  Just a few well-branched sticks will keep both cats and dogs at bay.  Layer the branches in overlapping patterns so that the whole bed is very lightly covered, but not using so many that you block light to the soil.  Once your crops are big enough that they would get tangled in the wood, your pets will no longer be interested, so you can move the sticks away (or use them as kindling.)
Sticks deter pets


These tips assume that your pets are actually interested in the beds in question.  If they're instead running through your plantings on their way to somewhere else, you need to learn about nodes and natural pathways.  (See the June volume of Weekend Homesteader for more information.)

Another way of keeping your pets on the aisles and out of your crops is to figure out why they're messing up your beds.  (No, the answer probably isn't to raise your blood pressure.)  I'm pretty sure our cats dug up the carrots and broccoli because they thought the loose soil made a good litter box.  Maybe the permaculture solution would be to build them a sand pit so they could scratch with impunity?

Our chicken waterer solves the poopy water problem --- no more filthy messes for your hens or for you!


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I had problems with the dogs getting into my raised bed to lay in the straw mulch early this spring, the dead branch trick did great!

One of these days I'll remember to snap a photo of my Egyptian onions, they took well and are about 1-2ft tall already! The 100 degree heat hasn't phased them a bit.

Comment by Phil Tue Jul 26 19:12:44 2011

So glad to hear your onions are doing well!

I've noticed that in cold weather, mulch is the animal's favorite, then in hot weather they want bare soil. Luckily, the branch trick works for both, as long as you pay attention close enough to know which beds to protect.

Comment by anna Wed Jul 27 08:26:05 2011

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime