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Natural habitat gardening has a wonderful ring to it. Seeing hummingbirds finally notice your abundant planting of red, tuberous flowering plants, gives you a special feeling of triumph. Build it and they will come! Unfortunately, there is a down side.

Creating a natural habitat draws creatures of every description into the garden. Every gardener I know has their own list of insistent and abundant undesirable inhabitants. Earwigs, slugs, snails, racoons, cats and dogs are some of the more common problems. My list includes bunnies, groundhogs and voles. Most recently, I have noticed that my young daughter could also be considered a garden pest as she gleefully dismantles the netting which was supposed to keep the groundhogs out.

The type of undesirable wildlife included on your hit list says a lot about the environment or habitat you have created in your garden. In my own, there is a fairly extensive "meadow" of goldenrod and wildflowers surrounding the vegetable garden. I have created a bunny heaven. I cannot take the passive approach and hope that they will feast elsewhere. Physical barriers of every sort and description are the only way to save some greens for human consumption.

The added problems of groundhogs and voles make the physical barrier system somewhat more complex. Voles burrow underground so the fencing has to be buried, at least to 6 inches. Voles are also very small so the fencing has to have gaps no bigger than fine chicken wire. Groundhogs are not hindered at all by this type of fencing and appear to be able to dig beneath anything. What's even worse about the groundhogs is that they destroy everything in their path on their way to the choice vegetable of the day.

Battles such as this are rarely won but always interesting. Trying new ways to keep out the wildlife is almost as interesting as trying new varieties of plants. I have conceded the growing of many favourite bunny foods but have insisted on continuing my attempt to grow the perfect beet. Beets are adored by all three of my garden inhabitants. Call me crazy.

Garden netting, I have been told, will keep groundhogs away from the young seedlings of cucumber and squash, which appear to be their favourites, because their feet get tied up in the netting and it drives them crazy. We shall see. Along with the barriers, I have surrounded the desirable vegetables with ones they don't enjoy. I have a silly hope that maybe they just won't notice. Swiss Chard is a great vegetable which nothing else seems to like and we have, consequently, learned to love.

Slugs, snails and earwigs all indicate that your garden is blessed with organic matter. These pests love to raise their families in rotting organic material and come out at dusk or dawn to snack on whatever is near by. Other than changing the habitat completely, you must select the individual plants which are truly your favourite and set up physical defense systems to keep the pests away.

Pest or wildlife problems such as these are part and parcel of gardening. An important consideration when dealing with the problem is to take a look at the habitat you have created and how it is such a desirable spot for the pest. Changing the environment slightly might just encourage them to move to another location. For the shade, muck loving pest, reduce the shade or dry the area out. The plant material, of course, may need to be changed with the changing conditions.

Introducing a diverse community of plant material into the garden increases the wildlife which is likely to pop by. For the gardener who is able to sit back and observe nature taking its course, this is most often a very rewarding thing. Many species of birds and butterflies depend on gardeners to include plants which they need for either food or shelter. In turn, they reward us by feeding on insects or simply by being there.

The trick, with natural habitat gardening, is to find the right balance of plant material and environment so that the good things stay and the undesirable pests stay out. It is a continuous effort but that, really, is what being a gardener is all about.


Daisy Moore, 1998.




Other summer garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Extreme Conditions
Growing Roses
Summer Lawn Care
Propogation by Cuttings
Sources of Native Plants
Making Sense of Fertilizer Labels
Annual/Perennial Combinations
Climbing Plants
The Dry Garden
Ornamental Grasses
Chooosing A Good Gardening Book
Companion Planting
Preparing the Compost for Fall Use
Getting the Most out of your Vegetable Garden
Repairing Lawns From Summer Stress
All About Grubs
All About Onions
Useful Herbs for the Home Garden
Screens and Hedges




Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005