Master Gardener: Gardening with wildlife |

Master Gardener: Gardening with wildlife

Tracy Zuschlag
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

How can we cohabitate with wildlife and still have the garden we want? We should never forget that we share our land with wildlife, so permanently removing them by any means is never an option.

Wildlife that impacts our gardens can be above and below ground. Some common above ground wildlife are rabbits, chipmunks, raccoons, elk and deer. Below ground wildlife are pocket gophers, voles, and Wyoming or Richardson’s ground squirrels.

Animals need the basics like us to survive: food, water and shelter. By planting gardens we are naturally inviting wildlife into our yards. Other attractors are bird feeders, bird baths and nonnative plants. No plant is foolproof to prevent attracting wildlife. What attracts them does depend on the availability of natural food sources, taste preferences of individuals or groups of animals. Even resistant plants may suffer under the right circumstances.

Assuming that our gardens will be attractive to animals, what can we do to deter them from eating our plants? One answer is to offer less palatable options. Some unappealing characteristics are a strong aroma, bitter taste, prickles and spines, tough or leathery leaves, and milky sap. When shopping for plants, some plant, seed and bulb companies list the plant species as deer or rabbit resistant.

However, some animals are persistent and we need to use safe and effective methods to deter them from our yards. Before proceeding it is important to become aware of the laws pertaining to extermination of animals.

Safe and effective wildlife deterrents refer to cold frames and greenhouses, barriers for gardens (raised beds, wire baskets for small plants/bulbs, hardware cloth under entire beds, electric fencing, tall non-electric fencing), tree protectors, window boxes, hanging baskets and tower gardens (aeroponic/vertical farming garden systems).

The Routt County extension office is located at 136 Sixth St. Master Gardeners are available every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to answer your gardening questions. Please stop in or send an email to

Tracy Zuschlag has been a Routt County Master Gardener since 2000, lives in South Routt and attempts to keep out the wildlife in her vegetable garden with raised beds and tall non-electric fencing. Her cats help her too. The perennial gardens have proved successful with native plant species.

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