From foxes and cats using flower beds as litter trays to moles digging up lawns, the warmer months play host to a vast menagerie of animals in our gardens.
But keen gardeners needn’t suffer in silence while their pride and joys are munched and trampled. Luckily, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has plenty of advice on how to cope with these unwanted garden visitors…
Damage done: A wide range of plants can be trampled or dug up. Ripening tree and bush fruit may be eaten.
Signs to look for: Fox excrement and the pungent smell of fox urine. Holes dug in the ground; chewed or 'stolen' items left in a garden; trampled plants.
What to do
• It’s often a matter of tolerating their presence, as fencing is unlikely to keep them out and repellent substances and scaring devices may prove ineffective.
• Consider changes to the types of plant grown, with plants that can survive or avoid trampling.
• Holes dug by foxes should be filled in promptly before they deepen, otherwise a den may be established.
Damage done: Crushed plants from sunbathing cats, holes dug in soil and scratched trees.
Signs to look for: Excrement left on the soil surface or partly buried, in flower beds and vegetable gardens, often with a pungent smell
What to do
• Netting may be effective in keeping cats away from small areas within the garden.
• Flower borders densely planted with perennials are less appealing as toilet areas – as there is no bare soil.
• Keep seed rows well watered as cats dislike wet soil, preferring loose, dry earth and mulch.
• Use one or more of the cat deterrents on the market. They fall into two groups: repellents that are supposed to offend the cat's sense of smell or taste, and electronic scaring devices that produce a sound that may cause cats to move on. Neither type cause harm to animals.
Damage done: Tunnelling can disturb roots of seedlings and other small plants in flower beds and vegetable plots.
Signs to look for: Those tell-tale mounds of excavated soil or ‘molehills’.
What to do
• Live-capture traps are available for setting in mole tunnels. These must be inspected at least twice a day so the mole can be released before it dies of starvation and/or stress. Captured moles should be released at least one mile away from the area of capture.
• Netting is available which can prevent moles coming to the lawn surface to create molehills. This must however be installed before turf is laid.
• A type of mole-repellent smoke, sold as Pest-Stop Biofume Mole Smoke, emits castor oil fumes, which are said to line the tunnels and deter worms and other mole food from entering the tunnels. The hungry mole may move elsewhere, or it may simply create new tunnels nearby.
• Caper spurge, Euphorbia lathyris, which is a biennial plant, has its adherents who claim the root exudates repel moles. It is worth a try, but be sure to remove most of the flower heads before seeding occurs or a weed problem may result.
Damage done: Deer are particularly fond of runner beans, beetroot, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, azaleas, camellia, roses, holly, ivy, rhododendron, geraniums, tulips and grape hyacinth.
Signs to look for: Leaves, shoot tips and flowers eaten, tree bark eaten or abraded overnight.
What to do
• The most effective way of stopping deer is to exclude them from gardens with netting or fences but these need to be robust and relatively tall. Deer can squeeze through small gaps under fencing or leap over barriers that are too low. A ditch on the outside will improve the effectiveness of fences or hedging.
• Tree guards will be necessary to protect young trees from fraying if the garden is not fenced. The best way of doing this is to place three or four stakes or poles around the trunk so that the deer cannot get close enough to damage the bark.
• Animal deterrent sprays based on aluminium ammonium sulphate may discourage deer from feeding, but need frequent application in spring and summer to keep pace with new growth. Such sprays may also divert deer onto feeding on other plants that have previously been left alone.
• Another repellent some find effective is to place human hair in bags made from muslin or old nylon tights in places where deer are feeding or entering gardens.