How to figure out which critters are nibbling on your plants - WFSB 3 Connecticut

How to figure out which critters are nibbling on your plants

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The weather is nice and a lot of people may spend the weekend planting their gardens. But there are some things you should look for after your plants are in the ground.

It won't be long before hungry animals will be invading newly planted gardens for a nice easy meal that they think is prepared for them.

Experts offer tips to help people identify what is munching on their vegetables and how to treat the problem.

"The worst animals in the garden, the ones we get the most questions about on the hotline are rabbits, squirrels, and moles," said Laura Dickinson with the Johnson County Extension Office.

Experts say identifying garden pests makes treating damage to plants much easier. If the damage is occurring overnight, there are signs to look for to distinguish which animals are responsible for the crime.

"If you don't see them, then rabbit damage looks like the tops of the plants are all nipped off very evenly, just mowed off overnight. Squirrels would have more damage with the trees and shrubs and are less focused on your baby plants," Dickinson said.

Since people began gardening there have been many myths on what works and what doesn't to keep the critters away. Some people swear by everything from predator urine to human hair to keep their garden safe and plants flourishing.

"Those recipes have a good chance of working for awhile. But what you have to do is keep switching it up because animals get used to the bad smell or the bad taste and then it doesn't bother then anymore," Dickinson said.

Store-bought options are available in any plant nursery. Steve McClanahan with Family Tree Nursery recommends commercial products over home remedies since they have the ingredients listed on the side of the bottle and all of the ingredients have been tested.

"We do sell one type of taste repellent that is hot pepper wax. It's hot pepper that you spray right on the foliage, the animal bites into it, burns their mouth," he said.

But McClanahan said the most effective way to rid gardens of pests is to build a fence around the freshly planted veggies and flowers. It might not be the cheapest option, but it has the best result.

Many times people think that trapping an animal and carrying it away is a safe and humane option, but it's actually quite the opposite. By dropping an animal like a rabbit in a new place and letting it go, you are leaving it in a strange environment with no food and no burrows and, many times, the animals will not survive in the new environment.

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