We would usually be writing to you about encouraging wildlife into your garden but some are more desirable than others.
Squirrels, moles, rabbits and rodents can do untold damage to a garden, and for some it’s a constant battle to keep them out. You can’t eliminate them completely, unfortunately, but there are ways to limit the damage.
These often appear in these mild winter days. They dig up bulbs and chew on the young shoots of trees, so when planting your bulbs, bury small-mesh wire netting just below the surface, above each group.
In spring they will even steal eggs and bird nestlings, as well as taking seeds and peanuts from bird feeders and tables.
Once squirrels have set up home near you, they’re almost impossible to keep out, but it helps to put wire-net guards round the base of your bird tables and you can even mix chilli powder in with the nuts – birds are oblivious but squirrels hate it! Squirrels don’t like running across open ground, preferring to stick to the branches of trees, so you could remove any trees from your boundaries (subject to relevant permissions if needed), but that is a bit extreme.
Molehills and tunnels ruin level surfaces in borders and lawns (and mowers) and will undermine the roots of plants allowing them to dry out thus killing the plants. The tunnels will often run under newly planted vegetables and throw them out of the ground; in fact anywhere with fertile, worm-rich soil attracts moles.
Lighting smoke cones in the tunnels or flooding them with water will drive the moles out, but it is possible that as soon as one goes, another will move in, so you will have to be persistent. Some people have even been known to bury a portable radio playing loud pop music in an effort to get rid of them!
Your garden can be a tasty food larder for rabbits and once they discover it, they will come back time and again. They will eat grass, vegetables, flowers and young perennials and in winter they can even kill off young trees and shrubs by stripping off the bark.
To keep rabbits out you will need to surround your garden boundary, or just your vulnerable vegetable and plant beds, with post and wire fencing using small mesh netting. This needs to be dug down by about 30cm (or 1ft in old money) to stop the rabbits from burrowing underneath. It will also need to be at least 75cm (2ft 6in) so that they can’t hop over it either.
Anything that makes it difficult for rabbits to get in or out of the garden can help deter them, as they don’t feel safe without a fast escape route.
Mice and rats are notorious for eating stored fruit, vegetables and growing crops, and they will also dig up large seeds and corms. They are prone to chewing your stored garden cushions, eat seed left out for the birds and will even bite through power cables.
To deter them, spread out your compost heap before they can move in for the winter and make nests. Rigid compost bins sitting on a brick base or several layers of small-mesh wire netting will stop rodents burrowing up inside. Store bird seed in rodent-proof containers and make sure your disturb the contents of your shed and garage regularly.
Traps and poison baits remain the most effective remedies but follow instructions carefully and properly dispose of the remains. It is really important that you don’t leave them lying around where children or pets may find them.