Many cultural practices have as their objectives the protection of plants from conditions and enemies that are likely to harm them. Among the most important of these are excessive cold, too high temperatures, sun, snow, water and wind, as well as diseases, insects, birds, animals, humans and weeds.
Plant protection from “us’ or your neighbor is usually best achieved by means of effective fencing; thus a hedge or other barrier, suitably placed, may prevent harm from being done to a lawn by people walking across it and forming worn paths, and the likelihood of damage being done to planted areas by automobiles.
Fences do provide good protection, against larger domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, hogs and dogs and against some wild animals, especially deer and rabbits which could cause damage. To be effective, fences must be strong and of sufficient height. To protect trees and shrubs in winter this means fences sufficiently high above the surface of any snow that may accumulate on the ground. Fences must also be impenetrable by the particular animals they are to keep out. To keep out rabbits, chicken wire having a half-inch or three-quarter-inch mesh is practicable.
To keep the bark of trees from being gnawed by animals such as rabbits and mice (this is especially likely to occur in winter) encircle the trunks with a tree guard or a girdle of galvanized-wire hardware cloth or half-inch mesh chicken wire. The girdle should extend to a depth of about 6 in. beneath the ground level and sufficiently far above the ground to prevent the animal from reaching unprotected bark when a thick layer of snow makes it possible for it to reach far higher than it otherwise could.
Certain bulbs, such as Crocus and Tulip, are especially likely to be eaten or otherwise damaged by rodents such as mice, chipmunks and moles. These pests may be circumvented by planting the bulbs inside baskets or cages made of wire mesh, or by surrounding the whole bed with a vertical wall of the same material carried to a depth of 8-9 in. below ground and extending an inch or two above ground.
Trapping is an effective ways of controlling damage by squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, moles, woodchucks and other animals, but gardeners should carefully check local laws covering these practices before engaging in them. Only traps of humane types should be used, and they should always be placed where neither persons nor domestic animals, wild animals and birds that are not pests will be harmed by them. In some cases, permission to shoot or trap can be obtained from the State Game Wildlife after lodging a complaint with him of the damage done.
Against cats, dogs, deer and some other animals, repellents that may be sprayed on the plants have some limited value. Their disadvantage is that they must be frequently renewed. Commercial preparations are available from dealers in horticultural supplies.
Crows, English sparrows and a variety of other birds may harm gardens by damaging fruit, picking off buds, scratching up seedbeds, and in other ways, so that sometimes it is necessary to curb them. Care should always be taken not to destroy birds that are harmless or that in general are useful even though they occasionally damage a little fruit or scratch up a few seeds. Most birds are desirable in gardens and more than “pay for their keep” by aiding in suppressing insects and other pests; they also delight the eye and ear. Check carefully before taking steps against them.
Trapping is the best ways of controlling birds that must be removed, but check local laws carefully before attempting this. If proper precautions are taken, poisoning isn’t a recommended process to control the bird. This could endanger the lives of desirable birds, animals or even of children. None of these means are practicable against domestic birds such as chickens and ducks. Fencing is the only satisfactory means of keeping these out of gardens. Scarecrows and other bird scares are sometimes effective in keeping birds away.
Small areas, such as seedbeds, or even a few fruit bushes, may be protected from the attentions of birds by enclosing them in cheesecloth, fine netting or metal screening. As some insurance against injury, the maintenance of bird feeding stations and the provision of drinking water has much to recommend it; some birds damage garden crops when other sources of food are lacking and take juicy young buds and soft fruits to quench their thirst.