Identifying Garden Pests

Reader Contribution by Trisha Miller
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Missing or bitten fruit, dig marks, bits of fur and chomped leaves are all signs that a pesky animal is enjoying the fruits of your labor. Each of these occurrences can leave clues as to just who is munching on your beautiful shrubs. There are a variety of reasons that animals would like to stop by your garden for dinner (or even call it home!). Knowing the signs of animal intruders will help to properly identify how to safely repel any pest from the area.

Flowers missing or bitten

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Deer love snacking on fresh flowers, but they won’t eat the entire plant. If the bloom is missing from the tops of your flowers a deer might be to blame. Check near the garden area for hoof marks and even trees that are missing spots of bark. These guys love to rub their antlers against trees. They also leave behind small oval-shaped droppings.

Small paw marks in the dirt & digging

This could actually be a variety of different animals. Usually the only animals that leave behind strictly claw marks and dig marks are skunks, cats, and squirrels. You may be able to find some feces around the area which might help determine which animal is doing the digging. Cats will usually dig in areas they feel have become a nice potty spot. However, occasionally they will nibble on grassy plants and possibly herbs. Squirrels may leave many holes in the dirt, going after freshly planted seeds for food. Skunks like to dig around for bugs in the soil, and will leave an aroma when they are near.

Clean marks or holes in produce

Photo by Fotolia

Undoubtedly, this would point to a bird problem in your garden. Bugs can do this from time to time as well, but in that case, you can usually find the culprit sitting right on the fruit. Birds love to peck at ripe fruits and veggies. Usually they will stay away from eating the whole fruit. Mostly birds just want the bugs that live around the plants, but occasionally they do like to cause mayhem in a garden. If they make a home near the garden you may be troubled by their loud squawking on a regular basis as well.

Leafy vegetables with angled bite marks

Although bunnies love carrots and other produce, they love healthy leafy plants just as much. Any big green leaves will be nibbled away in a hurry. Rabbits have sharp teeth that were made to crunch right through foliage. Look for clean edges on leaves and many small droppings nearby. Also, take a look around areas with too much overgrowth. Families of rabbits will quickly call any space near a garden home.

Produce missing or bitten

Photo by Fotolia

Raccoons and opossums love to eat produce right off of the plant. Nevertheless, they will get food wherever they can. That means old fruit and veggies that have fallen to the ground definitely still look like a meal to these creatures. It’s also imperative to keep any debris or trash away from these nearby areas.

Plants dying or roots eaten

Small underground creatures like mice, voles and groundhogs may cause plants to suddenly die. These critters will usually leave signs of life nearby. They will gather dried grass and leave holes right into their lairs. Very small droppings or footprints may be a sign that these animals have made a home nearby. Pay close attention to structures like garages and sheds that might be close to the garden. Small animals love to burrow in walls whenever possible.

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