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Frugal Methods on Dealing with Garden Critters

My husband and I started a raised garden [3] in April and our tomatoes are looking pretty good.  They are plump but are still very green and hard.  I was getting excited last week until I woke up one morning and something had taken big bites out of my best looking tomato!  It looked like gnaw marks, so our best bet is that a squirrel has been in our garden.  Here are a few frugal methods I have found to deal with garden thieves.

Moth Balls

The first suggestion that I was able to find online was to put moth balls around our plants.  Specifically, place 5 or so moth balls around each one to deter rodents and birds.  Within a day, I had gotten some moth balls and spread them around our garden. 

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that you shouldn’t do this unless you can monitor your pets and your kids at all times when they are anywhere close to the area!  Ingesting moth balls can kill people and animals, so be cautious!

Long story short, I still had freshly gnawed marks on a few other beauties the next morning.  I got back online to see what else may work.

Alternate Water Sources

Apparently, during droughts like the one we are having in Houston right now, animals will force themselves through awful smells like moth balls just to eat something with moisture in it.  A bunch of sites mentioned supplying an alternate water source in the same area as the garden but further away from the moth ball smell.

I grabbed a Styrofoam to-go container, washed it out, placed it about 5 steps away from my garden towards our tree, and filled both sides up with water.  It has now been 3 days and no new tomatoes have been mangled.  Poor squirrel or whatever must be thirsting to death in the heat.  I have a bad feeling that I am providing free water to a rat or something, but at least my tomatoes are safe for now.  In case this doesn’t work for you, here are a couple of other tips I had found.

Alternate Food Source

This is along the same lines of thinking as providing water.  I just could not bring myself to spend money on food for whatever animal had been ruining my tomatoes.  Just the idea of providing cracked corn or something made me even angrier. On the other hand, water will not cost me much at all and I do feel sorry for a thirsty animal.

Cayenne Pepper

A few sites also suggested sprinkling cayenne pepper around the garden as well.  The smell and taste supposedly keeps animals away from your precious plants.  But I thought that if moth balls didn’t do the trick, cayenne pepper was probably not going to work in these exact circumstances either.  Droughts simply brings the critters to the garden [4].

Have you ever had to battle off garden critters?  What affordable methods have worked for you?