Natural Wildlife Repellents

Turn to a natural way to ward off the wildlife eating your vegetable garden.

  • Making wildlife repellents does not need to be costly; many options can be bought in bulk or grown in your own garden.
    Illustration by Holly Ward Bimba
  • “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener” by Tammi Hartung shares methods of promoting a beneficial wildlife ecosystem while controlling the presence of wildlife in the garden.
    Cover courtesy of Storey Publishing

The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener (Storey, 2014), by Tammi Hartung discusses methods both to promote wildlife in your area and to repel them from your food-garden. Hartung is a certified organic grower, focusing on native, herbal, medicinal, and rare plants. She is also the author of Homegrown Herbs. The following excerpt talks about wildlife repellents to use in your organic garden.

Repellents: Smelly Stuff and Hot Stuff

Short of a physical barrier, the best way we’ve found for discouraging persistent problematic wildlife is some type of repelling agent. We use many that we make ourselves, and we purchase others that we’ve found to be effective. I classify repellents into two groups: those that taste or smell disagreeable or otherwise irritate, and those that give a false message to the targeted wild animal that a predator or dead animal is nearby. 

No matter what type of repellent you choose, keep in mind that most will have to be refreshed regularly, at the very least following any rainstorm. Others can last for up to six months and still maintain their effectiveness despite the rain. Some commercial products that would normally be odiferous to our human noses are deodorized but still maintain their ability to repel wild or domestic animals, whose sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours. Because most birds have no sense of smell, and since they often tolerate eating very spicy plants, repellents typically do not work well for birds.

In especially challenging circumstances, we’ve learned to combine repellents with other tools to increase our chances of success. Also, sometimes a repellent will work for a long time and then for some reason unknown to me, the animals I’m trying to discourage will just ignore it. Maybe they just get used to it. In any case, be prepared to change what you’re using if you find that repellent no longer works the way you need it to. Sometimes a fresh approach will do the job.


Garlic is always a good choice. In just about any form, garlic will repel all sorts of wild creatures from garden plants. Almost every creature (besides humans) dislikes the smell and taste. You should be prepared for the entire area to smell like a freshly made batch of garlic bread if you use this repellent. You can make it in any number of ways. Garlic water is simple to prepare and works very well, but it does takes an hour or so to concoct. Spreading dehydrated garlic granules on the ground around the plants you want to protect is fast and won’t make the area smell as much, but it’s more expensive. 

Commercial products based on garlic oil can be sprayed on or near plants to repel wildlife. If you don’t want to have garlic flavor on your veggies and fruits, spray other plants growing in the same area instead of using garlic oil directly on food plants.



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