Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday, December 11, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 34° Cloudy
News >  Home and garden

In the Garden: Creative garden pest control

This coyote decoy is on duty to keep birds away from Susan Mulvihill’s ripening blueberries. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)
This coyote decoy is on duty to keep birds away from Susan Mulvihill’s ripening blueberries. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)

As a gardener who grows vegetables, berries and tree fruits, I’m always looking for new ideas to keep certain types of pests away from the harvest. Over the years, I’ve found this requires a creative approach.

Recently, my husband and I had lunch in Coeur d’Alene. While enjoying the view of the lake out the window, I noticed some coyote decoys had been placed on the docks. They were there to keep geese from spoiling the docks and looked quite lifelike.

I later did a web search for coyote decoys and found the same type for $65. I placed my order and now “Wile E Coyote” guards different areas of our garden. His duties alternate between keeping the quail away from the pea patch and cucamelon vines, and guarding the blueberry patch. I should add that every time I walk past an area where he’s on duty, I’m briefly startled because he’s so lifelike.

While we were in France last month, we walked past a garden with a hawk kite tethered to a pole. In the gentle breeze, the kite was quite convincing as it soared over the garden. We’d also noticed some farmers’ fields with more hawk kites. The purpose was to keep birds and rabbits away from the crops.

Bill and I decided to look for a hawk kite once we returned to Spokane. It was easy to find and, $19 later, Bill rigged one to soar above our small orchard. Our main goal was to keep the robins, finches and starlings away from our ripening cherry crop and it has worked pretty well.

Another product we’ve used to startle the birds is 2-inch-wide mylar flash tape. We tie it to a few fruit tree branches and also attach it to the top of some PVC poles. Whenever the wind blows, it flashes and rustles and is erratic enough to upset the birds.

We’re currently testing some fruit tree sleeves – made from a tight nylon mesh – to cover branches laden with cherries. The 3-foot-long sleeves are slipped onto the branches and secured at each end with a drawstring.

Earlier in the season, I made a life-sized scarecrow named “Digby.” In addition to using it for the usual purposes, we also thought it would look cool in the garden. Well, it seems to be doing more of the latter because while finches and starlings have been deterred, the robins are determined to eat some fruit and berries. Our neighbors enjoy pointing out how much Digby looks like Bill, since he has been outfitted with an old pair of his jeans and a flannel shirt. I’m glad we provide our neighbors some amusement relating to what “those crazy Mulvihills” are up to.

Toy snakes are yet another example of being creative about pest control. Several years ago, we purchased several at a dollar store. They look lifelike enough to occasionally startle a visitor to the garden but the purpose is to keep birds – especially quail – away from newly sprouted seeds and tender young plants.

When using any type of deterrent, there are two important things to remember:

Move it around in your garden. If you keep it in the same place day after day, birds and other critters will realize there’s nothing to fear. Put the deterrents in place right when you need them and remove them as soon as the need has passed, so pests won’t become habituated to them.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video on

Wordcount: 607
Tags: ae, home-garden

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email