Jennifer is an environmentalist from Ohio. She is passionate about advocating for the planet and wildlife through gardening and education.
It's All About Luck
I’m going to be honest up front. These methods only have limited success and seem to work best when I switch out methods on a regular basis and combine more than one method at a time.
Some methods work better than others, and sometimes methods that some gardeners have had luck with just won't work with another family of raccoons living in a different area. Most of these methods are scent-based and need to be reapplied after it rains.
I have a family of at least six baby raccoons and their mother living near my property who visit almost every night, as confirmed by my trail camera. Though they are very cute, and I don’t want to hurt them, I would much prefer that they keep their cuteness out of my garden, as they have a very bad tendency of digging up my plants and forcing me to replant them first thing in the morning. It is quite annoying.
Here are a few raccoon deterrent methods that I have tried to use to repel the trash pandas from my garden and how effective I have found each to be. Below is a brief overview, and each one will be explained more in depth:
- Red pepper (crushed)
- Peppermint Oil
- Epsom Salt
- Predator Urine
- Blood meal
- Wood Ash
- Noise and lights
- Commercial products
- Decoy food
Crushed Red Pepper
Raccoons apparently hate the smell of hot pepper, so I sprinkle crushed red pepper around my garden. It works sometimes for a while, but like most of the things on this list, they seem to get used to it after a while, so it needs to be rotated with other methods.
Crushed red pepper is also very effective for keeping squirrels out of my bird feeders. I mix it with the black-oil sunflower seeds I feed to the birds.
Peppermint oils is another scent-based repellent that works so-so. When used in combination with other methods it seems to work all right. It is available in big jugs with spray nozzles at home improvement stores.
I have recently planted a new garden bed that is lined with a couple rows of hardy geraniums (cranesbill - not to be confused with tender geraniums) at the border. This bed hasn’t been dug up yet despite being right next to my main garden that gets dug up frequently. The geraniums seem to be effective at deterring trash pandas and other critters so far.
My tender geraniums don’t seem to be at all effective at repelling critters. Know the difference between the different flowers sold as “geraniums”
Epsom salt is decently effective with my trash panda family when first applied. It also has the added benefit of being a great plant fertilizer. Simply sprinkle it on the ground around your plants. It will deter critters for a while, then it will absorb into the soil as a fertilizer next time it rains, or you water the plant.
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I don’t really use garlic straight by itself as a repellent very often, but it is one of the main ingredients in a commercial product I use called Repels-All, which works alright for a few days at a time.
When I lived in my old duplex apartment, I found that plain garlic also worked great to repel mice away from the balcony, but not at all on larger rats.
I haven’t tried commercial predator urine products (which may be created using inhumane methods) but using the same general idea I’ve tried used kitty litter (we use the biodegradable World’s Best Cat Litter brand). It has a limited effectiveness on raccoons but attracts flies.
I did find it very effective at repelling skunks, however. A few years ago, we had a skunk problem, so I filled in the holes they dug with used kitty litter. They returned a couple of times after I stopped adding fresh used litter but stayed away when I kept adding more for quite a while. I haven’t seen (or smelled) a skunk in my yard for a couple years now.
I’ve seen other people online claim that blood meal deters raccoons and various other garden pests. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and it doesn’t work on the family of raccoons that regularly visit my property. If anything, it has the opposite effect. I’ve noticed areas where I have sprinkled blood meal have been torn up even more than other areas. I think my particular family of raccoons must have thought I had buried a delicious steak dinner in my garden for them.
Blood meal is supposedly also a great fertilizer, though it should be used sparingly because the extremely high nitrogen content can burn plant roots when used in high concentrations.
I’ve seen wood ash recommended to keep raccoons and other critters away from gardens. I haven’t found it to have much of an effect, however. It is supposed to be a good fertilizer when used very sparingly though. It is also useful for filling in holes in the yard made by mice and chipmunks.
Noises and Lights
I have tried a couple noise- and light-based solutions to keep raccoons away. I have solar-powered lights that activate at night and look like two blinking red eyes. These don’t seem to work at all. I often find them knocked over in the morning.
I also have one of those decoy owls that makes owl noises when activated by motion and has red light up eyes. It works ok if I remember to move it regularly, which I often don’t.
The various decorative solar lights I have around the garden don’t seem to have any effect.
I also have a hanging Halloween ghost/demon decoration that I occasionally hang from my hammock stand overnight. It only works to keep critters away from the immediate area where it is hanging. I only put it out sometimes to keep the critters from getting used to it.
The commercial product I use most often is called Repels-All. It claims to be made of all natural ingredients, including garlic, dried blood, whole egg solids, clove, fish oil, onion, and wintergreen. It works okay, but there are still sometimes dug-up spots in the garden when I use it. As with other scent-based repellents, the raccoons get used to it after a while.
Leaving Decoy Food Far Away From My Garden
This is probably the worst thing you can do if you want destructive critters to stay away from your yard, but I’ve found that it at least keeps them from completely tearing up my garden at night. If I have some expired food or scraps that I don’t want to put in the worm bin or bokashi bucket, I’ll leave them at the far back edge of my yard near the fence, far away from my garden and flower beds. I’ll try to put it in places that will take a bit of effort to get, like in tree branches or in a rotting tree stump (kinda like a puzzle feeder for pets) this keeps them busy and fills their bellies enough that they won’t cause quite as much destruction in my garden. I don’t bother trying to keep them away from the compost pile anymore, because I’d rather they dig there than in the garden. I don’t turn the pile enough anyway, so at least the critters can occasionally provide a useful service for all the trouble they cause.
A Final Word
As I said in the beginning, raccoons are very diligent, intelligent, and stubborn animals. Most deterrents only have limited effectiveness and need to be changed out often as these creatures simply get used to the scents, sounds, and sights used to repel them. Just do what you can to minimize the damage they do to your garden and try to learn to live in harmony with the wildlife with whom you share a habitat.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jennifer Wilber
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 23, 2021:
I like all the natural methods. Although the humane methods sometimes work, it is because humans had no insight into the minds of those foraging beasts. Thanks.