How To Protect Your Plants From Pests

Deer & Other Mammals:

There are so many deer in Northern Virginia that unless you live in a busy part of town, or have big dogs in your yard, you will almost always need to have a fence around your garden.

Deer are a problem for vegetable gardeners in northern Virginia

I have a 5-foot fence around my back yard. If deer wanted to jump my fence they easily could but it has been my experience that they usually won’t, as I suspect they feel uncomfortable being enclosed by the fence.

But there is a woodchuck in my neighborhood that has no qualms about digging under my fence and helping himself to my carrots and lettuce once or twice a year. Here’s a video of the woodchuck (taken through the window), and below that are pictures of some of the plants he’s eaten.

If this problem persists I may need to put some chicken wire along the bottom my fence extending several inches into the soil to keep him out.


groundhog eaten plants

groundhog eaten plants



Birds can be a big problem if you are growing things like sunflowers, or corn for grinding. Also, when the weather gets dry a big juicy tomato is very tempting to a thirsty bird.

Tomatoes are tempting to birds

Netting can help and scarecrows really do help some, especially if you move them around every few days. Cats can be a very effective way of keeping birds out of the garden, but some people are concerned with cats killing too many of our area’s many song birds.



Bugs are probably the biggest problem for almost every gardener.

If you want to avoid using pesticides you will need to provide netting over your plants, pick off bugs by hand and squish them (not for the faint of heart), wash them off with a hose, or find a biological control.

There are several biological controls out there, but remember they are almost never 100% effective, but they will reduce pest damage. If you do decide to use pesticides follow the instructions exactly, even when using organic pesticides, and make sure you do not harvest the treated plants until specified on the pesticide label.

Insects may chew bites out of vegetables and leave unappetizing blemishes, but they are unlikely to make the vegetable uneatable. Just cut the bad parts off and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

PREVIOUS: Preparing Your Soil To Plant


LOCAL GARDENING RESOURCE: Step-By-Step Raised Bed Fencing System Instructions (pdf)

The Prince William County Master Gardeners have some fantastic directions for how to build a raised bed fence. With their excellent instructions you can actually do this! Download the pdf from the PWMG website.

Raised Bed Fencing System by Prince William County Master Gardeners


Paul Benedict

Paul Benedict

Paul Benedict is a Manassas gardener and retired USDA-NRCS soil scientist. He has been vegetable gardening since he was a small child and some of his earliest memories are of being in the garden with his dad when he was 4 or 5 years old picking peas and pulling weeds. Now some 50 years later Paul still enjoys vegetable gardening. "I still don’t consider myself an expert, but more of an experienced trainee. I keep learning something new every year. I took my interest with gardening and soils and studied soils and crops in college. As a result I spent over 35 years as a soil scientist working for USDA in many places across the country. Everywhere I lived I found new challenges to gardening.”
Paul Benedict

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