Kale is one of those leafy green vegetables that is ever increasingly popular in gardens and even some entryways! It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that other than us human folk, certain animals love to munch on this leaf vegetable as well.
Kale is delicious to many foraging animals as it provides easy and fast nourishment as they scavenge. The most common animals that may be eating your kale include:
Let’s explore the feeding habits of these animals and what other foods in your garden may also attract them. Also, we’ll discuss how we can diminish or eliminate the negative impact of these specific animals on your kale crop this season. Without further ado – let’s get to it!
Deer Enjoy Snacking On Kale
Deer eat a lot of different plants, fruits, and vegetables and leafy greens are one of their favorites. From lettuce to spinach, and yes, you guessed it, your kale, these plants are all attractive meals for deer and can bring these creatures to your garden to enjoy a yummy snack.
Now, you might be surprised to know that of the leafy vegetable plants, kale isn’t one of a deer’s most preferred snacks. However, kale has a lot of protein, so deer can eat less of it during their meals and still be able to fill their bellies.
That’s good news for the deer, but bad news for your garden.
How To Stop Deer From Eating Your Kale
Our recommendations will never include eliminating a particular crop from your garden. We want you to make all the fresh kale chips you want!
Instead, here are a couple of ways that you can help deter deer from getting into your garden and keep your kale plants growing successfully until it’s time to harvest.
- Add powerful scents to your garden. Like many pests, there are certain scents that deer don’t tolerate well. Since these creatures have a strong sense of smell, any additional, powerful scent may help distract them from finding their food source – like your garden.
Certain herbs like garlic and mint help deter deer from nearby plants and are also so commonly used in recipes and as a meal topper that they would make an easy, useful, and beneficial addition to your garden.
Other scent options include bar soap. I know this one may seem odd, but with some potent scents, these bars can easily be shredded and dispersed around individual plants or the perimeter of your garden. You could even hang the bars of soap themselves from nearby trees to keep deer at bay.
- Use motion lights. Deer are always on the lookout for predators, so adding a motion detecting light to your yard may be enough to spook them and keep them from snacking on your garden plants. If you have a nearby shed or post that the light can hang from, this would also ward off other unwelcome visitors.
- Add a barrier. We know fences aren’t always a cost-effective option, but adding a fence to your garden or yard perimeter can be beneficial to keeping not just deer out, but other pests from destroying your plants as well. Be mindful that deer can jump quite high, so keep this in the back of your mind while planning.
Gophers Chomp On Kale
Gophers tunnel in your yard and potentially wreck several plant root systems in your garden.
These critters will also eat your kale and many other vegetables that provide them with all the nutrition they need.
How To Stop Gophers From Eating Your Kale
- Close gopher tunnels. Closing off a gopher’s main traveling route is one of the first steps of ridding your garden of these creatures.
Depending on your experience, you can try filling spotted gopher tunnels with dirt yourself, or you can use a product like Expanding Spiced Tunnel Fill to fill gopher tunnels, as well as any other tunnels made by burrowing critters. This product is safe to use around your pets too, and all you need to do is add water for it to take effect.
- Use coffee grounds. Once the tunnels have been filled, we recommend some additional steps to ensure any remaining scent paths are covered to help further deter gopher activity.
Instead of tossing out your coffee grounds from your morning pot of coffee, spread these used coffee grounds near the entrances of the tunnels as a natural deterrent. In addition to deterring gophers, you’ll also be deterring other burrowing critters like moles.
- Deter gophers with strong scents. Like most pests, things like rosemary, sage, and even the coffee grounds mentioned above will scream at them to turn around.
Chickens Love Kale
Chickens eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and we want to ensure our backyard creatures get all the nutrients they need to keep producing those delicious eggs we enjoy during our family breakfast.
While some of us may let our chickens wander during the day, we need to be mindful in doing so, as we may be unintentionally opening up our garden to be their breakfast buffet.
You may not always want to put a fence around your garden. Don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to keep them out without physical barriers.
How To Keep Chickens From Pecking At Kale
We all have our preferences on how to manage our farm animals, but here are a couple of recommendations that even the pickiest of chickens shouldn’t turn their beaks to.
- Enlarge your chicken coop. Depending on the number of chickens you have, you want to make sure that they have enough room to roam, eat, drink, and lay their eggs throughout the day.
If you notice your chickens are pecking or acting more aggressively toward one another, you may need to consider a larger environment for them. Happy chickens equate to nondestructive behaviors.
- Ensure your chickens have access to feed all day. It’s okay to have scheduled feeding times; our chickens have their breakfast and dinner just like we do, but they also have access to their feed throughout the day in case they need a snack.
Your chickens may know their food is always in their chicken coop, or a combination of their coop and their chicken run. So long as they know where they get their food, they won’t be tempted to stray to your garden and start pecking away at your kale and other crops.
If you’d like, you can also review the specific scents chickens hate to keep them away!
Rabbits Nibble On Kale In Gardens
Surely you knew these little critters would be on our list. Not only are they infamous for being carrot nibbling, leafy green crunching little fur balls, but they’re also known for eating more than just a few of the plants from your garden.
Now, while kale surprisingly isn’t at the top of the preferred diet list for rabbits, the fact is that rabbits will eat pretty much anything if food is scarce, so it’s best to prepare and rabbit-proof your garden as much as possible.
How to Keep Rabbits Away From Your Kale
Bunny proofing your garden, let alone your yard, can be quite an undertaking. Since these critters can dig under fencing and even chew through some temporary fencing materials, we had to take a closer look at some of our recommendations for deterring their activity.
- Talcum powder. I know this seems odd – baby powder on my vegetables?! But we’ve all seen how rabbit’s noses can go a mile a minute, so it’s no surprise that they are quite the sniffers.
Try dusting some talcum powder on your plants, or, for a more food-friendly option, you can also use powdered red pepper around your garden perimeter to help deter rabbits from entering.
- Use chicken wire. If you’re going to try fencing off your garden, or even individual plants, we recommend using chicken wire.
Now, don’t forget we mentioned these critters are diggers, so be sure to bury the bottom of your chicken wire a minimum of two inches in the ground to make this a more effective choice. Once the rabbits realize they can’t go under or over, they’ll pick an easier meal.
Squirrels Go Nuts For Kale
Don’t be fooled into thinking that squirrels are only interested in your walnut tree.
These pests are more than happy to taste the variety of veggies growing in your garden, and kale is at the top of the list.
Keeping Squirrels Out Of Your Garden
Since squirrels are quite the expert climbers and jumpers, at times you may have to get a little creative on the ways to deter these bushy-tailed pests.
- Get rid of your bird feeders. Other than your trees and vegetable garden, squirrels love to munch on the bird feed you put out for our winged friends. Once the bird feeders go empty, these creatures will move on to the next food source – your garden.
We may be a little extreme in recommending getting rid of these feeders in their entirety. At a minimum, you’ll want to make sure there is a suitable distance between your bird feeders and garden so these critters don’t make the jump over.
- Use powerful scents. Surprisingly, squirrels dislike many of the same scents as deer. So, double down on the mint and garlic plants in your garden, and you can easily deter at least two of the creatures from our list and use the crops themselves in your cooking or as gifts.
Rats Will Make A Meal Of Your Kale
If only all rats were as helpful and cute as Remy in the movie Ratatouille, right?
Unfortunately, one rat can quickly turn into an infestation, and they can wreak havoc on your garden, yard, and home in a blink of an eye.
Keeping Rats Away From Your Kale
There are several preventative measures you can take to deter rats from your garden and yard. This is one pest we highly recommend you monitor closely to see where they may come from, and what damage they are doing to determine your best course of action.
It’s best to know where to look for rats during the day. If you can’t find them, it will be hard to gauge how much damage they can do.
Here are a couple of tips for eliminating any rat activity:
- Move your compost bin. I know it might be tempting to keep your compost bin near your garden, but if these creatures get into your compost bin, it’s just a short distance from the scraps to your garden and all your healthy plants.
Consider moving your compost bin to the corner of your yard to deter these critters from getting too comfortable in your yard, and add a lid to your bin for an added layer of protection if you can.
- Keep your garden tidy. Remove damaged or dead plants as soon as you spot them and be sure to keep larger crops properly maintained. When you’re ready for the new planting season, be sure that any leaves or other possible hiding areas in your garden are removed as well.
- Put your cat to work. That is if you have a cat.
- Utilize scents that rats dislike. Peppermint, cayenne pepper, and coffee grounds are all scents that rats hate and could potentially help mask the attracting scent of kale in your garden!
If you have a furry feline who likes to spend some time outdoors, your cat might be a great garden watcher. With their quick reflexes, their presence should be reason alone for these pests to stay at bay.
- Call a professional. If you notice an increase of rats in your garden, and/or that these pests have spread to other areas of your yard or home, don’t delay and reach out to your local pest professional for help to determine how to quickly and effectively get rid of them.
Opossums Love Eating Kale
An opossum’s diet consists mainly of plants, including the leaves, flowers, or any fruits or berries that the plant may bear.
These critters aren’t too picky either; if the food is on the plant itself, great, but they’ll also eat any fallen fruits and vegetables in your garden.
How To Save Your Kale From Opossums
Several of our suggestions for other kale-loving animals also apply to the opossum. The following deterrents work for opossums, as well as at least one other critter that we’ve already covered on our list:
- Add garlic to your garden (this is just one of the scents opossums hate)
- Try fencing your perimeter
- Be sure to keep your garden tidy
Opossums may initially come to your yard to find shelter and then stay for easily accessible food.
To avoid opossums making their home in your yard, be sure to clean up any brush piles in your yard. Also, be mindful of your firewood piles, and seal off any entry points to your shed, under your porch, or any other areas you don’t want these guys getting access to.
Kale Is A Groundhog Favorite
Groundhogs are attracted to several fruits and veggies, but they prefer those plants with a higher water content like cabbage and – you guessed it – kale.
Make sure you know you’re looking at a groundhog and not a woodchuck! They can both cause damage to your garden, but woodchucks most likely won’t come for your kale.
How To Keep Groundhogs Away From Your Kale
- Harvest your plants when they’re ripe. Instead of leaving your crops in your garden until you have a full day of picking, pick your ripe and ready-to-pick veggies once you spot them.
If you leave ripe veggies in your garden for even just a couple of days longer than you intended to, it gives these critters extra time to make a meal for themselves.
- Eliminate their tunnels and climbing options. Like the treatment options for gophers and gerbils, you’ll want to fill any tunnels that you notice in your garden area or anywhere in your yard.
If you decide to use a wire fence as a barrier, be sure to bury it up to a foot underground because of the tunneling abilities of these creatures, and make it several feet high as well to deter them from climbing right over.
Slugs Slip And Slide All Over Kale
Ah yes, these little creatures can cause quite the damage to your garden.
From their trail of slime to leaving gaping holes in the leaves of your plants, slugs love leaving their mark on anything with a leaf.
You may find them crawling around your garden at night, leaving nothing but damage in the slime trail behind them.
How To Keep Slugs Away From Your Kale
We’ve got a few recommendations for handling these creatures, some of which may depend on your comfort level with the hands-on approach.
- Pick slugs off. We know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if your slug problem is minimal, you may be able to pick these critters off by hand to keep them from destroying your kale and other veggies.
If you go this route, you can toss these critters into a container and serve them up as a tasty treat for your chickens, so it can be a win-win.
- Use granules to catch and deter these critters. There are a lot of different insecticide options out there, but for slugs, you’ll want to make sure iron phosphate is the active ingredient. Try Bonide Products 904 Slug Magic for a safe option to use if you have pets and effective results all around.
- Scented Plants. Although slugs like most plants, there are a few that they supposedly hate. There are a few strongly scented plants that are noted for working well as natural slug repellers. For example, many people believe French marigolds can repel most types of slugs.
Snails Love To Eat Kale
Although it probably goes without being said, snails also love eating kale. Except for their shell, snails are pretty similar to slugs and leave a lot of the same telltale signs: small holes in plants, slime trails, etc.
Their naturally protective shells mean they are usually more protected and safe within your garden. Therefore, they are more likely to reproduce and cause trouble.
One interesting thing is that snails usually come out at night, meaning they are hard to fight against. Luckily, if you know where they are coming from, you can effectively repel them. For more information, check out our article on 12 places snails come from at night.
Removing Snails From Your Garden
For most common snail types, you can use all the tips that work against slugs, such as yeast traps, scented plants, and manual removal.
If you don’t want to make your snail traps, some companies are selling pre-made ones. For instance, you could buy an inexpensive pack such as Plastic Snail Cages.
If you don’t want to make a homemade bait, try out something like this Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait.
That’s A Wrap!
Your garden should be a point of pride for yourself and showcase the hard work and careful planning that you put in to make it successful.
Keeping pests out of your garden is one of these pieces of planning, and knowing what plants attract certain animals to your garden may help avoid headaches further down the road.
If you’re planting kale in your garden this season, don’t be surprised if you see an increase in sightings for any of the following critters:
The length of our list may cause you to panic. However, with some careful garden plant additions like mint, and adding some barricades to your garden or individual plants when you can, you’re sure to be on the fast track to deter these critters and having a bountiful kale harvest come fall.
If you’re starting to doubt if it’s insects OR animals going after your kale plants, take a look at our guide on the most common bugs and insects that love eating your kale!
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Cornforth, I. S., Stephen, R. C., Barry, T. N., & Baird, G. A. (1978). Mineral content of swedes, turnips, and kale. New Zealand Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 6(2), 151-156.
Flint, M. L. (2018). Pests of the garden and small farm: A grower’s guide to using less pesticide (Vol. 3332). UCANR Publications.
Kianmatee, S., & Ranamukhaarachchi, S. L. (2007). Pest repellent plants for management of insect pests of Chinese kale, Brassica oleracea L. Int. J. Agric. Biol, 9, 64-67.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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