Foxes are scared of lions’ urine...

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Cats, squirrels, rabbits and foxes are just a few of the uninvited visitors who can gorge on your plants and ruin your crops. Hannah Stephenson looks at ways to keep them at bay

The other day, I wandered up the garden to find that some of my favourite emerging phlox had been razed to the ground, devoured by something which left just the stems at ground level.

Rabbits? Could be. But no, the next day the culprit returned for second helpings - a large black cat with a penchant for perennials, so now I’m keeping a powerful water pistol by my patio door to scare off any such intruders.

CATS: There are a number of battery-operated deterrents on the market which, when switched on, pick up movement with an infra-red detector and then emit ultrasonic, high-pitched frequencies that reputedly scare off the culprits. They are not audible to humans and the usual range is about 10m (33ft) over an arc of 70 degrees.

Another solution is to put down citrus peelings or lemon scent where the cats are causing the damage, or prickly prunings around their favourite plants.

They are less likely to use your garden as a litter tray if they have no access to bare soil - especially dry, loose soil. If you have a gravelled area, try replacing it with larger stone chippings or pebbles.

Unwanted CDs can be threaded on twine with knots in between to keep them apart. String these across flower beds or hang from trees, and the light reflections will deter cats.

Try growing the annual Coleus Canina, labelled as the ‘Scaredy Cat Plant’, a pretty blue-flowered annual which smells foul to cats. It’s widely available online.

RABBITS: The only real defence is a rabbit-proof fence buried around 45cm (18in) into the soil and about 1m (3ft) high. You could also try growing plants which rabbits don’t like, such as very aromatic plants, plants that ooze caustic milky sap, prickly plants, plants with spines or plants with tough leathery leaves. SQUIRRELS: Secure net-covered cages for groups of plants and individual tree guards to stop them stripping the bark.

FOXES: Avoid using fertilisers such as blood, fish and bone, which will attract them to the smell. Go to your local zoo and speak to the keepers about getting some lion urine, which apparently foxes hate because of the smell. Aside from that the only way forward is an electric fence.