University of Maryland Extension

Plants disappear - Vegetable Seedlings and Transplants

Back to Common Problems - Vegetables

Some wild animals- voles, chipmunks, birds, and squirrels- may feed on vegetable seeds. Starlings, finches, crows, pigeons, and sparrows will dig out and consume seeds before or after they have germinated.

Below are some tips for minimizing wildlife problems:

  1. A 3-foot high fence of chicken wire or other closely woven wire is very effective at excluding rabbits, groundhogs, cats, and dogs. Be sure that the fencing extends 4-6 inches below the soil line. Groundhogs are excellent diggers. A single electric wire also works well for groundhogs. 
  2. A two-strand electric fence can be very effective against a wide range of animals. The wires are strung 6-8 inches apart and 3-feet from the ground. 
  3. Cover seedbeds and young plants with a floating row cover. This works very well for all types of wildlife.
  4. Rabbits and voles can be repelled by sprinkling blood meal, human hair, or crushed hot pepper around the garden. Repellents lose their effectiveness over time and after rainfall.
  5. Wild animals can be captured in live traps and released in another location or euthanized. Check with your county wildlife control agency for details.
  6. Seeds can also be pre-sprouted to give them a head start. Place seeds on a moistened paper towel. Roll up the paper towel, place it in a plastic bag with some holes and set it on top of the refrigerator. Check the germination rate after 5-7 days. When the radicle (new root) begins to develop, remove seeds and plant in garden soil. However, do not pre-soak bean and corn seeds in water. This treatment will make them more susceptible to soil pathogens.
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