Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are ubiquitous creatures in the American landscape, making themselves at home in environments ranging from wilderness to inner city. Although sometimes considered adorable, these masked bandits can wreak havoc on gardens, raid chicken coops and gorge themselves on pond fish. Raccoons are notorious omnivores, eating almost anything they can get their eerily handlike paws on. They particularly enjoy corn, grapes and melons. A few choice plants, however, stand a better chance of surviving a raccoon invasion.
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Raccoons do not love tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum). This may be due to the high level of acidity these Nightshade family plants possess. Fortunately, tomatoes are among the most common warm season garden vegetables in the United States and can be found in almost any garden supply store. Tomatoes are also relatively easy to grow. They enjoy acidic soil with good drainage rich in organic material. Full sun is also preferred. Popular tomato varieties include "Whopper," "Better Boy" and "Celebrity." Tomatoes are annuals, and as such require replanting each year. Depending on the variety and climate, they produce ripe fruit from early summer until mid-autumn.
Hot pepper plants (Capsicum genus) are extremely effective for repelling many garden pests, including noxious rodents, rabbits and raccoons. These annuals flourish in warm climates, producing fiery peppers abhorred by all animals except certain humans. Types of hot peppers, also known as chili peppers, include Thai, habenero and jalapeno. Hot peppers can also be used to make a natural spray which repels raccoons. The McGill University Urban Nature Information Service suggests concocting a mixture consisting of 1 cup castor oil, 2 cups Murphy's oil soap, 1¼ cups of hot pepper sauce and ¼ shot glass of human urine (optional), diluted at a rate of 1 tsp. per gallon water. Spray the liquid in outdoor areas where you wish to expel raccoons.
For thousands of years, the garlic plant (Allium sativum) has been loved for its pest-repellent attributes. Most mammals, including raccoons, find the pungent odor of this relative of the onion repulsive. Garlic plants may be added to the edges of gardens to keep unwanted mammalian visitors such as raccoons at bay. Garlic cloves, or sections of the garlic bulb, may also be made into a pest-repellent spray liquid in a similar manner to that described in Section 2 with hot peppers.
Another spicy plant loved by humans but hated by raccoons is oregano (Origanum vulgare). This bushy, semiwoody, mint-family shrub has long been employed in the Mediterranean as a culinary spice, herbal medicine and pest resistant ornamental shrub. Unlike tomatoes and peppers, oregano plants are evergreen and perennial. Thus, they are capable of forming a year-round raccoon barrier around fish ponds and plots of crops vulnerable to raccoon attack. Oregano plants flourish in well-drained, alkaline soil and full sun.