If your garden looks more like a zoo - caged plants or fenced landscapes to keep critters from eating them - there are a few strategies you can try to keep hungry mammals at bay without ruining the view.

These are not surefire remedies, but worth a try as a first defense, says Tony Sarah, general manager of The Magic Garden nursery.

Change the menu

In times of plenty, rabbits, deer, javelinas and other foragers have food preferences.

Jeff Schalau, an associate agent with the Arizona Cooperative Extension in Yavapai County, compiled a list of plants that rabbits and deer don't seem to eat.

A similar list has plants that javelinas likely will not eat.

"These work pretty well when there are lots of other food choices out there," Schalau says.

Animals avoid certain plants because they aren't nutritious or tasty or they're difficult to get to, says Peter Warren, horticulture extension agent with the Pima County Cooperative Extension.

In a drought, however, wildlife "start lowering their standards," Schalau says, and will try even unpalatable plants.

Time planting

Foragers love newly planted items from garden centers, says Sarah, a horticulturist. Plant sellers liberally fertilize and water their wares to encourage lushness.

"New growth is tender and succulent" to foragers, he says.

If possible, put in new plants while there are other food sources available in the desert, he suggests.

Also try planting established items that have little new growth.

To protect tender seedlings or flowering plants, you can cage them for a few weeks until they are established and can recover from being eaten.

Discourage munching

Organic sprays and powders might deter foragers long enough for plants to establish themselves.

Blood meal, a fertilizer made of dead-animal blood, has an unappealing odor, Sarah says. Garlic and onion also deter foragers with their scents.

Hot pepper wax spray gives plants a bad taste.

The downside is that "animals can get used to this after a few weeks," he says, and ignore the deterrent.

Another of Sarah's strategies is to surround forage plants with deterrent plants in the hopes animals won't make the effort to get to the tasty ones.

Planting defensively

Lists of plants that deter javelinas, rabbits and deer are available from the Pima County Cooperative Extension, 626-5161.

They're based on observations by gardeners, landscapers and nursery workers in north-central Arizona.

The list dealing with rabbits and deer is available online at ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/az1237.pdf Its 116 species include

• lantana

• salvia

• many herbs

• many ferns

• agave

• fairy duster

• Texas mountain laurel

• jojoba

• vinca

The list for javelinas is online at ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/az1238.pdf Among its 53 plants are

• rosebush

• sage

• basil

• pansy

• marigold

• butterfly bush

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net