Again, we would like to apologize for whatever happened last week that caused half of the blog entry on Shade to get lost in cyberspace. It has been put back, so please give it another try if you are interested!
DEER. They are everywhere. They are cute at first, but soon they start to eat the garden and their welcome starts to wear a little thin. They are tough to combat, but with a little thought and the right plant choices, you should be able to enjoy a garden that is relatively safe from those white-tailed marauders.
Site your garden properly. If you haven’t created your garden yet, then you have the opportunity to choose a spot that will be less likely to be bothered by deer. To do this, you have to put yourself in the deer’s … er… shoes and think like it will think. Remember, deer are prey animals. Their radar is always up, and they always have to have an escape route. So closed in areas with only one point of access will be scary for them. They can jump very high and thus fences aren’t always a deterrent, but they can’t just spring 8 feet in the air from a standing position, they need a bit of room to get up some steam. So fences with little room around them, or at the crest of a hill will go a long way to making a deer reluctant to make the effort.
If you already have a garden that you want to protect, then as before, thinking the way an animal whose DNA is programmed to run away thinks is key. But if putting up high fences is impractical, then it is time to think of other strategies! Read on…
Plant deer resistant plants. There is no such thing as a deer-proof plant. If someone tries to sell you one, then they probably also have a bridge to sell you. The fact of the matter is, a starving deer will eat anything. That said, however, deer definitely have their likes and their dislikes, and you will probably be successful if you stick to plants that are at the bottom of their list of favorites. When we design a garden for someone who we know has issues with deer, we choose plants that have been cited by at least two reputable sources, in addition to our own experiences, to be resistant to deer. One such source is a list of Landscape Plants Rated by DeerResistance that is put out by Rutgers. There, you can either search for plants that you like and see how they rate, or just go to the rating that best fits your needs and see which plants will work for you.
Agastache (Hyssop) One plant on the “no thank you” list for deer!
Tricks and sprays. Sadly, there isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to finding one thing that will keep deer away. You hear about people hanging soap or old CDs in their garden, or using sprays that contain deer repelling ingredients. Some swear by these tricks, some say they have no effect. Both observations are probably true. Again, it all comes down to a deer being a prey animal. A smell that suggests a predator, or a suspicious, shiny thing that wasn’t there before may work for a time. But deer aren’t stupid. So when a “threat” sticks around too long, it ceases to be a threat. Rotating these “threats” may be the best bet if you want success. Having a dog seems to be fairly reliable, too!
Resign yourself to some loss and keep planting! If you choose deer resistant plants but love Hosta, there is no reason why you shouldn’t indulge in a few. You might ask, “What if the deer eat them?”, but a valid answer could be “What if they don’t? If you can embrace the threat and do what you can to keep the deer away, but acknowledge that some plants may get eaten, it will be less stressful for all.
What are your deer deterring strategies? We would love to hear what has worked for you!