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The sun is shining, the garden is growing and the critters are invading! What can a gardener do to protect prized petunias… favorite ferns… our beloved begonias?
Deer are very habitual, traveling and browsing in regular patterns. As the young deer mature they may expand these patterns making this time of year frustrating for any gardener whose plants may be on a newly discovered trail.
Deer nibble as they travel so the first solution to consider is altering existing traveling patterns. A light duty fence or screen may be all it takes to “herd” the deer around your yard and gardens. I enjoyed personal success by hanging netting from tree to tree along a property line and attaching aluminum cans to cause a rattling effect when netting was disturbed. The deer established a new travel pattern that did not include my property. Look for existing paths, hoof prints or observe animal movements to determine if there is a definitive trail they are using to enter your property. For many, deer may enter from several locations making this method unfeasible.
Scent and taste deterrents work well if applied correctly. The longer feeding takes place in an area the more difficult it is to restore a deer-free garden zone. Weekly applications may be necessary for the first 3-5 weeks before suitable control permits monthly treatments. Most of the repellents available utilize very similar (if not the same) active ingredients and everyone seems to have a favorite but I seem to get the most positive feedback from folks who use Liquid Fence. For all but the smallest of gardens I suggest using a concentrated product mixed with water in a pump-up, garden sprayer. Not only will this method save you money on the product but also make the application process cleaner, easier and more efficient. There is no need to apply repellent to the entire garden. Deer nibble at the tips and edges of gardens and individual plants so applications should concentrate on these areas. Deer resistant plants need not be treated and plants in close proximity to homes may also be spared from foraging. Most repellent products do have a detectible odor for a short period of time so do not apply before a dinner party and use gloves while handling.
There are vegetable friendly deterrents and granular products work best for gophers and rabbits. Now is also the time to install bird repelling netting on fruit trees and berry bushes.
Wildlife can be beautiful but can be destructive as well. Of course, the best method for eliminating wildlife concerns is through proper design and plant selection that takes this issue into consideration. For those who have experienced wildlife damage you know the problem will not take care of itself. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so get started today so your garden doesn’t become the neighborhood salad bar.