Deer Browsing: Here's how to save your garden
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As we roll into the planting season, many of you — hoping to get on better footing this year — have been asking about deer proofing the garden. If you live in an area where there aren’t many deer, I urge you to keep reading; that may change soon, and forewarned is forearmed.
The deer population has been growing in many parts of the country, with Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Minnesota, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and Wisconsin struggling with populations at or above a million.
Even Maui is experiencing problems, with $1 million in annual damage reported to the island's watersheds, crops and cattle forage.
And Bambi’s cute-but-destructive relatives are venturing out of rural and suburban areas into cities: According to official New York City data, “deer migrated to Staten Island by swimming from New Jersey and to the Bronx by walking from Westchester.”
Read on for some garden-protecting measures that actually work.
📬 Ask Jessica
On eastern Long Island, one of my big-time searches is for articles and info on trying to prevent garden- flower- and plant-wipeout by roaming deer. Can you recommend any products or provide insight? — Tom
I would like to know more about plants, shrubs and veggies that are not as attractive to deer, bunnies, etc. I planted violas, and they were totally eaten the next morning. My neighbor wires the sides and top of his vegetable garden, but I don't want to go that way. So much work. I've planted deer-resistant flowers, but not crazy about them. I think this is a country-living problem. Am I correct? — Pam Olsen
DEAR TOM, PAM AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO ASKED: There are only three things you can do to deter deer browsing: Only use so-called “deer-resistant” plants in your garden, apply odor- or taste-based repellants or install fencing.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a deer-proof plant because a starving deer will eat just about anything, regardless of its preferences, so planting unsavory plants is the best you can do. Those include American holly (Ilex opaca), Bee Balm (Monarda), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Catmint (Nepeta), Daffodil (Narcissus), Foxglove (Digitalis), Marigold (Tagetes), Pachysandra, Petunia, Sunflower (Helianthus) and Yucca (Yucca filamentosa).
Repellents can be very effective if applied diligently every 3 to 4 weeks (more often during rainy periods). It’s best to alternate products so the deer don’t become accustomed to one because they’ll start ignoring it. And individual deer may respond better to certain products, so you might have to experiment a bit. Here are some products I recommend that have excellent track records.
In addition, some stinky fertilizers will do a fine job deterring deer, but can’t be used repeatedly or you’ll wind up over-fertilizing your plants. However, if you find they work best, try filling tin cans or other containers with the products and tucking them into your garden beds.
For severe problems, installing a barrier may be the only effective solution. Since hungry deer will jump a 6-foot fence, you’ll need to install either a single 8-foot fence, a 6-foot fence that’s slanted outward at a 45-degree angle, or two 4-foot fences at least 3 feet tall about 4 feet apart; deer won't be able to leap over both.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Plant bare-root roses: Mound soil at the bottom of your planting hole and spread roots over it before backfilling.
For more great gardening tips — 365 of them! — get a jump on the growing season with my Day-by-Day Gardening Calendar. It’s like a complete gardening course in a wall calendar! By the end of the year, I promise, you’ll have earned a green thumb! Plus, your wall will be adorned with award-winning photography provided by The Weekly Dirt readers. Take a look:
👏 Sunday shoutout
Alison Anderson snapped this photo of “Fritzie the Frog” meditating among white coneflowers and sedum in her Centerport, NY, backyard last August.
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next!
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I started writing a bi-weekly gardening column for the AP in January, so you might be seeing my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you are. In case you miss it, though, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Growing veggies in small spaces: Smaller new varieties can yield great results for vegetables grown in containers.
Plants to plant in spring for a beautiful garden next winter: When you’re planning and planting your spring garden, think ahead to next winter too, and include plants that will create interest in your landscape in the so-called “off season.”
Black innovators who reshaped American gardening and farming: The achievements of 19th-century scientist George Washington Carver have landed him in U.S. history textbooks, but many other agricultural practices and innovations that traveled with enslaved people from West Africa or were developed by their descendants remain unsung. Here’s a look at five.
Tips for indoor seed-starting: When to start planting seeds indoors? First, check your frost date.
Holey leaves and vines! A look at houseplant trends for 2022: A look at trends in houseplants for 2022. Popular varieties include fenestrated plants, that is, those with leaves that are split or contain holes. Vines are another hot category.
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