Sunday, December 12, 2010

Deer Country 1: Gardening in Deer Country

Three deer (Photo 1) checking for browseables in one of our flower beds just 15 feet from our front door on an October afternoon are unremarkable—because more often there are 5 or 7, sometimes 15 or 25, in our flower beds or on the lawn just beyond.

And just because we have a plague of deer doesn’t mean we cannot grow flowers, as Photo 2, of the same bed in June, illustrates. The blooming perennials are unprotected by fencing, rotten-egg or hot-pepper spray, bars of soap, wads of hair, water jets, landmines, or any other “thing” that might keep deer away.

What’s my secret?

The answer is that it took me nearly 10 years to figure out what the problem was and how I wanted to solve it.

When we moved to Meadow Glenn in 1997, I was excited about plans for beautifying our small piece of Piedmont Maryland, Earth 21029. Bed 1: Sunflowers. Bed 2: Pansies. Bed 3: Hostas. Framing the house: A row of Nellie Stevens hollies.

Over the first few months I learned that the deer we seldom saw considered our plantings a welcome addition to their salad bar. Sunflowers and Nellie Stevens hollies: Every leaf eaten. Pansies: Eaten to the ground. Hostas: Left with leafless stems.

Frustrating, yes—destroying dreams of endless flower gardens stretching to the horizon. Expensive, yes—if I total the cost of all the flowers, shrubs, and trees we bought that were eaten by deer. To compound the problem, the deer population over the years increased from “2 or 3, but seldom seen” to “20 to 25, and almost always present.”

But I didn’t surrender. I wondered how other gardeners solve the problem. I read books, magazine and newspaper articles, and Internet postings. I attended seminars. I read official county and state reports. I talked with neighbors and surveyed local Master Gardeners. I hung bars of soap, scattered hair clippings, sprayed foul-smelling liquids, and slathered on grease-like gunk.

Some things worked a bit, and some didn’t work at all for me. After more than 10 years of trial and error, I reached the point where I usually plant flowers, shrubs, and trees that the deer don’t prefer to eat.

In the Ancient Gardener Blog I’m going to share what I’ve learned—with a series of postings labeled “Deer Country.” My hope: What works for me will work for you.

Please check back from time to time and look for postings labeled “Deer Country” or “Subscribe” so you will know when I post. My goal is to add a new “Deer Country” posting once a week. If you know gardeners who have deer challenges, encourage them to visit this blog.

And please post your Comment about how you cope with deer that visit your garden. If you learn something from me, it’s only fair that I learn something from you.

1 comment:

  1. This great, Mr.Nixon. You should get a good number of interested gardeners to discover your ... magic. I will be watching your next installments.

    The problem I have is that I do not consider deer as a plague. Theirs should be equal rights to our Mother Earth. What I will be looking for, therefore, your tips how to enjoy both the deer and the garden!