Steer deer away from the garden
by C.L. Fornari
They roam at night, ransacking gardens and destroying property across the Northeast. The culprits? Nothing more than the docile deer.
As the deer's natural habitat shrinks, they become bolder about feasting in yards and gardens. They're such a problem in some areas that Mike Cousins, owner of highly rated Colonial Landscape and Design in Silver Spring, Md., jokes, "There are more deer around now than there were when the pilgrims were here!"
Homeowners shouldn't despair, however. According to Cousins and other highly rated Angie's List experts,
banishing Bambi, beginning with the type of plants you place on your property. "First, you try and plant deer resistant material," Cousins says. "We have a good list of plants that deer don't usually eat. They don't like 'Otto Luyken' cherry laurel, boxwoods and spireas, for example."
However, deer can be unpredictable. "They'll eat some varieties of holly but not others," Cousins explains. "They may strip the 'Nellie Stevens' but won't eat a 'Dragon Lady.' Why? I have no idea. Everyone loves Knockout roses, and the deer won't eat the plant - but they'll eat the flowers and that's a bummer!"
Sina Cristinzio, of highly rated Green Acres Nursery and Garden Center in Colmar, Pa., agrees that the first thing to do is to avoid varieties that deer love. "Some plants are just like candy," she says. But when a customer has a plant that's getting munched, Cristinzio recommends using repellents.
A repellent that has had a lot of success is Plantskydd. "We keep it near the register," Cristinzio says with a laugh. "It's easy to use and lasts up to six months." Since new plants that are fresh from the grower are especially attractive to deer, it makes sense that nurseries advocate their use if you live in the middle of deer country.
In addition to repellents that are applied directly onto plants, other deer deterrents include the Wireless Deer Fence and the ScareCrow sprinkler. The former works like a baited electric fence but without the wires. The device includes scent tubes that lure deer in, and then deliver an unpleasant shock. ScareCrow is a motion-activated, high-pressure sprinkler that shoots a blast of water when an animal gets close by.
Although the Wireless Deer Fence can be used year-round, Scarecrow sprinklers are only effective when the water won't freeze. Because some homeowners find that deer damage is the worst in the cold season, they often choose to wrap vulnerable plants with black netting or burlap.
Many who constantly cope with deer damage find that a variety of treatments are necessary. Spray repellents, wrapping, shocking devises and strong sprinklers are alternately deployed.
When this seems too much, homeowners result to permanent fencing. Eddie Nilan, of highly rated Ideal Fence in Watertown, Mass., says that height is what's important when it comes to keeping this animal out. Many consumers want 8-foot-tall barriers and end up agreeing with Robert Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors."
C.L. Fornari is a writer, garden consultant, professional speaker and radio host who is dedicated to creating beautiful landscapes and successful gardeners. She gardens on Cape Cod, blogs at WholeLifeGardening.com, and offers other garden articles at GardenLady.com