Gardening with Laurie: Keep deer out of your landscaping
Deer season is here for us gardeners, too. Realistically, I guess it really is deer season year-round for those of us that garden. Then again, for anyone that has a yard, it's always deer season too. According to a 2004 issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine the whitetail deer population in Texas at that time was more than 4 million deer. That's a lot of hungry deer roaming around the state looking for food and water.
Of course, the deer were here long before we arrived. There were lots of years for deer to roam undisturbed. Then man settled in and started encroaching on their territories. As the human population keeps growing there is less area for the deer.
Many homeowners can tell you stories of damage done to their landscapes by deer. We gardeners know how disheartening it is to find a vegetable garden or flowerbed that has been destroyed by these animals.
When deer are hungry, there is almost nothing growing in the landscape that's safe. Years ago, I used to depend on a list I had from the Texas Department of Agriculture of deer prove plants. Well, that list was thrown out long ago. These days I don't make any promises about what deer will and will not eat or bother. With all this said, let's look at some of the recommended ways of keeping deer out of landscapes, at least for a while.
If money is not an issue, you could always put an 8-foot tall fence around your landscape or at least around areas where you want to keep the deer from. Young trees that are susceptible to bucks rubbing their antlers on should be protected by putting a 3- to 4-foot diameter of fencing around each tree until the tree matures.
There are many kinds of commercial deer repellant sprays available that promise to keep deer away from anything they are sprayed on. Repellant is usually made of rotten eggs, hot peppers, soaps, predator urine or combinations of these products. I have had varying reports of success with most of these products.
It seems the best results are always obtained when the product is used at least every week, the deer population is low, and there are natural food sources beyond your property. Your landscape isn't close to ideal deer habitats. I know these stipulations leave many of us out.
There are motion-activated devices that claim to frighten deer away. All reports are that deer learn very quickly that these devises are no threat to them. Deer are not stupid animals.
Deer do not typically roam very far from where they were born. They are creatures of habit, so do not let them get in the habit of dining in your yard. Deer are very curious creatures and will taste anything once, especially if it has your scent on it. Deer find their food by scent not by sight. If you have touched it, they tend to be attracted to it.
When gardening with deer, do your homework before planting. No one will be able to guarantee 100 percent that the deer won't bother any certain plant. But, there are plants that are usually undesirable to them: toxic plants, thorny plants, some bulbs, fuzzy plants and plants with tough foliage.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.