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Gardening with Laurie: Be persistent when dealing with deer

By By Laurie Garretson
Nov. 7, 2013 at 5:07 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

Are you one of the hundreds of gardeners who battles deer in your landscape? Would you like nothing more than to have a beautiful yard without the struggle of keeping the deer out?

Maybe the thought of getting a hunting license and becoming a member of the National Riffle Association has gone through your mind a time or two. Have you come to believe that the only good deer is a dead deer? Well, you are certainly not alone.

The deer population is a problem and will not get better any time soon. We humans have to come to realize that they were here first. We have invaded their territory. Gardeners will have to make an attitude adjustment toward these four-legged enemies. We really have no choice but to be more realistic with deer-resistant plantings and to be very persistent with more defensive options.

Fencing can work as one option for keeping deer away. There are many types of options in this category, from electric fences to 8-foot tall fences. It's usually not practical for most homeowners to have an 8-foot fence all around their entire landscape but could be in the budget around a small area.

There are more economical plastic mesh fences that can be easily secured around existing garden areas and keep deer away. I have also heard of wireless fences that lure the deer to it by scent and then give the deer a harmless shock and scare them away, supposedly, never to return.

I know many desperate gardeners who have tried a number of ways to frighten the deer away. Most of these methods have electric sensors that detect motion that sets them off. The problem is that deer easily become use to these devices.

A big dog can help to chase the deer off, but if the dog is tied up or behind a fence, this, too, will soon be useless. Deer are not dumb and quickly realize when something new in the area is of no threat to them.

There are all kinds of deer-repellant sprays available on the market as well as homemade concoctions that supposedly repel deer. Usually these products include some kind of strong-smelling soap, coyote urine, garlic, pepper, eggs, strong-smelling herbs, spices or vinegar. Things that burn deer mouth are reported to be helpful.

Keep in mind that deer do not roam far form their birthplace. Deer are also creatures of habit. You do not want to allow them to get into a comfortable habit of entering your territory.

Deer are very curious creatures. They are attracted to things that have a human scent. Deer recognize food by scent, not by sight. Whenever planting something new in your landscape, wear plastic throw-away gloves to hide your scent. Deer seem to think that if a human has handled some sort of vegetation, it must be edible, and it's probably delicious.

In the fall months, deer need to gain 6 to 8 pounds to help them through the winter. The drought and lack of much-needed rain has made for thousands of hungry deer. When food is scarce, deer will eat just about anything. Even the so-called deer-resistant plants will be on their menu.

Plants that are sometimes resistant to deer are aromatic plants (rosemary), bulbs, toxic plants (oleanders) or plants with fuzzy though prickly or rough leaves (cacti, lamb's ear and lantana). But all deer do have different tastes. What one deer will not eat will be yummy to the next one.

The people that have had the best success getting rid of deer seem to be the ones who consistently try using different methods to repel them.

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 laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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