We’re Building Deer-Friendly Communities

I came across this article through another blog — depressing news for gardeners! We know the deer population is exploding just from the devastation they wreak in our gardens. And they’re watching us, adapting to our habits.

The article is on the long side but here’s part of the message:

Deer are what’s known as an edge species. They can exist in many environments, but they prefer boundary regions between woods and grasslands. The deep center of a mature forest is not ideal for deer. They do better at the edge of a forest, where sunlight and ground vegetation are abundant, and where they can venture to browse in the open but retreat easily into cover. And what is suburbia but edge? Little patches of forest that give way to lovely little patches of fertilized grass, ringed with tasty daylilies?

In fact, it may be exurbia — sprawl — that caused the deer population to explode, particularly in places with large houses on one-, two- or 10-acre lots. The typical exurban subdivision is a ready-made deer park. A single property may contain woods, water and lawn, everything a deer needs for cover and comfort.

Tulip Update

From my Wisconsin friend with the Fort Knox garden pictured back in December (she doesn’t do blog comments):

“I saw on your blog about your tulips coming up and how miraculous that is given your deer population. Same here!! Last year they got munched off as soon as they came up because we hadn’t set up our secret weapon yet. Have you ever hear of a Spray Away? You hook it up to a hose and a motion-detector sets off a burst of water to frighten critters away (it works well on Jehovah’s Witnesses and other unexpected guests, too). 
We got ours at Ace Hardware for about $69 and you have to replace the 9-volt battery every couple of months. You can turn it off if you’re going to be in the yard, just don’t forget to turn it back on.”
As for our own tulips:  the ones next to lavender are still there, but the purple ones on the porch got munched. The red ones in a different pot, also on the porch but on a plant stand, didn’t. Go figure.


Pest control

A week ago, we came home from the theater to find five deer in the front yard, eyeing the buffet (our front garden), or perhaps were between courses. I angrily chased after them, and chased a bit more for good measure.
The next morning I inspected the damage and was relieved to find it wasn’t too bad. The biggest was to some asters near the house that I now wonder whether will bloom this fall. They might have had a bit more of the azalea, and perhaps some daisies and zinnias. So far, at least, those “deer-resistant” plants we favor seem to be living up to their reputation.
Battling the deer is a constant. Not only do we abut preserved woodland, but the deer population in New Jersey is supposed to be seven times that of colonial times (though how anyone did a census then is beyond me). Deer generally stay within a mile of where they were born, and in our area, they have no natural predators (or even hunters). They are so at home that they don’t run off in fear. They prefer to stare. And feast.
Remember those tomatoes I was so excited about at the beginning of the month? Munched. (The plants in pots aren’t protected by netting. Still. If it happens again, blame me for being too lazy and caring more about the 20 or so that are in raised beds surrounded by netting.)
Deer aren’t our only animal nuisance. Something has eaten most of the beans and munched a bit on the peas. The netting was up, and there is no way a deer could have ducked its head under it. So I am thinking rabbit — perhaps the same one that I suspect of having eaten a lot of calendula (flower) seedlings?
I was so angry that I have bought smelly pellets made of dried blood, eggs and other things that are supposed to deter such pests. Apparently the smell of this getting up their nostrils is enough to send them away. Hopefully our rainy season is finally over and this can stay on the ground long enough to train them to stay away.