I recently constructed a PVC strawberry tower in my brother’s yard to satisfy my niece’s desire for fresh strawberries. It went very well. Soon the plants were flourishing and the berries it produced were irresistible. Unfortunately, that proved all too true. Soon all but the topmost plants were gone. Eaten down to the roots by some unwelcome visitor.
There are plenty of animals happy to wreak havoc on a strawberry crop. Squirrels, rabbits, birds… all are suspects when the berries disappear. But given the thorough destruction of the plants, I’m pretty sure we’re looking at a most formidable garden foe. Oh, deer.
I hate those guys.
Sure, they’re pretty. When they strike a pose, majestic even. And you can’t talk about them for long without someone mentioning that adorable Bambi. When I was a city dweller, I was right there with you. No more. Deer are prolific here in the piedmont of North Carolina and for the home gardener, cute little Bambi is a scourge. When flowers are trampled and crops devoured, I start to mind a little less when hunters thin the population.
Have I really become so bloodthirsty? I have to take at least a little bit of the blame for the loss of our strawberry plants. Had I taken a few precautions, we might still be enjoying strawberries and cream for breakfast. Here are a few things one can do to keep these marauders at bay.
Probably the most obvious defense, but not as cut and dried as one might hope. Deer are mighty leapers and a five foot fence may not discourage the most determined. An eight foot fence is a safer bet, although expensive and — let’s face it — kind of a pain.
When stretched over the top of an established fence or used to cover beds, wrap bushes or trees, netting goes a long way defending against not just deer, but other hungry critters as well.
Change the menu
It only seems like those pesky deer will eat anything in sight. Strategically planting undesirable plants in and around your garden can help turn their noses. Marigolds, crape myrtle, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, foxglove, mint, chives and rosemary are all attractive, er…unattractive options, that may send them looking elsewhere.
Unpredictable sound, light and motion may get them to turn (white) tail and run. Wind chimes, flags or windsocks can do the job and also beautify your garden space. If you have dogs, give them a chance to earn their kibble as garden watchdogs.
What’s that smell?
Commercial repellents are readily available, but there all all sorts of scents the intrepid gardener can use to discourage hoofed visitors. Some natural options include onions, garlic or even fish guts. Unfortunately, fish guts may keep the intrepid gardener away as well. A less objectionable deterrent is as simple as hanging a few bars of strong smelling soap (Dial and Irish Spring work great) in old socks or nylons around the garden perimeter.
The scent of predator urine near the garden also claims a high success rate. Coyote, fox or mountain lion pee can be purchased online, but it is worth mentioning that humans are also a deer predator. When a frustrated gardener asked me how to solve her deer problem I mentioned this, but noted that it was a bit unseemly. She countered that her grandchildren would love to participate by providing this solution. Don’t think about it too hard. Gardening brings families together.
As for me? I’m sticking with the soap.