Here it is folks, the article you have been waiting for: How to Build a Better Deer Trap. My friend Sonny invented this and was convinced it would work. He is definitely an idea man, some of which could be sheer genius, except his inventions are of the Rube Goldberg persuasion. He picked up some standard-issue mousetraps and strung them on fishing line around the perimeter of his yard to scare the deer away. When the traps remained unsprung and they ate his daylilies anyway, he resorted to more diabolical means and hid the traps under the mulch around his plants. He probably should have used wharf rat sized traps instead. I believe they ate his garden again just out of spite. I told him the only thing he forgot was the peanut butter bait, and then collapsed in fits of giggles when I visualized stark raving mad deer on the rampage with mousetraps hanging from their tongues and ears! Sonny says he may resort to large firearms. Since guns are frowned upon in city limits, his neighbors (and wife) may not find this too appealing, and he might be out of work until he posts bail.
I live in the county and don’t seem to have as much of a critter control
problem as you city slickers. I believe the amount of deer decreases with the
amount of pickup trucks and beer cans on the side of the road. I guess the deer
know most of us are packing heat! They may as well have a target painted on
their side. Deer season, shmeer season! I actually knew a guy once who reserved
an old 70’s Ford LTD (the kind that looks like a land yacht) for “deer
hunting.” Who needs spotlights when you have headlights!
This was actually meant to be an article about deer proof gardens, in case you didn’t guess, so let me get back on track by stating there is no such thing! Deer resistant, yes, deer proof, no way! That being said, never be discouraged, because where there is a will, there is a way. Not so long ago, it was a rare thrill to spot a deer anywhere. Now that we can watch them dining on our gardens, the thrill is gone, baby! Most of us know the deer problem is getting worse. There are multiple reasons for this; expanding city limits and retreating natural habitat, overpopulation due to lack of predators-including man (although deer carcasses on the highways make one wonder…). Also, continual over-watering and over-fertilization of ornamentals makes for tender soft growth that animals and insects will devour. If I were a deer, I would make a beeline toward the tender lushness of your flowerbed rather than scrubby wild growth. Suburban gardens are like a never-ending gourmet buffet!
There are definitely measures to take to successfully discourage nibblers, deer-resistant plants being at the top of the list. You would be very surprised to know that there are hundreds of gorgeous plants besides cactus that deer will shun. Most ornamental grasses, as well as popular shrubs such as butterfly bush, beautyberry, kerria, nandina, boxwood, yaupon holly, clethra and abelia are good choices. Most shrubs and trees with thorns or sharp edges (except hybrid tea roses!) such as barberry and pyracantha and some of the pricklier hollies will work. Of course, there are a few beautiful but poisonous plants they avoid; oleander, brugmansia and datura, (angel’s trumpet), and foxglove are some examples. Many perennials are also deer-resistant including most herbs such as rosemary or lavender. Any plant related to an herb family or with a strong scent such as salvia (sages), eupatorium, chrysanthemum, and plants with hairy or sticky stems and leaves such as coneflower, yarrow, lamb’s ear, or a plant with juice or sap such as daffodils or euphorbia work. Shade gardens can use most fern varieties, hellebore, carex and pieris. Space constraints prevent me from making long lists here, but the Internet is a great place to start, just make sure you look up lists for North Carolina. What works elsewhere in the country may not work here.
“Younguns” mimic behavior of their elders, so if the alpha deer will or won’t eat it, the others will learn from him (or her). Of course, they have to taste-test everything at first, so if a supposedly resistant plant gets nibbled, don’t panic, it may not happen again. A great way to prevent this from happening at all is to use deer repellent. People have been extremely successful using these products, as long as they use as recommended. You have to stay on top of spraying these or they will wear off and plants can be eaten the next day. New growth will not have any product on it and must be sprayed. Changing brands of product is a necessity from time to time, so they do not get used to one scent. These products are organic and really do work, and so do some home recipes, usually involving rotten eggs, garlic and the like. In this part of the country, deer are extremely people-tolerant, so old-fashioned tricks such as soap or hair (or mousetraps) may not work anymore.
If some of your favorite plants are also deer hors d’oeuvres, such as pansies, hosta, daylilies or azaleas, plant these near the house where they can be given extra attention, where spraying and deer netting will work great. Plant your deer resistant plants in zones away from the house, where a garden may be harder to deer proof, or spraying repellents may be extensive or cost prohibitive. Deer netting also works great here, as it blends in nicely and is barely noticeable.
Just remember, for the ultimate revenge, venison stew goes very nicely with most varieties of beer or wine. Cheers!
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