Oh, deer, don’t let them get you down
An open letter to Jamie Miles (re: Morgan County Citizen, July 16 column)
To the Editor:
I read with dismay that deer had ransacked your garden and left you a bit discouraged about gardening. Living next to Lake Oconee with a hungry deer population, I know firsthand how disappointing this can be to any gardener.
My advice: Get over it. You are a gardener now, and have a tradition of toughness to live up to! We have at least several good gardening months to enjoy, it makes no sense to give up on your prepared and formerly productive garden now. So, clean up the carnage and replant. If the deer just ate the tops off, it may not be necessary to replant the whole garden. Some of the damaged plants may come back from the roots if you continue to feed and water them. All you need after that is a good deer deterrent plan. From high tech to low tech, here are some strategies to consider:
1. A yard dog or cat. Call it country security for the garden. If your dog learns to prefer inside air conditioning at night, he may be unwilling to serve. He can still help. Collect dog hair when you groom and distribute it around the garden. If you don’t want to maintain a pet, offer to brush the neighbors. This is not fool-proof, but it can’t hurt. The neighbors’ dog will appreciate your interest. Cats? Some folks claim that deer don’t like to smell the cat urine in your garden. Personally, I just like to see a cat lounging in a garden. He is conserving energy to chase away squirrels.
2. Try plastic shopping bags hung deer nose high around the garden. As you drive into Buckhead, you’ll see a fine example of a shopping bag border on string. What color bags should you use? Our Buckhead gardener uses white, but any color will do. Deer, like our canine friends do not live in a black-and-white world. They have dichromatic vision- that is, they can see all hues of blues and yellows, but they are red-green color blind. This dichromatic vision makes deer unable to see most shades of color, but it heightens visual sensitivity to movement. Since most deer strikes are nocturnal, it makes sense to use a light color or white shopping bag. But, it’s the movement that is most important. Plastic bags are lightweight and crinkle, so if there is the slightest breeze, those bags are gonna rustle. Will it scare the deer?
Lets just say that the aforementioned Buckhead gardener has enough tomatoes that he sells them.
3.Not everyone can live with the plastic bag look. For those folks, I recommend fabric garden flags, whirligigs and any moving garden art. A simple pinwheel on a stake can defend almost anything in your flower bed but hostas. Some folks may still find this tacky. I can only hope that tacky offends the rare picky deer’s sense of aesthetics. It’s the movement that matters. Moving parts spook deer and some rustling in the wind is not bad either. But remember, deer adapt. Move your garden art from time to time.
4. Speaking of adapting, this year the deer walked up the steps to my lower deck and raided my container pots! This area is now swathed in deer netting. The stuff is inexpensive and available at the garden section of any hardware store. It isn’t very visible, but needs support that you can move around to maintain your garden. Knock on wood, I haven’t had any subsequent deer deck incursions.
Okay now- if you are really determined, let’s talk serious money....
5. Our friends on the other side of the lake have a motion sensor that turns on the radio. They swear that deer do not like rock and roll. Some folks say motion sensors on lights works for them.
If you peruse the web, you will see a number of electronic deterrents that spray pressurized water or emit ultrasonic noises on invaders to the garden. Electric fencing is another expensive option. I’ve never used these products, but know folks who insist they are worth the expense.
Last of all, I recommend taking an art class, whether you garden or not. Paint or dirt, unsightly nails are a sacred right if you are an artist.
Hope this helps,
Artist and Master Gardener