Oh, Deer!

    • Chrysanthemums give the brightest colors for fall. Choose them in bloom now at your nursery.
    • Take house plants outside and wash down dusty leaves. Let them dry in the shade before bringing them back inside.
    • Divide Astilbe and Oriental poppies now. Replant healthy roots and add some bonemeal in the bottom of the hole when you replant.
    • Trim foliage on grape vines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and ripen the grapes.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of coddling moths, which make wormy apples.

Oh, Deer!

Deer are extremely adaptable, beautiful creatures whose habitat is rapidly changing. As forests are cut and houses are built, deer populations have expanded with few predators to deter them. Deer normally graze on grasses and “browse” on leaves, twigs and small branches of trees and shrubs. When desperate for food, however, they will eat almost any plant.

There are three main approaches to gardening in deer areas: fences, repellents, and deer-resistant plants. Fences are the most effective if they are sturdily built and 7 feet tall.

Chemical repellents range from lion scent to rotten eggs to foul tasting concoctions. These are sprayed on new foliage or used to saturate cotton balls and give off an unpleasant odor. Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent has a strong odor and has proven to be very effective, environmentally safe and biodegradable.

Simple repellents such as bars of soap or human hair hung in an area, hot sauce or blood meal are effective on a limited basis. Changing repellents frequently may offer the best control. However, a starving deer will simply ignore all repellents.

Gardeners and biologists alike have been observing and ranking deer plant preferences for many years. Numerous lists have been compiled of “deer resistant” plants. However, deer tastes vary from herd to herd and few plants can be called “deer proof”. Resistant plants will only succeed if there is something else for the deer to eat. Deer damage is always worst near the end of summer.

Some plants have strong smells that deter deer from eating them. Deer rely on their sense of smell to determine what is safe and desirable to eat. Strong odors confuse them, so they are more likely to go looking for food elsewhere. Included in this group are herbs like rosemary, sage and lavenders. Escallonia, Russian sage, junipers, and calycanthus also have scented leaves and are avoided by deer.

Other plants have sticky or fuzzy foliage that deer don’t like. They also seem to leave gray-leaved plants alone. Lamb’s ear, santolina, germander, snow-in-summer and Crown pink (Lychnis coronaria) and very deer resistant. Rockroses, sunroses, Pacific wax myrtle, and yarrows are reasonably safe bets.

Prickly foliage is usually a deterrent. Barberry, Oregon grape, holly and grevillea are almost never eaten. Then there are the odd ones like Japanese boxwood and daylilies, which for some reason they don’t like.

So take a look around your neighborhood to see what your local herd has left alone, and then try some new ones. But remember, the deer don’t read the deer-resistant plant lists!

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