How clever was I? I had this great idea to use a series of fences to allow the deer onto our property to clean up fruit fall, and lock them out when their services were not required. We would live happily together. Ha! Having purchased nearly an acre, with visions of a petite urban farm, my ignorance was only superseded by my naiveté. The deer, it seems, were here first and possess a solid determination to continue to both breed and graze on my little slice of earth.
When it comes to deer and gardens, I have learned, war is not too strong of language. Many of you who have gone to great lengths to nurture tender tendrils of sweet peas, or finally pursued your dream of a rose garden, or bought your first little citrus tree in a pot, or any number of a thousand different scenarios involving plant life, have experienced the devastation of checking in on your little green baby only to find a (bloody—well it might as well be) nub. Curses!
I have spent the last few months dancing with a doe and her brand new fawn. I swear the fawn was born on the property it was so tiny. Pangs of guilt tore at my heart as I considered whether to abandon my MANY plants to Bambi’s care and feeding or kick Bambi out. Ultimately, providing food for my family won the battle and I began deer patrol in earnest.
My experience is that they really could care less about the Liquid Fence product, and BEWARE of that evil stuff. Do not spray it when there is any wind or if you are expecting company within 12 hours. It is seriously nasty, and though the deer seem to be able to plough through it, I was challenged to get the stink out of my clothes and hair.
Here are some other things I learned:
1) A doe and fawn can decimate a dozen rose bushes in one night.
2) A doe will charge a dog if she has a young fawn
3) They prefer sweet peas, lettuce, basil and kale over zucchini and cucumbers
4) They wait until the orange blossoms are ready to bear fruit before consuming
5) They like to walk on and defecate on groomed paths
Once, I was humiliated while the mama stood calmly by her baby, observing me, chewing her cud and licking her lips while I feebly attempted to throw rocks (uphill) at her. Her telepathic communication to the fawn being: “Don’t worry, we got this.” I discovered that day, however, that the jet stream on the hose is very effective at getting their proverbial hides to vamoose.
Here are some other things I’ve learned:
1) You can plant garlic, chives, mint and lavender to throw off their nosey little noses.
2) Thick hedges can work better than fences, because they can’t SEE the goodies on the other side, and that makes them think twice. They can jump up to 8’!
3) Wind chimes and yard art with movable pieces scare them.
4) Keep the area trim because they like to make nests in tall grasses. (We had some of that for sure)
5) Yes: Daffodils, No: Tulips. Deer don’t dig daffodils… and they are so pretty!!
6) Fishing line, strung around your garden, 2-3’ off the ground, scares the bejezus out of them. They are like… “whassat?!”
7) Dogs when no fawns are present = good. Dogs when fawns are present = dog in danger.
The best defense is a solid fence but if you can’t afford that, motion-sensitive sprinklers have a great reputation. A couple of tangos with one of those and the deer supposedly take you off of the GTC (Garden Terrorist Circuit).
So, here is a VERY, VERY funny (must read) description of a farmer trying to rope a deer:
And here is a recipe for “Deer Juice” which is supposed to be da bomb, but I haven’t tried it (yet). Taken from an article on This Old House website:
“When This Old House design director Amy Rosenfeld built a house in Ulster County, New York, she heard lots of horror stories about deer ravaging local gardens. Then her neighbor Barbara Fornal, an herbalist, shared this recipe for "deer juice," which Rosenfeld applies vigilantly. "It totally works," she says. "When people come over, they're always like, 'How do you have hostas?'"
Here's how to mix up a batch for yourself:
1 bar of Fels Naptha soap
2 bunches of scallions, roughly chopped
2 heads of garlic, cloves separated
Chili powder, lots
1. Fill 1/2 of a 5-gallon bucket with hot water.
2. Shave soap into bucket to dissolve.
3. Place scallions, garlic, eggs, and chili powder in a large piece of doubled cheesecloth. Tie up ends of cloth tightly; use a wooden spoon to crack the eggs. Place pouch in bucket.
4. Fill the bucket with more water; cover tightly with lid. Place in shaded area. Let sit for 1 week.
5. Transfer in batches to a pump sprayer. Apply after each rainfall or every 2 weeks.”
And here is a link for a comprehensive list of deer resistant plants which, if you plant, will take away all of the fun!
Ultimately, we hired a guy to walk the perimeter of our property and figure out where the heck our deer were getting in. I have not seen a deer on the property for six days. My bedraggled plants are cautiously attempting some new growth. For now, all’s quiet on the east San Rafael front.