Oh Deer! How to Keep Your Plants Safe This Fall and Winter

(Re posted with permission from The Observer Publishing Company)

Even if you happen to have an affinity for the odd garden gnome or lawn ornament, you’re likely not too keen on living, breathing visitors in your precious garden — particularly those of the four-leg variety. And if you’ve worked all summer long for a garden that’s as beautiful as it is fruitful, you’re going to want to make sure you keep deer — and other wild animals — firmly outside your garden gate (if you have one, that is). The days are growing shorter, but don’t let the sun set on your fruits and vegetables; it’s simple to keep them safe during the autumn and winter months.

The danger

Whether you see them lurking around your prized squash, predators are out there, and they’re ready to enjoy a harvest meal courtesy of your labors.

“Through the growing season, deer and other animals are especially damaging to fruit and vegetable gardens,” said Russ Bedner, owner of Bedner’s Farm & Greenhouse in McDonald. “We have lost almost entire fields of a crop from deer and groundhogs. One fall, they wiped out almost all of our pumpkins.”

And it’s not just your potential jack-o’-lanterns at risk. According to Bedner, autumn is mating season for deer, and the animals rub the bark from trees and break limbs to mark their territory. In the winter, it’s another story.

“Deer seek out soft needled evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, liriope and other species,” he said. “The cooler and more snow we have, the more damage they’ll do to landscape plants.”

The solution

If constructing a deer-proof, groundhog-proof wall is out of the question (hint: it probably is), there are a few things you can do to deter nature’s most motivated vandals from your garden and landscape.

“Repellex and Liquid Fence are both great,” Bedner recommended. “I personally use Liquid Fence in my own landscape and only apply it about twice – even though the directions recommend more frequent applications. For large vegetable gardens, you can get an electric fence at Tractor Supply.”

Word to the wise

While the location and layout of your garden or landscaping might be set for this season, you might take your neighborhood deer into consideration when it’s time to plant again. As Bedner said, deer love soft, smooth, foliage, like hostas and hydrangeas. If you love using these in your landscaping, keep them closer to the house not out in the yard where deer will feel unthreatened making themselves at home.

“Deer tend to stay away from plants that have a rough texture or soft scent,” Bedner also advised. Strong-scented perennials or prickly, thorny foliage growing close to your garden might dissuade the creatures from invading your space.

A journalism graduate from Brigham Young University, Kristen Price has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.

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