When my husband was removing the “skeleton” of a crab apple tree that had met its demise, I asked him to leave the trunk about two feet tall as I had plans for it.
This was a few years back when those faces that blend into the tree bark were popular. I picked out a particularly unusual “face.” We attached it to the trunk. I got the bottom to a hanging basket out of the tool shed, put several chartreuse-colored sweet potato vines in it, draped them over the sides to make “hair” for my creature, and willed them to grow long. I stood in our sunroom admiring it for a couple of days.
One morning, I got up ready to admire the woody creature that I thought our grandkids would also enjoy when —“Oh, no,” the “hair” to my creature was gone!
The culprit? Deer. I didn’t even think about them when I planted what turned out to be a salad at just the right height for easy munching. “E-r-r. Not again.” I should have known better….
Over the years, we have fought deer over Knock Out and tea roses, tulips, daylilies, hosta, a beautiful dark purple rhododendron, a dark pink burning bush, and a few other things that I have had that I have forgotten now —mostly annuals.
What to do about deer? One option recommended by the University of Illinois Extension suggests planting things that are deer-resistant. Notice that I didn’t say deer-proof as they may munch on some things that they normally don’t eat if they are desperate, especially in the early spring when things are emerging, and young and tender.
Fencing could work, depending on where you live and what you’re protecting. But, to be effective, it is suggested that it be 8 feet tall! A few years back, my Master Gardener training leader suggested double fencing—putting two fences a few feet apart so the deer don’t have a good place to land when they are jumping over. This might work if you live in a rural area where you have room to do that, but most of us here in town aren't free to do so. It could also be expensive.
The newest MG training manual suggests that you might purchase spray-on repellants, but most of these should NOT be used on plants designated for human consumption. READ THE LABEL. The problem with the sprays are the expense and the need to respray soon after rain. Sometimes, it seems like the deer are stalking my vulnerable plants just waiting for the spray to be washed off.
One of the home remedies mentioned in the new manual is deodorant soap bars. It suggests that in some cases, depending on your local deer population, it may work up to three feet from where it is placed, generally by hanging a bit from the ground.
What works on one deer population might not work on another. In other words, there is no definitive answer. You’ll just have to try something and see if it works for you.
Unfortunately, the deer are here to stay. Although some herds were thinned out by the wasting disease a few years back, they have since increased their numbers. I can remember when I lived in Coles County as a kid, and there were deer crossing signs a few places along the highway. I thought they were amusing as we never saw any deer. Would that be the case now.
For online information about wildlife control, check out the University of Illinois Extension website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/
If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.