oh deer!

Oh deer, indeed.  Never had deer as an almost daily yard critter before moving to Chester County.  And since the Retirement Vatican known as Hershey’s Mill apparently has the largest deer herd in Chester County, I am ever watchful.

Oh Deer!

On the roads.

…and in my garden.

I have until recently found my garden left unmolested.  Then the other day I notices something was making a salad out of hosta leaves here and there, the hosta flowers, and the day lily blooms.  And since I hadn’t invited Morticia Adams to tea, I know I have critter visitors.

So I know that deer really don’t like Irish Spring soap and the scent given off by human and dog hair.  So I have been spreading hair around my plants where not so close to the house and it seems to be working.  I also know dried blood will work (until it rains or a dog discovers it).

I asked a few plant folks I deal with for tips and product suggestions.  Rebekah from Woodlawn  Lanscaping on Paoli Pike at Sugartown Road and Catherine from Yellow Springs Farm on Yellow Springs Road were kind enough to reply.

First Catherine  from Yellow Springs says:

Our big dog, formerly there were two big dogs, makes the plant nursery possible. I find sprays help, and many herbal ideas help, but the big Shepherd/Doberman mix is irreplaceable.

Rebekah from Woodlawn says:

It’s nice to hear from you again!  I’m going to do you one better by asking my managers Max and Sue at Chadds Ford and Malvern, respectively, to weigh in on this since they each have their own favorite recommendations.

Gardening in deer habitats is a challenge we address with our clients everyday!  What we have found is that deer will eat ANYTHING and there really is no plant that is safe from browsing.  They tend to stay away from high fragrant and textured plants but, if they are hungry enough, will nibble on whatever is in front of them. : (

We do sell several deer repellant products such as Deer Scram, Deer Stopper and Liquid Fence.  Woodlawn also carries deer fencing which can be installed and removed when deer browsing is less, in the summer.  Customer favorites vary but the most popular brands of repellents are the ones that we carry that customers seem to return to ask for by name.   There are other products available commercially but so far our local customers tell us that the three brands I’ve mentioned are successful in repelling their deer herds.  That said, each herd does seem to have its own favorite plants to chew, and some will chew on plants that are usually left alone.

Here is a link to PSU’s recommended deer resistant plants.  http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/xj0020.pdf

Woodlawn sells most of these and anyone can call to check on availability.  610-459-8788 in Chadds Ford or 610-647-1300 in Malvern.

Finally,   I’ve gardened in three high deer density states, CT, NJ and now PA, where I’ve found that the solution is a combination of approaches.  There is no magic bullet to safeguard your landscape plants that are in deer habitat, aside from an 8 foot double fence with a driveway cattle grid.  I’ve literally tried everything.  I’ve tried electric fencing my beds, coyote pee, a radio playing, bars of soap, sparkly old AOL CDROMs hung from trees, a large barking boxer dog, a small yappy JRT mix, bb guns, Milorganite, homemade hot pepper sprays, a motion sensor water sprayer,  and every imaginable product available.  I’ve settled on dealing with deer browse when it happens by pruning and replacing, not planting heavily browed plants, and companion planting.  I’ve personally found that planting Egyptian walking onions (sold at Woodlawn Malvern) among my hostas keeps the deer from munching on them.  I leave Cleome seed volunteers and marigolds.  I plant Fritillaria Imperialis, Crown Imperial, near my tulips.  These are all highly aromatic and seem to keep deer away.  I also poke several sticks among my hostas so that when a deer bends down to take a bite it gets poked in the nose.  These approaches have all worked well for me and enabled me to plant many ornamentals that I would otherwise be feeding to the deer in my gardens near Valley Forge Park.

Thanks for asking and as soon as I hear back from my managers I’ll post their recommendations on our Facebook page too.

Happy Gardening!

I also asked a couple other places I patronize, Del Vacchio and Somerset, but they haven’t gotten back to me yet with their approaches.

I figure there is no one magic bullet (pardon the pun since many communities cull the deer herds and I have NO problem with that as face it man has eradicated a lot of their natural foes in the animal kingdom and development has gobbled up habitat), and you never know what will work.

I like to try more natural alternatives with things, when possible, but that is just me as a breast cancer survivor – I am much more aware of chemicals and interactions now. I hate to say it, but I do try to think pink and live green.

I would have asked Waterloo, but remember a while back when I made a comment about Waterloo in a post?  Where I said Devon did not look up to normal stuff in the spring?  Someone from Waterloo posted a reply, and interestingly enough June 1st brought local gardeners the news that Waterloo was closing.  I don’t know much about Exton, so if someone from Exton reads this post, or any other nursery I have missed reads this post and wants to add tips on keeping Bambi and his tribe at bay, the more the merrier.

I will close with a question: does Hershey’s Mill do anything about their deer population, or do they just leave it to other people outside the compound to deal with?  (I have found, however, that some of their residents are as dangerous on the road as deer.)