Sunday, July 5, 2015

Resistance Is Futile!

No, I have not become a part of the Borg collective. Only Star Trek geeks will get this.
Actually what I want to talk about is food. When you are hungry, you go get something to eat, right?
When any animal gets hungry, they go get something to eat?  Right again!
We, as human gardeners, enjoy growing our own food to eat? Right one more time!
Well, unfortunately, we have competition in our garden, and it isn't even only our fruits and veggies that are the target.
You all know who or what I am referring to here.
The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can be seen bounding through South Carolina's woods year-round. They are plentiful in our state, and in 1972 the legislature named them the official state animal. Ten other states recognize the White-tailed Deer as their state animal, too!

You might call them Bambi.
You may think they are cute, and they are, from a distance. As long as they stay out of my yard I have no trouble with them.
Being in the nursery business, they go by another name, Damn Deer!!
I understand the whole, "they are a living thing and they need to eat too!" Yea, yea, but what were they eating before my cucumbers and pepper plants were here?!
Again, I know what you are thinking, we are taking away their habitat and their food supply. I get that also. I am not! But yet, I am the one that feeds them my tomato plants, my peach tree and anything else that they see.
But enough about my complaints.
I hear it every single day at work, I can't have a nice yard because the deer keep eating everything. Is there anything I can do to stop them, short of enclosing my yard in barbed wire?
I usually tell them to electrify the barbed wire too, but that doesn't go over well.

Deer damage on Hostas

Here in South Carolina, the current estimated deer population is about 750, 000. That is a lot of hungry animals.
Hunting is the only sure fire way to bring those numbers down, but that is frowned upon by not only animal rights groups, but HOA's where the houses are extremely close together.
So if you can't put up a fence, shooting them is out, what else can you do?
You can encase each plant in fencing, but that kind of looks stupid. There are all kinds of deer repellent sprays on the market. The down side to them is, one, they stink and two, you have to reapply after every rain or irrigation event. There is one product on the market that seems to work pretty good, I have even tested it myself....Milorganite. It is actually a fertilizer.  It is composed of heat-dried microbes that have digested the organic matter in wastewater.  Milorganite is manufactured by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.  The District captures wastewater from the metropolitan Milwaukee area, including local industries such as MillerCoors.  This water is then treated with microbes to digest nutrients that are found in it, and cleaned water is returned to Lake Michigan.  The resulting microbes are then dried, becoming Milorganite fertilizers.
Sounds cool, huh?
Okay, so maybe that isn't your cup of tea either.
Your last hope is either artificial plants or ones that they don't tend to eat. Now mind you, the list I am about to share with you is just a guide to plants that are not USUALLY eaten by deer. If they are hungry enough they will eat anything.

Barberry : Berberis thunbergii
Spirea : Spirea sp.
Dogwood : Cornus florida
Viburnum : Viburnum sp.
Juniper : Juniperus sp.
Pyracantha : Pyracantha coccinea
Mahonia : Mahonia aquifolium
Pieris : Pieris sp.
Yaupon Holly : Ilex sp.
Society Garlic : Tulbaghia violacea

This is just a very small list. A Google search will reveal many others. Clemson actually has a very good page that has a fairly extensive list of what they don't usually eat and what they love. It can be viewed HERE. It is from 1996, but still has some very useful info on it. I want to stress here again, just because somebody lists a plant as deer resistant, it DOES NOT mean they will not eat it, just that they don't prefer to eat it.
Then there are the plants that, if you plant them, every deer within 100 miles of you will come by.
Two, off the top of my head are, Hostas and Knockout Roses. You wouldn't think that they would eat the roses, with the thorns and such. I know of a homeowner here in Charleston that, because they live in a heavily populated area, they were not going to listen to my advice and not plant certain things. I told them, do not plant the roses, pittosporum and hostas. They assured me, I won't have any problem, there are too many people around, the houses are too close together, and there is always activity around to scare them off. I wished them luck.
The very next morning, they were back. The deer ate EVERYTHING they planted!! Almost $800 worth of plants. Right down to the ground. They even ate a few things I didn't think they would eat, like ligustrum and liriope.
Do I have the answer for this problem? Not really. I can suggest plants that they don't usually eat. Encourage you to build a fence. Maybe tell you to get a big dog that will stay outside all night.
This is actually a common sight in many of the neighborhoods around here.

So, in the end, resistance is futile. Maybe we should just learn to live with them?
 Not me, I will continue to use milorganite and encase my plants in cages, even if it does look stupid!!
If you have any questions or comments about this, or any of my other articles, Please let me know.
I can also be found on Facebook as The Citrus Guy.
Happy Growing!