Kitchen garden talk: Deer prevention? (Part one)

At the end of last month’s “Kitchen garden talk” column, at the suggestion of George Tripp we asked readers “What works best for deer prevention?” We asked several St. George gardeners we know their views. We got some very interesting responses—and not enough space to run them all this month, so we will run a second column on the topic in April. —JW

Mark Bartholomew, Tenants Harbor: Last summer we had far less deer damage than usual.  In the past, we’ve used Deer Tape fairly effectively.  It does seem to be a deterrent to deer entering an area to feed. But what seemed to help more than anything else is a trick I learned from my Yupik (Alaska Native) friend Joe.  When we are processing salmon at his camp on the Kenai River, we are frequently pestered by yellowjackets.  These critters are quite carnivorous, love salmon and will dispute you for the fillets.  Joe always takes a juicy chunk of salmon and places it on a platform above our work space.  The yellowjackets find it rewarding to go there where no one is swatting at them and they go quietly about their business as we cut fish without worrying about using an EpiPen.

Our home in Tenants Harbor was built on an established deer trail. Said trail leads right to our backyard raised beds.  So based on Joe’s strategy, I went about 20 yards up the trail and started putting out goodies for the deer.  I began doing this after the chard reached a tempting size.  Goodies included a little corn, apples—even peelings from the pie making—and trimmings from pruning and other gardening.  They even went for corn cobs, which they cleaned very well.  My game camera provided evidence that they would stop there, have a snack and move on past other temptations.  It seemed to work, even without deer tape, rotten garlic, human hair, human urine or coyote pee (all of which work but must be replenished frequently). They spared our chard until well after frost had killed everything else and I had to quit feeding them as deer season had begun and feeding (baiting) is not permitted then.

I have spoken with others who have planted a sacrificial crop nearby with the same result.  There is a special deer feedlot mix for this.  Good solution if you have the space.

Despite all the best measures, some deer are clever and persistent and cause significant damage.  When this happens, and the offending critter can be reliably identified, the lethal option might be in order but only if all else fails (and the season is open).  So far, I’ve not had to exercise that option on our neighborhood herd and hope that doesn’t have to happen, especially with our very special antlered doe that hung around all summer and fall with her twin lambs.

In a war of wits with hungry deer, I frequently feel unarmed.  Working with them does seem a little more effective than outright conflict.

Good luck to all of you who garden in this deer haven called St. George!

Jan Limmen, Tenants Harbor: I use bird netting placed over certain veggies, laid directly on top or slightly raised so as not to touch the veggies or other plants. I also spray the non-edible foliage of root crops, like carrots, with a product called “Liquid Fence.” The only spray I found to be very effective. Repeat spraying after a heavy rain is advisable.

I have in mind to put up a simple seven-foot plastic wire fence around my little vegetable plot. Love to use my “sling shot” when applicable. At some areas I will place on skewers pieces of Ivory soap. This would be a trial, someone recommended.

Next issue: What works best for deer prevention? (Part two) There is still an opportunity to add your observations! Send your replies to julie@stgeorgedragon.com, or to Julie, c/o St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Loreen Meyer

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