Deer Proofing?

deer on alert

It’s been awhile since my backyard has looked like this! And at this point, I might even welcome the snow (yes in August!) because it would be welcome relief from the drought!

The drought–and our lack of snow cover last winter–has made this a bumper year for critters. They are looking for anything they can eat both to encourage their larger numbers and to get moisture. It’s a tough time to be a gardener.

However, indications are that this weather pattern is part of the new “normal” for us. It’s our third summer of severe dryness (two of the winters have at least alleviated that with snow but last winter we had a “snow drought” as well). People–and animals–are going to have to figure out more creative ways to cope.

I have been writing on an ongoing basis about critter and deer proofing and repellents. I have two articles coming out in the next month that will deal with this topic, one specifically all about this and one about fall gardening that talks about the topic with respect to protecting fall bulb plantings.

Because I am an organic gardener, I use only approved organic remedies (if I use anything at all) in my own yard and I recommend the same to folks who ask me. In my articles, I tell folks to go to their local garden centers, who are in the best position to recommend what might work best for their area at that time (since, with publication schedules, it’s tough to know what might be working at that moment).

But as I have discussed before, the word “organic” can have many meanings. When I use the term, I try to use it as the CT-NOFA Handbook has used it and I apply the principles found in the handbook. That way, I know I am applying locally controlled best practices.

This therefore always presents me with a dilemma when I am lecturing about deer proofing (which should always be referred to as repelling, anyway. Unless you are in an area where you can surround your property with an 8 foot fence or an electric fence, your property is not “deer proofed.”)

In some places, deer browse can be quite dramatic and homeowners can be understandably distraught. I understand that. My own home is on a deer trail. They wear a path down to the bedrock. Because we are partially wooded, usually the damage isn’t too severe. But one particularly snowy winter, everything, including spiky holly, was browsed, and when the snow melted, everything else was browsed. I had shrubs that were “nubby little nothings” after that incident.

I didn’t use repellent–at that point, it would have been futile. Instead, I pruned back hard anything that had been browsed and I fertilized with an organic fertilizer. Everything came out fine.

Others are not as lucky. They go through this every year. So if they need to apply something else, who am I to question? I just ask that it be the least toxic first, if possible.

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