- Author: Carmen Kappos
For years I thought of garden pests as various insects and small animals but larger animals like deer can do quite a lot of damage to the gardens in our area near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) has an excellent online article on deterring deer from browsing on plantings. Check the website for the full discussion HERE.
As the article says; most people enjoy seeing deer in the wild. I know I do, and I enjoy seeing them around my house as well. I also enjoy seeing my ornamental plants flower in the summer. That is a bit of a challenge; just as a favorite plant is about to bloom the tender new growth can be clipped off by this beautiful neighbor.
As the saying goes “good fences make good neighbors,” the UC IPM article states that “physical exclusion is by far the best and most reliable way to protect gardens, orchards, and ornamental plantings from deer. “ Fencing is discussed in detail, but in my small patch of a garden, a full fence is impractical. Individual plant protectors, also mentioned in the article, are a much easier way for me to enjoy flowers in my yard.
The left photo shows some scarlet penstemmon, a favorite of mine and the hummingbirds. Penstemmon in my yard is often browsed by deer but, so far, this year the plants with individual protectors are untouched. The fact that any of my plants are blooming at all is reason enough for me to celebrate. Seen in the photos, the easily constructed plant protectors are surrounding a daylily and a native Gilia blooming in the background. The Gilia got clipped by deer early in the season but after the cylinder was added I had no further damage, even though the top is open. The right hand photo shows the easily constructed plant protectors are surrounding a Day Lily and a native Gilia blooming in the background. The Gilia got clipped by deer early in the season but after the cylinder was added I had no further damage, even though the top is open.
In past years I have also made larger enclosures to surround an entire planting bed with good results. Dustin Blakey, our local Cooperative Extension farm advisor described that if the enclosure is small and tall enough that the deer would not be able to move freely inside, then they likely won't jump in. The largest individual enclosure I've made is two feet by three feet and it worked well. It also needs to be small enough or tall enough that they won't just dip their heads in and browse.
For a real challenge, grow a vegetable patch near our wild neighbors. I stopped by the community garden in Lee Vining recently and got a tour of the many ways they exclude garden pests. The perimeter fence keeps out rabbits, but is not tall enough to keep out deer. To keep the deer off their plants, they enclose the raised beds in wire mesh, and keep adding on segments as the plants grow taller. Also, as you can see from the photos, shade cloth on top of some raised beds keep the deer off and a little opening can still allow bees and other pollinators in.
The Lee Vining Community Garden is celebrating twenty years of growing this summer. Congratulations on producing food while living with and enjoying our wild neighbors!