Dig It! - What Happened to My Flowers?
Deer, rabbits, dogs, cats, birds, gophers and chipmunks also all enjoy your garden
by Sage and Snow Garden Club
May 7, 2007
If you like seeing wildlife around your property, you must expect some plant damage. It's a test of a person's tolerance and fortitude, but would we have it any other way?
For any creature that you might consider a pest (and that definition is in the eye of the beholder), there is no one method that works all the time and there are no plants that are deer/rabbit/gopher proof. Animals can be "trained" to not eat certain plants, but the training occurs sometimes after they have eaten some of the plant and decide they don't like it.
In the meantime, you can only take satisfaction in the thought that that single animal likely won't eat any more of that plant, but there are plenty behind it that will! Advice from local citizens is to plant daffodils or garlic cloves to keep varmints away!
If a deer is hungry enough, it will eat just about anything. Rhubarb is known to be toxic, but tell that to a hungry deer. There are, however, some plants that deer will avoid, including those that have a bad taste, have hairy or fuzzy foliage, or are coarse, spiny, bitter, or very aromatic.
There are many seed catalogs, nurseries and internet web sites and chatrooms that list plants that are known to be distasteful to deer and that give advice regarding nonlethal deer control solutions, such as fencing. Since you tempt trouble by planting deer favorites (azalea, balsam fir, berries, dogwood, Fraser fir, fruit trees, Norway maple, redbud, chrysanthemum, clematis, daylily, hyacinth, rose, tulip, and hosta), one scheme is to only plant what deer tend to avoid, such as narcissus, lamb's ears, yucca, blue spruce, black locust, service berry, cedars, California poppies, corn poppies, marigolds, bleeding hearts, calla lilies, snow-on-the-mountain, thyme and spearmint.
Even though spiny, deer love roses, but you have a chance with very spiny roses and ones that rebloom even with some "munching", such as Rosa rugosa. If you like roses, though, you should completely enclose them in some sort of impervious barrier.
There are many deer deterrents and effectiveness varies on how quickly your deer adjust to them: bars of soap, mothballs, thorny branches, human hair, decaying fishheads, blood meal, garlic, fabric softener, processed sewage, repellent plants, floodlights, noisemakers, flags, radios, whistles, firecrackers, electric wires, hidden fishing lines, and sprinklers.
There are sprays, such as rotten-egg and water, soap, hot-pepper, and many commercial ones. Some people lure deer away by planting the animals' favorite foods in a remote part of the property, far away from prized plants. Short of having a fence at least 8 feet tall around your plants, no measure works 100% of the time, so people who share their property with deer employ a variety of methods in order to limit damage.
Testimonial from a Sage and Snow Garden Club member: "After many purchases of different rabbit-repelling products, I concocted my own recipe in which I mix 1 gallon water, approximately 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap, and 1/2 cup of ground red pepper. I sprayed this mixture on entire bushes every other week. I didn't kill my bushes and the rabbits didn't eat them, so Iíll try it again this summer." Rabbits will nibble many different plants to the ground in the early spring. There's not much you can do here except put up a low (up to 2 feet high) chicken wire fence. When other plants begin to green up, the rabbit may move on. Also consider planting narcissus to deter them.
The most neighborly thing to do is to keep your dogs (and cats) away from your neighbor's property. If this isn't done and you need to clean up areas where dogs have "contaminated" soil, "flush" with lots of water, rake, and reseed. To keep dogs from digging in certain areas, cover the spots with decorative planters or plant the area and lay chicken wire over it, burying edges deep so they can't pull the wire out. Consider turning a dog's favorite route into a decorative pathway lined with soft needles or leaves. You could also divide the yard, giving the dog a private area, including a sandpile for digging.
Gophers and chipmunks
Except for using traps, there's not much you can do to dissuade them. You might try planting daffodils next fall as these sometimes deter gophers.
Use pointed stones or upright, sharp twigs to cats out of flower pots or flower beds. If you make the area uncomfortable, they will move on.
To protect fruits from birds, use bird netting. Plastic hawks, owls, snakes or old CDs or strips of Mylar can be hung, with varying success.
The Sage and Snow Garden Club meets monthly on the second Tuesday at noon in the Pinedale Library. Contact the Garden Club at email@example.com or Box 2280, Pinedale, WY 82941 or come to a meeting.