DEER SEASON IS OPEN!
By Jeff Garrett
Let me begin by reassuring you this is not an article about hunting. I do not pretend to be a hunter, however, I must admit that if given the opportunity, I would love to catch one of these four legged monsters feeding in our rose garden and put a lead slug right between its eyes. Unfortunately, shooting a deer in our yard is not a good option. Therefore, we have to look for other means of dealing with these rose garden pests. If you are fortunate enough to not have a deer problem in your garden, consider yourself lucky. If you're wondering just how much damage deer can do, think about how the Japanese Beetles devour your blooms and all the damage they do. Well, deer not only eat the buds, they eat the entire stem, thorns and all.
We started having problems with deer after the Easter weekend freeze of 2007. Since that time, we have experimented with many different approaches to preventing the deer from destroying our garden and I would like to share what we have learned.
One of the most successful approaches is to get an outdoor dog that is large enough to keep the deer at bay. The downside is that having a pet is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Before you get a dog, make sure you understand what will be required of you to have a happy and healthy pet. Since we like to do some traveling in the winter, a pet is pretty much out of the question for us. Fortunately for us, we have a neighbor who has a beautiful black lab that we occasionally borrow when we are about to have a bloom cycle. The dog spends a night or two with us in a comfortable doghouse under a large tree in the back yard.
Perhaps the most important thing I can share about deer is that no one approach, other than an outside dog, is one hundred percent effective all the time when used exclusively. The trick is to use many different approaches and keep the deer guessing. In fact, some of the repellents we have used even state that they should be used with other repellents. It's also a good idea to mix it up and use different things at different times.
We have discovered that deer don't like to be surprised with a floodlight. Last summer I purchased a couple of motion activated floodlights and mounted them on large poles which I then placed in among the rose beds. If a deer ventures into the area, the lights come on and the deer scampers. To keep the deer uneasy, I occasionally move the lights to a different location in the garden. For poles, I use the top rail of a chain link fence. They are light and can easily be pushed in the soil we have in our rose beds. Each light costs about $35, including the pole.
Last year I read an article in the American Rose magazine about motion activated noise makers that are not audible to the human ear. I quickly got on the computer and found the Bird-X DG Deer Guard Ultrasonic Deer Repeller from Yard Guard. These devices run on either AC or four "D" batteries. The range is about 50 feet wide and the sensitivity is adjustable. We have four of these placed throughout the perimeter of the garden. Thus far, they have worked well for us. They cost about $50 each and can be found at www.yardguard.com.
We also got a great idea from our good friend, Tim Holcomb, of Holcomb's Garden Center. He suggested we try placing a radio tuned to an all-night talk radio station in the garden. We placed a radio under our deck with a timer attached so that it comes on at dusk and goes off at dawn. Be sure you have it tuned to a talk radio station, as music will certainly not deter the deer. And you thought there wasn't anything good on the radio!
Beaty Fertilizer markets EasyTea 7-1-1 in a granular powder, which is an all-organic product. Mix 1 teaspoon per gallon of water and apply it as a foliar feed. We include it in our regular spray program. EasyTea does not taste good to the deer, therefore, they nibble a little and move on. This product is completely safe and can also be used on consumables such as vegetables. This product is also very effective for rabbits. We apply it to the miniatures and even though there are lots of rabbits in our area, they leave the roses alone. Of course, the EasyTea was originally designed to feed your foliage, which it does quite nicely. As a result of using EasyTea we have nice, dark green, healthy foliage.
Finally, we use Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent. Liquid Fence contains putrescent egg solids and garlic, among other things, that are designed to emit an odor that deer and rabbits don't like. When applying this product, I strongly recommend that you wear your respirator, as the odor is unbearable. The good news is that it dries quickly and in just a couple of hours is hardly detectable to humans. You should also be considerate of your neighbors and apply Liquid Fence when they are not around. I apply Liquid Fence to the perimeter of the garden only on a monthly basis. A gallon of the concentrate costs about $120 and makes sixteen gallons of spray, which will last us for a season.
This year we plan to try some additional repellents. Hinder Deer & Rabbit Repellent is advertised to repel by an odor that humans can't detect. In addition to roses, Hinder is safe for use on food or feed crops. The dosage is 6 ounces of Hinder per gallon of water. They recommend that you apply when no rain is expected for 24 hours. A gallon of concentrate will make about 21 gallons of spray material and costs about $40.
Another product we will be trying is Sweeney's All Season Deer Repellent. The repellent is a non-toxic blood product that, while not offensive to humans, triggers the deer's flight response to danger. The material is contained in a weatherproof housing that is supposed to last the entire rose season. The stations are hung throughout the garden 4-8 feet apart. A packet of six stations costs about $25.
Regardless of what approach you try, be sure to start as soon as your roses break dormancy and tender new growth appears. The idea is to discourage the deer from even starting to consider feasting on your roses. Also, remember to use more than just one repellent and don't be afraid to mix it up.