We’ve easily done triple the work outside of our house as we have inside, including tearing out all of the existing landscaping and replacing it. As part of our ongoing yard efforts, we’ve planted hundreds of dollars worth of flowers, shrubs, trees, etc. And each spring, we’re rewarded with beautiful blooms outside…and hungry, hungry deer who eat everything in sight.
We have a large deer population in our neighborhood, and not only is it a nuisance, it’s downright dangerous. We grew up in the sticks and know deer to be skittish creatures…except here. Here, they chase us. (No, seriously, both Russell and I have been chased out of our own yard by deer, it’s ridiculous). It’s a hot subject around these parts, so I won’t get too political. But because the population is not shrinking anytime soon, for many different reasons, we’ve had to get creative when protecting our landscaping investments.
The morning I left for Boston, I was excited to see that our tulips were finally sprouting flowers. I anticipated coming back home and seeing the pretty blooms. What did I see when I finally got home? Stumps. The deer got to the flowers.
I was furious but also curious, because we had no problems last year with tulips. I couldn’t figure out why they ate them this year and not last. Then Russell remembered; we chopped up bars of Irish Springs soap and place the chunks of soap all around the stems as soon as they popped up from the ground. It’s an old wives tale, an old farmer’s almanac trick – and it works. As soon as we remembered, we put the soap by the plants, and the deer have left them alone since. Some of the stems re-bloomed, so I did end up with some tulips in the front. It’s a weird trick, but one that works – and it’s doubly awesome when you consider how cheap bars of Irish Springs soap are.
However, we do keep up every few weeks with a deer and pest repellent from our local hardware store after everything has reached it’s blooming/producing point. We have tried dozens of repellents and the only one that has ever worked for us has been Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent.
Now, if you’ve ever used this, you’ll know why it works – it stinks to high heaven. I mean it makes you gag and if you get it on your hands, you’re screwed. It’s a garlic-y, sulfur-esque scent bomb straight from the depths of hell. We use the spray variety, as I think it works better than the granular shaker. We spray it very heavily once a week for three weeks, then once a month after. If we forget, we soon know, because the critters get to the landscaping. (Ask me about my sunflowers from last year, I’m still bitter).
Another possible solution – if you have a handy husband, wife, sister, neighbor, dad, etc. and some extra cash – is to build a gargantuan Fort Knox style garden fence that is the eyesore of the neighborhood:
Yep, that’s the spiffy fence Rusty built for us last summer after we found the deer inside our four foot tall option, happily munching on our tomatoes. Both of us have accidentally locked ourselves inside before. Talk about being the crazy neighbors. I’m going to stain in this year so it blends in just a tiny bit better. And I may disguise it with sunflowers around the perimeter, though that seems like inviting trouble to dinner (literally).
It didn’t take Russell too long to build the above garden fence (two unfocused weekends with plenty of breaks for yard work), and it’s approximately 24 feet wide by 10 feet deep. The garden fence is made of treated timber and chicken wire, stapled to the frame and twisted together at the seams. No deer were able to jump this baby. And it’s a safe place for us to harden off our seedlings before it’s time to plant them in the ground.
We’ve used grow lights before for our seedlings, but have found that our plants end up leggy/spindly, and don’t produce well throughout the summer. Sunlight is the best option. We germinate in early spring using the heat from our metal steam radiators to create a greenhouse effect (1930s house here) and then we keep the seedlings by the windows to get natural light. Dirt gets everywhere and it’s a mess, but worth it come July/August when we begin harvesting.
I accidentally left our tomatoes in the sun a few weekends ago while I read a book in the yard, and both the plants and I got a bad sunburn. I thought I killed them, but some shade and water brought them back to life, which goes to show that planting and growing your own garden from seeds isn’t that hard. You’ll definitely kill a few plants, but for the most part, you just let them go. I do occasionally crack the windows around the plants to let a gentle breeze in, which helps to harden the stems and also prevent mold from forming on the top layer of dirt. If you do see mold on your plants, cinnamon and a light spray of peroxide and water works to get rid of it.
We grow tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, garlic and onions (which we sow directly outside), squash, and all kinds of varieties of flowers. I’ve also grown beets and failed miserably at asparagus. These are our basics and get us through some delicious, fresh dinners in the summertime. There’s nothing like a garden tomato, guys, and neither Russell or I even like tomatoes, traditionally speaking. Gardening definitely takes some upfront work and continued maintenance, but when we’ve got a pantry full of canned tomatoes and pickled garlic in the middle of winter, it makes it all worth it.
And besides, a nice deer steak goes well with a side salad. 😉 Kidding, kidding. We aren’t allowed to shoot them. Ha!