In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2008
Regional Report

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Nice to look at, but be prepared to share your landscape plants.

Protecting the Landscape from Deer Damage

Homeowners in rural and suburban parts of the region my find their landscaping efforts thwarted by hungry deer, especially at this time of year. Deer damage can occur all year long, but late fall and into the winter seems to be more pronounced. The lack of forest and meadow forage because of the snow cover will encourage deer to nibble on trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and vines. When deer are abundant and active around the home landscape, plants can be severely disfigured, damaged, or even killed.

Many of us move to the mountains to get away from the "concrete jungle," desiring to view wildlife and live with the rhythms of nature. What we don't figure in is our encroachment on wildlife habitat and how this interaction can impact our personal landscape. So be prepared for a roller coaster ride that living with wildlife can bring.

How can we protect our trees, shrubs, and other plants from deer damage? There's no simple answer since many factors come into play. Deer and elk have learned to adapt to our environment very well and will eventually find our landscape when natural food supplies are short.

If you are dead set on keeping them out of your yard and protecting valuable trees, such as a home fruit orchard, you will find that only a 8- to 9-foot-high fence will keep the pert and persistent deer out. However, if you don't want your landscape to resemble a walled prison yard, there are other remedies to try -- though these remedies carry no guarantees.

When I was a young child, my grandmother would hang bars of fragrant soap in the apple trees to ward off browsing deer and porcupines. Placing cheesecloth netting over the developing or ripening fruit was another attempt to protect the plants from their ravaging appetites.

Different types of chemical repellents have been somewhat effective, but most must be reapplied periodically as they breakdown with sunlight and moisture. Before investing in some of the more expensive chemical repellents, try some of the homemade formulas as they can be just as effective, if not more.

We can coexist with deer and other wildlife. All it takes is taking time to become familiar with the wildlife and their habits. Respect them for what they are --- wild.


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