Friday, November 25th, 2011...7:36 am

Protecting Plants from the Wildlife

Family Dinner by anoldent

Once again, this GardenLady has been asked how to protect plants from all the wildlife that visit gardens and think they are their personal supermarkets. Sometimes it seems to me that we, the humans, are in the cage while the animals roam around enjoying the bounty that we plant.

Mostly, we have to learn to live with a certain amount of damage.

One suggestion, of course, is that we can install a fence high enough to keep deer from jumping over and deep enough in the earth from allowing animals to dig under. Some people say that deer can jump over most fences under 9 feet.

But to prevent woodchucks from burrowing under the fence one needs a fence that goes into the earth at least one foot deep or the lower edge of the fence should be bent at an L-shaped angle leading outward and buried 1 to 2 inches below ground.  See here.  And of course, the above ground part of the fence should be such that the woodchucks or rabbits cannot crawl through.

Or perhaps one can get an aggressive dog that will be a good watchdog. But here again, one needs some fencing so that the dog does not run away while chasing an animal.

Not all of us own good watch dogs even if we have a dog, nor can we put up fencing either because of the cost or the configuration of the property. For example, my property has a stream bisecting it. Animals could crawl under the fence where it would cross the stream, or I would be battling the elements when the property flooded and the flood waters knocked the fence down.

So you may want to try to grow plants that deer find unpalatable. You can go that route.  See here. But then you have to check to see whether the deer resistant plants are also rabbit resistant plants.  See here. Then you should triple check to see that the plants are woodchuck resistant as well. See here. And continue with plants that other wild animals you have on your property won’t eat.

This can be problematic, because when hungry, animals might eat plants they don’t particularly like. And sometimes they enjoy plants in your garden that they would not necessarily eat if it grew in the wild. Your fertilized version might be more succulent to their palate. I don’t go the route of choosing only plants that animals dislike. Though I try to intersperse some around plants that I know they like.

I buy organic pesticides. I have been satisfied with the product called Liquid Fence, a rotten smelling product that works to make plants unpalatable to both deer AND rabbits.  See here. There are other brands as well, but I have not tried all of them. Then there are a number of other products available in the hardware stores that ward off other critters that destroy your garden.  See here.

I have previously written that during the growing season, I use Liquid Fence more frequently than the label suggests is needed. I have found that with the population of deer that I have, I have to do more frequent spraying since new growth is vulnerable as is the plant after a rainstorm. I aim for spraying once a week or every other week during the growing season. It is expensive, but cheaper than putting in a fence and cheaper than losing my plants.

AND even after the growing season, in the fall and winter seasons, I spray my plants with Liquid Fence. Just because the plant is not flowering does not mean that the animals have stopped eating. For example, the rose bushes and the rhododendrons are still delicious to deer- as are other shrubs and plants with foliage. If I stop spraying during the fall and winter, the deer are hungry and will come to eat. I do not spray as frequently as in the growing season. I spray closer to the recommended amount on the container. But if I stop, my plants or buds on my plants might be eaten, as was a rhododendron that was filled with buds last winter. Before the spring blooms appeared the deer had eaten every bud but two.

Also, I change my repellent so that the deer don’t get to used to the odor. Others like Deer Off which has a much nicer fragrance than Liquid Fence, so I use that on some of the spray days. But I find the smell of Liquid Fence so repulsive, that I think it has to work.

You don’t have to buy repellents. There are many online sites with recipes to create your own concoctions.  See here.

PS I use organic repellents. I really don’t want to harm the animals, I just want them to eat elsewhere.

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