For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director,
“Deer in the Drought”
If your neighborhood has deer, typically 50% of your neighbors love them and the same number wish they were not present. The solutions for deer overpopulation are nearly as bad as the excessive populations, so if you are a gardener, the best thing to do is to try to live with them. The drought has made that co-existence even more difficult. The lack of rain has meant that production of broadleaf weeds, leaves, and stems that deer usually eat is greatly reduced with the result that your landscape plants look even more desirable to the hungry pests.
Fences are the most obvious way to protect your landscape and gardens. It takes one that is at least seven feet tall and preferably eight feet to prevent them from jumping it. Deer webbing is a less expensive option. The black plastic is not very noticeable to the human eye and it is relatively easy to construct, especially if you have a line of trees on which to hang the web. Search the internet for deer webbing to learn more about this option.
For a temporary deer fence to protect a garden or planting, use a monofilament fish line. A 20 to 30 pound test line strung at three feet around an area often does the job. Deer touch the difficult to see line and are spooked enough to seek a different food source.
Newly planted shade trees must be protected from both hungry deer and bucks that are rubbing the velvet from their antlers. Use a strong woven wire at least five feet tall to form a six foot circle around the newly planted tree. The wire must be braced by at least four posts if it is to do the job.
The list of deer-proof plants gets shorter and shorter as deer become more desperate. Almost any newly planted specimen or bed is subject to tasting and pulling. Consider spraying a homemade pepper spray (www.plantanswers.com) or a product like Liquid Fence to protect the new plants until they harden off and become established.
Here are some plants to consider if your neighborhood is blessed with an excessive number of deer.
The most obvious annual flower that escapes deer feeding is vinca. Plant the lavender, red, pink or white blooming machines in full sun. Water them every few weeks after they are established and you will have color until cold temperatures arrive even if you have deer. Zinnias are not as drought-tolerant as vinca, but they are usually passed up by deer. There is a large selection of color and flower shapes. Plant zinnias in full sun.
There are three yellow blooming plants that appear to be deer-proof in most neighborhoods. Esperanza is a root hardy shrub that has bell-shaped blooms all summer. Primrose jasmine forms huge weeping mounds (eight feet tall and ten feet wide) of evergreen foliage. The blooms are very showy in late winter. The flowers of cat’s claw (also called yellow trumpet vine) are spectacular waxy bells that cover the portion of the vine, in full sun after rain. The evergreen vine is very invasive, however, so make sure it is what you want.
shrubbery, consider the viburnums. There
are many selections and most perform very well in the shade. Most are evergreen with a spring blooming period. Yaupon and dwarf Chinese hollies also have
shade tolerance and do not seem to be eaten by the deer. For the sun, consider
Yuccas and palms are also drought-tolerant selections to consider for full sun.
Lantanas, iris, and society garlic are three blooming perennials to consider. Society garlic has good shade tolerance, grow lantana and iris in full sun. Lantana and iris are two of the plants deer will test and pull at when they are newly planted. Spray lantana once/week with homemade pepper spray or a product like Liquid fence for a month. Iris are planted at a shallow depth. Just plant them back in place if the deer pull them up. Eventually they will ignore the plants.