I have been writing short stories about my experiences with deer for my website and thought I'd post it to take my (and perhaps your mind off the snow).
I have somewhat resolved myself to the fact that I garden with deer. I have often told myself that you can’t run a deer resistance study without them, although part of me has wondered if I could just rent them for the day as needed. But this spring was particularly difficult, and not just due to the deer. After a long hot summer and wet, cold winter the previous year, many plants died and I had more bare spots in the garden than usual. This is particularly frustrating as our study mandates we test plants for three years. But it also made for an unsightly garden!
So, I did what many gardeners would do, I inter-mixed my perennials with bright and floriferous annuals. The results were stupendous for about 48 hours. The ensuing months are what I now think of as a learning experience; at the time it was more like self-inflicted torture.
Unlike perennials that have the good sense to call it a season when the weather or other conditions, like deer, make life unbearable, annuals are those optimistic individuals that never give up. I suppose it makes sense, as a single season is all they get; it’s literally “do or die”. So, imagine my horror as I witnessed deer cropping down my 4 feet tall single orange marigolds and Celosia ‘Cramers’ Amazon’ and ‘Bombay Purple’, regeneration a few weeks later, followed again by utter decimation. Simply put, I had created my own worst nightmare – a seemingly endless supply of deer treats within a supposedly deer resistant garden. And trust me, after enjoying the buffet they didn’t move on; they moved in!
In hind sight, I realize that my foray into annuals may not have been a total disaster. A few annuals appeared to do well – Nigella ‘Cramer’s Plum’, Snapdragon ‘Animation Cognac’ and ‘Chantilly Deep Orange’ and Gromphena ‘Qis Carmine’ – and will be studied for the next two years. Fingers crossed…..
Mouse was not a barn kitty and did not need to feed himself; yet he felt compelled to search and capture any critter that wandered too close. It did keep down the mole population, but the corpses in the house were not pleasant. Eventually Mouse grew tired of the chase and decided to take a new tactic – catch and release. This seemed to offer him endless entertainment as he watched me scramble around the house trying to catch the critter.
So you may ask, what does this have to do with deer…..
Well, one Fall night at 2:00 pm something went flying across the bed. Based on the weight and speed I immediately guessed, Mouse. But quick on the heels was another rampage of similar gait. The issue? I only had one cat. Pillows and sheets flung everywhere, I eventually captured the rabbit. My husband, not a cat person, at this was trying to get back to sleep. But this was not to happen.
What did happen is now legend in our house. I opened the door quickly –it was dark outside and I was only wrapped in a towel- and I dumped the rabbit outside. But then I realized that someone was on the porch; I of course screamed and then ran back inside. Moments later, somewhat composed, it dawned on me – it wasn’t a person but a deer standing on hind legs reaching up to eat the ornamental corn I had hung on the house. Lesson learned? Don’t hang food treats on the house.
I run deer resistance studies for the state of Ohio, so I 'm not allowed to use any products.
Our job is it to see what the deer and don't like.
Sometimes it's heartbreaking, but that's research for you.