Garden Pests

Judy Glattstein
Sun, 12 Oct 2003 15:57:57 PDT
Small and large furry vermin are part and parcel of my gardening experience.
The organic pest control devices (mine are grey, and the male is,
surprisingly, the better hunter. The elderly black lady is rather beyond it
at 17 years old.) are reasonably successful on voles, white-footed deer
mice, chipmunks and baby rabbits. There are also great horned owls, red
tailed hawks, red foxes, coyotes, etc. that are also part of the local
landscape, and also part of the balancing act with smaller vermin.

I suspect that the woodchuck (= groundhog) that usually grazes on the front
lawn recently discovered Ipomoea 'Margerite' - the wretch had to be up in a
large container that itself is up on a stand, in order to do as thorough a
job of eating off the large spade-shaped chartreuse leaves as it did. Stark
petioles now stabbing forth from the trailing stems. Oh well, frost would
have gotten them soon in any event. BTW - woodchuck also eats Pulmonaria
'Majeste' - chomps down the foliage, waits a few weeks for it to regrow,
eats his salad all over again.

Deer are not too much of a problem because I usually avoid their favorite
foods, such as tulips and dahlias. The usual run of spring geophytes:
narcissus, galanthus, chionodoxa, arisaema, scilla, sanguinaria, Dicentra
cucullaria, Corydalis solida, etc are not bothered. Camassia also left
alone, as are canna. Deer will taste-test Hyacinthoides, but they just nip
the leaf shoot as it emerges, resulting in square-topped leaves.

I had an electric fence in Connecticut. Worked like a charm - Gallagher
charger, developed in New Zealand for sheep fencing, so excellent with deer
(they have hollow hair, insulates better than the usual coat on cattle or
horses.) Two fences, strung with high-tensile wire, pair of fences spaced
about 2 feet apart - avoid a big enough gap for in-and-out jumping. Deer
have lousy depth perception - as a prey species their eyes are set more to
the sides of the head to see what's coming up after them. Predators have
better binocular vision with eyes towards the front for improved depth
perception. Two wires on the outer fence, three on the inner fence, spacing
all so they do not line up. And if you really want to reinforce the learning
curve - turn the fence off. Cut strips of tin foil. Smear peanut butter on
the lower half. Crimp unsmeared end onto topmost, outer fence wire. Turn
back on. When deer lick the peanut butter they'll get a shocking reminder to
stay away.

This site is more difficult to fence - slope is greater, cut with several
drainage channels and intermittent creek, also configuration of house/
garage in landscape awkward to arrange fencing to permit entry without
opening a gate. Cost quote I was given was so exorbitant I decided to do

I do use some repellant sprays. In "Made for the Shade" I wrote an entire
appendix on coping with deer that runs the gamut from fencing to repellants
both commercial and home-made and how to use, and a list of shade-tolerant
plants less eaten by deer.

If gardening were simple and successful with little effort we'd get
complacent. When a troop of wild turkeys struts across the back lawn I can
forgive the infrequent damage they do when kicking around (think chickens on
steroids.) Heck, I came out of the woods one day and found a neighbor's
peacock sampling a leaf here, a flower there. Didn't much care, it was such
an unexpected treat. And while I didn't see the black bear that came through
one spring a couple of years ago, he was more interested in bird feeders (we
don't have any, unfair what with the cats) and greasy barbecue grills than
garden plants.

About soap Hamish - yes, it works on a certain level. Best bet is use
something really smells, shave it into curls, and put it in a plastic bag
with microperforations.  Zip-lock used to sell them for vegetable storage,
but no longer available. I believe quart size can be bought in Canada, but
pint size are gone for good. I have a few boxes of pints stock-piled away.
Yes, keep soap higher off the ground - skunks eat it.

The technique I heard that appeals the most is to have a nice venison
dinner, wait a few hours, the go pee around the property. Supposedly it lets
deer know that something that eats them is in the area. Alas, my aim is not
so good . . . .

Judy in New Jersey where the autumn color is beginning to intensify, part
and parcel of the pleasures of living in the Northeastern woodlands.

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