By Zachary Morton
Of all the things that can destroy your garden, the No. 1 culprit may be deer. The trophy for many hunters during the fall can quickly lay waste to an entire garden in the summer.
“They can pretty much wipe it out in one night, depending on the deer population and how long they can stay in their undisturbed. I’ve heard of people's entire row of peas being nipped off in one night,” said Wildlife Biologist Jason Allen.
But is there anything they will not eat?
“Yes and no. If they get into a garden with any type of legume (beans and peas) in it, they tend to hit those first," Allen said. "But they will hit tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and okra. There’s not much they will not eat. They typically don’t mess with corn until it ripens up. But they will eat young tender plants. Sometimes, they have even eaten young tobacco plants.”
So how can someone effectively keep deer out of their garden?
“Electric fence. That’s about it. I put it up at my grandmother’s garden. A simple fence that you can step over and the deer won’t jump it. It’s actually two strands about three feet apart, and the deer won’t jump it. It does something to their depth perception. You can buy twine and set it up like an electric fence. It’s really more of a visual barrier.”
Allen recommends Gallagher Fence Co. as a good place for fencing, as well as Tractor Supply and Southern States. But what about home remedies?
“They can try flashy Mylar tape. I’ve seen people tie up strings around their garden with bags on them. Scarecrows. Irish Soap. Garlic. Hair from barbershops. Mothballs. Even commercial repellents that are available.” But he points out weaknesses.
“All that stuff works to a certain extent. But it’s temporary. Deer get used to it. When it rains, it gets washed away and you have to reapply it every time. It all works to a degree, but its not permanent. The best thing that I have done is put up a fence.
“Most the places where you have deer problems are in more urbanized areas and deer smell all those different things all the time. They're used to it. And that’s where your having most problems with them eating people’s gardens.”
While deer can greatly affect peoples crops close to urban areas and in rural parts, Allen notes that people in rural areas are better equipped in one way.
“In more rural areas ... people are allowed to discharge firearms. That’s the best way to keep them out of your garden. And it is legal to do that. If you catch a deer or critter in the act of eating your garden, you can kill it. That is 100 percent effective right there.” Location can also help protect your garden.
“And if you have the means and the land, put your garden away from the tree line. A small garden spot in the middle of a field is less likely to be taken apart by animals than at the edge of the woods.”
More information on controlling a deer problem can be found through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website at http://www.ncwildlife.org.