Thursday, May 1, 2014

Greenfest: Deterring Deer

One of the most useful events at Howard County Greenfest 2013 was the presentation by the University of Maryland's Master Gardener Kent Phillips, "Deterring Deer and Other Critters."

That's a guilty look if I ever saw one
About 80 people attended an hour-long presentation packed with information about how gardeners and homeowners can prevent their plants from being eaten by wild animals.

Some highlights:

  • Deer will eat anything if the population is high and they're hungry enough. Deer will walk through and sample everything, staying away from resistant plants until there's nothing else to eat. 
  • Howard County has lots of woods incorporated into the Columbia-proper area. Deer sleep in the woods, then come out and eat everything.
  • Sustainable deer population is 15-20 per square mile. Howard County has 10,000 deer or 40/square mile, double the sustainable population. An aerial infrared study in 2009 found 90 deer in a 0.2 square mile area (450/square mile) in one location in Elkridge.
  • A mature doe will have 1.75 fauns per year, mostly twins. Population control measures harvest the does rather than the bucks. Sterilization programs aren't very cost-effective.
  • They prefer tender grasses, plants, and buds because they have only bottom teeth, so they rip versus bite.
  • Deer feeding preferences:
    • January to March: Coniferous browsing, bark, leaves, nuts, winter fruits such as rose hips.
    • April to June: Herbaceous plants and grasses, followed by buds and shoots of shrubs and trees.
    • September to December: Especially nuts.
  • The most-effective deer repellents use putrid egg solids. Have to respray with new growth, best time is to spray in early Spring and through Summer to teach them what they don't want to eat.
  • A fence they can't see over works best around a garden (because they can't see where they're landing). Dogs are a deterrent.
  • A few deer resistant varieties (remember though that deer don't read "don't eat" lists):
    • Flowers: daffodil, bleeding heart, peony, lily of the valley, lavender, daisy, allium onion, butterfly weed, lambs ear, Russian sage, goldenrod, spotted mint, sweet autumn, ornamental grasses (tend to be too coarse for them).
    • Shrubs and trees: boxwood, lilac, heather, butterfly bush, junipers, spruces. Need to protect from rubbing. Browse line is about 5 feet.
  • Other critters:
    • Woodchucks: Gardeners' Enemy No. 2. Can climb, need a metal fence 4' high with strand of electrified fence at top; or same fence slanted outward at 45 degrees or leave top loose to fall outward. They dig, fence can be buried underground. No repellents registered for use.
    • Squirrels: Protected, must obtain permit from NWIL. Cover tomatoes with paper bag to discourage them from taking a bite from them.
    • Raccoons: Like corn and cantaloupe. No repellents registered, fencing must be electrified, trash must be secured.
    • Skunks: Most people hire licensed nuisance wildlife control operators.
    • Rabbits: Most-effective control is fencing, don't really dig.
    • Voles: Get under mulch in winter, will girdle shrubs and kill them. Best to trap.
  • Resources:

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