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Growing Green: Deer proofing your garden

This cold, damp weather has encouraged many garden wildlife pests to be active in and around our area. At our flower farm, we face an unending battle with ravenous deer.

Deer love to make a feast of the new tasty plant buds just emerging from the soil or from the tips of perennial branches. Great treat for the deer, not so great for your treasured ornamentals and vegetables.

Our dog, Jasmine, has been our deer deterrent for the past year, and she has been very effective. However, if you live in town or have nearby neighbors, they might not appreciate the frequent nighttime clamor of a dog chasing deer off the property.

Fortunately, there are other, less noisy solutions:

• Keep deer-favorite plants close to the house. That way, you can keep tabs on the plant's progress at all times, making sure it doesn't become a meal.

As a general rule, deer love to dine on anything that's smooth, tender and flavorful, including chrysanthemum, clematis, roses, azalea bushes and various berries.

• Plant pungent flowers and herbs as a natural barrier. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeding, so adding patches of strongly scented plants can mask the appealing aroma of nearby annuals.

• Select plants with thorny, hairy or prickly foliage. Try incorporating fuzzy lamb's ear, barberries and cleome near the plants you want to protect and where deer might find entrance into your garden in the first place.

• Make deer-resistant substitutions. Trade tulips for daffodils, select roses that are particularly thorny. If you're looking for flowers that will add a certain color or provide a certain function in your outdoor space, consult The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites at www.extension.

umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG8464.html.

• Don't underestimate the power of scare tactics. Deer fear new, unfamiliar objects. Scarecrows, sundials and whirligigs make deer skittish, until they get used to them. Move your ornaments around the garden or switch them to keep the deer cautious.

• Rotate repellents throughout the growing season. Two basic types of deer repellents are available. Contact repellents are applied to the plants, causing them to taste bad. Area repellents are placed in the problem area and repel due to their foul odor.

Reapply repellents after rainfall, and use a different formula from time to time to protect plants and prevent deer adaptation. Follow label instructions for appropriate application.

Hungry deer are motivated deer, and your garden is full of deer candy, so no method is completely deer proof. However, using a few of these strategies will minimize the damage deer cause in your garden.

Good luck with those pests. Until next time, happy gardening!

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