Friday, February 13, 2009

Go to the winter woods:

listen there,



and "the dead months"

will give you a subtler secret

than any you have yet found in the forest.

- Fiona Macleod, Where the Forest Murmurs

"If we had no winter,
the spring would not be so pleasant:
if we did not sometimes taste of adversity,
prosperity would not be so welcome."
Anne Bradstreet

Oh Deer!

Deterring Deer from Dining on your Delicacies!
Foraging Deer
Who isn't stopped in their tracks when they see a white-tailed deer foraging? Although, if you love your landscaping, you may want to shoo them away quickly. Deer can consume 5-9 pounds of leaves, twigs, grasses, fruit, twigs, and acorns daily and will quickly ravish your garden.

Every season, especially the snow covered ones, this is a hot topic at Woodbridge Greenhouses. Just the other day, as I looked out my window, I counted six deer foraging on a Balsam Fir. They must be starving!

We know that housing, roads, and development have invaded and fractured their normal range and led them to dine on the delicious gardens that replaced their mixed woodland buffet. With few natural predators, their populations thrive. In 2004 an estimated 15,800 white-tailed deer were grazing throughout Rhode Island.

If the wonderful plants in your garden are less appealing to deer, you have an advantage over your neighbors. Begin with a border of deer-repelling plants:
  • Alliums
  • Daffodils
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Thyme
Deer also seem to dislike fuzzy plants:
  • Artemesia
  • Dusty Miller
  • Lamb's Ear
Unfortunately, they'll need a little nibble to realize it's not so delicious, so you might see some bites missing.

Unless conditions are really tough, most woody plants are usually safe:
  • Blue Spruce
  • Spirea
  • Boxwood
  • Paniculata type hydrangea
Please ask us for help and arm yourself with free information from the University of Rhode Island (URI) Green Share Fact Sheet of Plants Least-Preferred by Deer.

Briefly, some of our favorite deer-resistant plants include: Allium, Ageratum, Artemesia, Baptisia, Buddleia, Celosias, Cleomes, Clethra, Caryopteris, Digitalis, Festuca, Lavender, Lupines, Marigolds, Miscanthus, Monarda, Nepeta, Pennisetum, Perovskia, Poppies, Salvia, Santolina, and Zinnias.

Of course, when deer food supplies are scarce, they will even eat plants on the deer-resistant plant list. So it's time for the next phase, which is Deer Deterrents, which affect deer either through sight, taste, hearing, smell or touch.

  • For just a few plants can be as simple as a cage of chicken wire or even an arch of wide wire fencing over larger plantings (which can also be moved for access).
  • Absolutely, the most effective barrier to stop a species that can jump eight feet high is a costly eight-foot tall deer fence.
  • A less expensive lower fence installed at a 45-degree angle has been proven to work.
  • Ninety percent of the time an electric fence with a single strand is effective.
  • A cheaper method to spook deer (which have poor eyesight) is to tie a heavy fishing line between two strong posts about two or three feet high. When they walk into it, the deer are spooked because they can't see what is stopping them.
Deer are repelled by the smell and flavor of Soap. If you are considering hanging "soap on a rope", you should know:
  • The fatty acids (tallow) in soap repel deer.
  • Soaps containing coconut and other natural oils attract raccoons and rodents.
  • Soap grated around the garden gives mixed results.
  • Hang soap in burlap or cheesecloth stapled to stakes in the garden in early spring.
  • Consider buying soap in bulk to save $$.
Sprays can be purchased or made with varying results. Taste deterrents are best if you want to look at the deer while protecting certain plants:
  • Rotten Egg
  • Garlic
  • Pepper, etc.
Odor repellents, often containing predator urine, don't require a taste test so there is less "sampling". Spraying should be done when conditions are dry and must be re-applied after rains. We have been using and recommend a product called Plantskydd for the past several years with 100% success. You do not need to reapply after rainfall and it is effective for up to 6 months. It also comes in a granular formula to sprinkle around your edibles.
  • Avoid sprays that also deter pollinators.
  • Spray thoroughly and from the ground up to 6 feet, which is thought to be their maximum reach.
  • Don't use mothballs -- they may be toxic to pets, birds, and children.
Click here for another great URI Fact Sheet for Deer Damage and Control.

Please feel free to call or email anytime (or stop by once we're open for the season), we can make specific recommendations for the type of plants that will meet your needs.

Source for RI deer facts:
Web photo of supplemental deer feeding site found at:
Web photo of deer herd in snowy woods:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Keep your faith in beautiful things;
in the sun when it is hidden,
in the Spring when it is gone."
- Roy R. Gibson

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Reader's Response:

Debbie, I really enjoy your newsletter articles. The December article Decorating for the Birds inspired me to enlist my two preschoolers to get creative feeding birds in our yard.

Patrick, Bridget, and I have spent some of the coldest days this winter testing a variety of bird “cookie” recipes we've found
on-line. The cookies have been decorating a pine tree and feeding a variety of wildlife. The recipes are packed with bird seeds and disappear from the pine tree within a week. The children are thrilled with the squirrels' antics, and have learned to identify the blue jays, and junkos. Soon I'm sure they'll be able to identify more.

t's been a great winter for snow lovers. For the rest of us, layers of snow and ice blanketing our garden mean the only thing growing is the bird seed bill. It seems that the birds (and squirrels and deer) enjoy a little variety once in a while. Last fall we saved some pumpkin and sunflower seeds for the birds. The children enjoy throwing bread crusts, crumbs, and over-ripe fruit, and cores outside to feed the birds. In fact, we have even found vegetable scraps (recent additions to the compost pile) on top of the wood pile, probably moved there by squirrels or mice.

The next internet recipe we plan to test is “peanut butter pudding” (one part peanut butter mixed with five parts cornmeal stuffed into pine cones or tree crevices) to attract woodpeckers, titmice, and warblers. To my relief, I learned that birds supplement their regular diet with our treats, so if our feeder goes empty from time to time, luckily, they won't starve.

So Debbie, thank you for getting us started on this wonderful winter hobby. I'd like to share with you links to three great websites that we've found:
  • Birding on the Net is a website where folks list birds and post photos of birds in Rhode Island. Pretty neat.
  • Audobon Society of Rhode Island's website is loaded with local birding information.
  • Birds of New England is a great website with photos, links and information to help with identification. This site helped us confirm that we received a visit from a Carolina Wren.
I've attached a bunch of pictures of our bird-cookies (brushed with molasses and sprinkled with extra birdseed) and some of our visitors.

Thanks again!
Renee Brannigan