A beautiful pest in the garden
My wife is the gardener in our house. He loves being in the garden. He loves to see plants and flowers grow as a result of his efforts. She works hard and I’m lazy. I’m your worker when you can’t handle the heavier digging needed to move things as they outgrow the particular spot where you first planted them. For me, the garden is a nice place to sit and relax, when you’re not barbecuing!
But I can see the attraction in helping things grow and flourish. I appreciate the beauty of the natural environment that we are lucky enough to live in and I quite like to cut it off occasionally, stick it in some rooting compound and see if I can make it grow, absolutely free! (The free part that I love!) Our garden is next to a local school, near a moor and a forest and beyond the back of our garden is a protected area (about 11 acres) of forest, which it is home to many badgers. They do visit the garden from time to time, but we haven’t gotten into feeding them yet as they tell us they tend to pluck the bulbs and we’ve seen evidence of their worm hunting in the patches dug up from me (only planted last year) grass. The forest is also home to deer. I don’t know which varieties, but I guess some are the size of a small pony and some are not much larger than a family cat. We had seen them a few times in neighbors’ gardens and on the way, usually they dispersed quite quickly when we arrived. They are such beautifully graceful creatures. They appear to glide rather than walk and can remain almost invisible just a few feet away.
We moved into the house six years ago, and it took us about two years to start making forays into the very tall, thick laurels that line the garden on the side of the school. For those of you who don’t know, laurels (that’s what I’ve been told) tend to grow in a kind of loops, where they grow and then at a certain age the lower spreading branches seem to sink into the ground and almost form A new way. plant – still attached to the original. The process (again, I’m told) takes about ten years per cycle. We had three loops between us and the school, and at their highest point, I’m guessing they were 25-30 feet tall. I cut between one and two loops to enlarge the flowerbed and give the entire garden substantially more light. It took a bit of leveling work and then my wife got down to planting lots of pots in the expanded patio, as well as planting some roses and lilies in the flower beds.
That summer (2005 I think it was) late June to early July, possibly a little later, my wife made the garden a mass of color. We had lilies (bright yellow and orange) a mass of roses both in the pots and in the flower beds, as well as some hibiscus bushes that were blooming really well. We sat on the patio one night and looked around and I guess we felt like we had arrived. The garden was “domesticated” and all we could see around us were beautiful bright colors. I think my mother-in-law had even contributed a couple of sturdy rose bushes that were also in bloom. Bright yellow and perfectly formed flowers, although without much odor. It seems like that’s the price you pay for a pretty shape – they don’t smell much. The rough looking ones with oddly shaped heads and disorganized masses of petals, now they smell!
So the next morning we went out to the patio and noticed that something was missing. At first we can’t put our finger on it, but then when I see my wife’s face begin to crumble into tears, I start to get an idea. There is not a single flower or bud in sight. No, I am not exaggerating. Every rose, and there were hundreds of flowers, every lily, just every bud, all cut off about half an inch below where the head was.
My wife was distraught. What could have happened, and in just one night? The answer I’m sorry to say was deer. We don’t know how many, but they must have had a feast. We found out by asking around that we had inadvertently prepared a feast of the deer most beloved foods when we started planting our roses. They seem to be quite partial to lilies as well and, well, just about any fresh flower buds and buds. We asked the experts and the answer from all of them was the same: you need a high fence and a cattle rack on the road. We don’t have money for either of us so we kept asking until we got cheaper suggestions. We had some weird and wonderful suggestions on how to stop deer from eating our flowers.
Perhaps the strangest thing, but also the most credible, was spreading lion droppings around the edges of the garden. I say credible because you can easily imagine that antelopes of any kind would be willing to avoid lions. But we live in Surrey, England and there just aren’t many lions in the area willing to contribute! Male urine was also suggested and since it’s free we tested it for a while. It wasn’t good, every time it rained at night the deer would come back and our flowers were gone. Also, I was more than a little concerned that the neighbors might think I was more than a little strange if they had witnessed my nightly ritual. Come to think of it, they don’t visit as much as they used to … I even turned the security lights on in very short cycles from on to off, having read somewhere that deer don’t like to be startled. Oh no? I watched an adult male deer roam the lawn, turning on each of the three lights in turn without turning a hair and still moving to eat the lilies. Enraged, I ran out into the garden yelling at him. At least he had the grace to run, but only into the bushes from where he turned to see if she was following him. I did and he gave up and turned around, leaving me victorious for that night!
At some point along the way, a hairdresser friend suggested spreading human hair between the pots and the flowers in the garden that we especially wanted to protect. Apparently he had heard deer snorting around the base of the plants and getting their hair up their noses and they didn’t like it and they would walk away. We stopped short of trying, as neither my wife nor I liked the idea of all those hair clippings littering our planters and patio. I would venture to say that if we hadn’t found something that worked, we might as well have tried it.
We had also been told that deer in the garden don’t particularly like strong-smelling herbs and since we had always wanted some home-grown herbs, it is true that in a herb garden, rather than throwing garbage in the flower beds, we decided to have a go for the longer term solution of planting herbs alongside and around the prized roses and lilies. To be honest, the deer still seemed to come and feed on the fresh flowers and buds regardless, but I think we were letting the negativity take over a bit and I don’t think we really gave the herbs a fair trial. They are still in the garden now and may well have contributed to our eventual (hopefully not temporary) solution. However, I have to say that by now we were really reaching the end of our tether.
How were we going to stop deer from eating our plants? So, at the end of our journey and not even further on with keeping the deer out of the garden, what were we going to do? The prospect of the 6-foot-high fence, gates, and a cattle rack was beginning to gain importance. But that would cost thousands, possibly more than ten thousand pounds that we don’t have, just to keep some deer out of the garden.
They told me that I am not allowed to shoot the deer because they are protected. I’m not sure about that as I know Americans go out hunting deer and just about everything else every Sunday, even in New York, but I have a suspicion that deer are protected here in the UK. Please someone tell me if that’s correct. He wouldn’t have wanted to kill them, but prodding them a bit with an air rifle now seemed like a much cheaper option than the gates and all the rest of the fence and might have made them think twice about eating again. our roses. Finally, someone came up with a suggestion that I thought was worth a try and it sounded plausible, human (I wasn’t really going to shoot the little beggars) not too expensive, involved a bit of DIY (do it yourself) and, about everything, it was not going to cost the earth. It was also something I had read somewhere in one of the many self-help articles on the subject and it involved the use of material that I am a huge fan of. So what was this wonderful solution to the problem of deer eating our flowers?
What was the answer to our problem that all the other supposed solutions couldn’t solve? Well, it involved something that I like and something that my wife hates. And since she is also very much loved (forgive me, I could not resist), it seemed to me that the deer did not like this common household item so detested by my wife either. The solution, at least so far, and considering that we also have herbs planted throughout the garden, but the last change I made that has given us almost a full summer with flowers is that I have placed pieces of soap around the garden. yard. Now it is not just any soap. It’s a magic soap and we’re selling it for £ 25 a bar … no kidding, it’s a regular or garden coal tar soap. I think it costs around 60 cents for a couple of bars (to be honest if I had known it would work I would have paid £ 10) and it has worked so far. I cut each bar into about 6 pieces (economy again!) And at first I tied each piece with string close to the plants I wanted to protect.
For a few days we had no unwanted visitors that I was aware of. But after about a week I noticed that some of the soap was gone. Puzzled, I investigated more closely and it appeared that the rope had been cut and the soap was nowhere to be seen. Now I guess the foxes that raid our containers most nights are to blame and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that they love the smell of coal tar and adore the vegetable grease that soap is mostly made of. Anyway, I couldn’t let the foxes go with all my carefully prepared soap, so instead of ropes, I used zip ties to securely hold the soap.
FANTASTIC. The soap stays on the bamboo stakes and as I said UNTIL NOW we have all our buds and flowers. However, the other night I noticed we have a badger poking around in the garden and it occurred to me that they might like some coal tar soap. Either way, as long as they leave the flowers alone, they can give a little soap from time to time.