My Friends the Deer

I know we all have more pressing and complex issues on our plates than poorly behaved deer, so I can only hope my rant blog gives you a diversionary guffaw…….

On our front porch sits my backpack sprayer unit already in use with a hideous concoction of rotten garlic water that even the deer find unpalatable. Usually this sprayer unit becomes a gardening accessory much later in the growing season as in when the snow is gone and the growing season has actually begun.

However this year, on the rare day when the snow has temporarily melted in some garden beds and before the next nightly snowfall, the deer have ripped up the beds and eaten all the tender young spring bulbs everything that remotely resembles a plant.

The carnage is one thing. The mess is another. Both provide me with an opportunity to practice my temper tantrum skills detachment. That is apparently what life gardening is all about. The pillaging behavior is unlike anything I have experienced before with our resident deer.

When I first stumbled on the damage (difficult not to since it looked like a back hoe had ripped through the gardens) I inspected the damage and considered the losses. Then I search very, very hard and found a few places where the deer had not found some spring bulbs . Naively, I figured these patches of Flower glory were safe. Then the deer found these places. The beds had been sifted for any shred of living plant material until they found these survivors damage was done, but there were a few spots where they had missed one or two bulbs and some places where deeper snow had protected some bulbs. This was when I got my sprayer going. Yes, to use a metaphor here, I basically shut the barn door after the cows had escaped the barn.

The last two days I have doused every garden bed with garlic spray. A brisk wind on both occasions meant that I got to wear this fragrant spray too.

Whenever I find a spring bulb they missed, I drown it spray it with particular care and hope for the best. I’ve even taken to spraying the snow where I know spring bulbs have yet to surface. (Note to grandchildren- Don’t eat the gray and odiferous snow) I also give a shout of thanks that deer don’t like Snowdrops or Daffodils. The Winter Aconite, Grape Hyacinth, Iris Reticulata, Chionodoxa and Crocus may have been deer appetizers, but there will be some color in the spring gardens. Here’s hoping anyways.

I am concerned for the honeybees that love these early Flowers as much as me. Will they enjoy the half dozen Crocus that survived the rampage even if they smell like garlic? These are questions I ask myself. I only hope the fragrance won’t put the bees off as it did the humans when I walked into to house last night. After their long cold winter the honeybees deserve all the nectar and pollen they can find. Me too, come to think of it- Thanks deer!

Last night at dusk as I wielded my sprayer, a large cohort of deer gathered in the hayfield below the gardens to watch my foolish attempt to slow their roll to wait for me to go into the house for the night so they could begin their evening feast. Besides slathering everything in garlic spray, I also gathered some of the lilac branches broken in the last ice storm and used them to protect the Hellebores aka Flower crack for deer.

This morning, fresh snow or garlic or something seemed to have inhibited the deer slightly, but they still managed to pull back the lilac branches to test nibble the Hellebores. Fingers crossed. It looks like the garlic spray was enough of a deterrent, but it’s early days.

Speaking of early days, in the early years the deer stayed out of the gardens. I would like to know what Elemental was keeping them in check and I would like to hire him or her back. Nowadays the deer break down fences, eat every fruit tree branch they can reach, wreck gardens that are literally a foot from the house, and do so much digging that someone might pay them for their excavating services. I try to convince myself that dealing with the deer now gives me a lot more opportunities to wring my hands meaning learning lessons, but do I ever miss those early days when for whatever reasons the deers were polite and well mannered.

It’s always something with life gardening and for me this season it’s deer. No doubt the arrival of the woodchuck in a few weeks will remind me that I should have been deeply deeply grateful when it was just deer eating the plant life. I’m working on it. I really am.