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oh deer!

Attention! Readers that live in either the countryside (like me) or Rhu, the Peninsula and beyond, this weeks column is for you.

Not all pests in the garden are sap sucking. Some are larger, four legged, high jumping, furry demons. Deer. When you first spot one in your garden, you get excited that such a shy, graceful animal has graced your plot with its presence. The initial joy soon wears off when you find them chomping contentedly through your herbaceous borders as if the only reason you spent time and money planting them was to lay on a buffet for the local wildlife.

Luckily for me our barn conversion and associated garden is nestled safely behind a very old, very tall stone wall but many peoples borders are relatively open for the taking. The most effective and most obvious way to keep deer out of your garden is with a physical barrier. Deer proof fencing needs to be high (at least 1.8m) and strong to be a success. Heavy duty stock fencing (similar to that used for cattle or sheep) is your best bet and should be pegged down to the ground to stop them from squeezing underneath. Hedges are only really effective if they are tall enough and dense enough because the little minxes will squeeze through any gaps.

Of course in some cases, deer proof fencing may not be practical or feasible financially on a large scale. Your next port of call may be deer resistant planting. Of course there are few, if any, completely deer resistant plants and there is no guarantee that even the following suggestions will not get a little munched but they are a better bet than hostas, daylillies and fruit trees - or as I like to call them, deer candy. First rule of combat - know your enemy. Deer aren't stupid. They stay away from poisonous and toxic plants such as poppies, foxgloves, monkshood (Aconitum) and spurge (Euphorbias) and they don't particularly like prickly plants such as Berberis (the green leaved species), Chaenomeles (japanese quince has spines on the stems) and Echinops (globe thistles). They aren't big fans of scented plants so filling your garden with some of the following may prove good news for us and bad news for them - Philadelphus (mock orange), edible and ornamental salvias (sage), lavender, scented bearded irises, jasmine, honeysuckle and peonies.

When you add new plantings to gardens visited by deer its always good thinking to protect them initially with netting to allow them to establish and for young trees you’ll need tree guards. A dog can also be a good deterrent. It doesn't even need to be a big or brutish breed. Our golden retriever, Marley, is the soppiest, most cowardly dog you’ll ever meet. Seriously, you can't even drop a carrier bag next to this pup without her freaking out! But her presence scares deer off. The sight and scent of a dog in the garden can sometimes be enough to make the deer think twice. They have no natural predators in this country, unless you count deer stalkers, so if you live in an area where deer are problematic you may want to try some of these suggestions. Otherwise, you may continue to find yourself standing over yet another decimated shrub, head in your hands, sobbing ’oh dear, not again!’

Oh Deer

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