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Dealing with deer and garden disasters

Last year it was bunnies; this year it’s deer.

At least one deer has to be the culprit behind the gradual destruction of our garden. In fact, it left some clear evidence behind during its last visit, if you get my drift. This was no bunny.

The first event was pretty devastating. Something managed to get past our fence. It trampled the squash, zucchini and cucumbers, eating many of those leaves. It ate the tops off the tomato plants along with numerous green tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes it didn’t eat it knocked to the ground.

The tops of the bean plants were bitten off. The okra plants were stripped of about half of their leaves. At the same time, I noticed the entire top of a nearby ornamental shrub had been nibbled away.

My husband, Mike, and I were shocked and disappointed, but we kept our cool. We harvested the squash, cucumbers, lettuce and beets that we could salvage. Then we cleaned up the mess. We removed smashed leaves, and I trimmed damaged stems from all the plants so they could devote their energy to making their best parts better and recovering from the attack.

We also built up our fence a little higher, adding caution tape to give it a little extra height and some movement in the wind. And Mike installed a motion light that illuminates most of the garden.

We thought we had the problem solved. A week or 10 days went by with no further trouble.

But then one day we went to water the hanging basket under the deck that had been heavy with dozens of green cherry tomatoes.

Bam! Another shock.

Nearly all of the tomatoes were gone, and the ends of many branches had been bitten off.

Now, we were angry.

But, OK, maybe we should have realized the deer would go for that hanging plant if it couldn’t get into the garden.

So, again, we muttered some choice words under our breath and set out to solve the problem. We moved the tomato basket to our elevated front porch and hung it from the ceiling behind the porch swing. If a deer can get to it now, the animal deserves every bite it gets and should be on TV.

We swapped the basket for a spider plant, which I don’t think a deer will find appealing.

Again, problem solved — right?

Nope.

The very next evening, it was clear that our fence had failed again. That was Wednesday. We were just about ready to give up, but we decided we couldn’t let all of our hard work go to waste.

So, Mike set about cleaning up, pulling some weeds and tilling spent rows for fall planting. I went off in search of deer deterants.

I couldn’t find pinwheels, which have worked well so far in my brother’s garden. So, I improvised.

I returned home with about a dozen foil pie plates, a package of round, white balloons and a pair of helium-filled, shiny Kevlar balloons. We inflated some of the white balloons and tied or clipped many of these items to the fence, especially in areas we suspected were easier points of entry.

Mike further raised the height of the fence and reinforced weak spots. I even added dangling car air fresheners at the corners, thinking the scent may be confusing or off-putting to a deer.

We now have the most festive-looking, party-worthy garden in Belmont. And it smells like a new car.

As of Friday, we had seen no further evidence of unwelcome visitors. We had, however, heard a very agitated dog just a few dorrs down the street barking at length late Thursday evening and suspect he was provoked by a deer wandering through the neighborhood. That could spell trouble for us in the coming week.

I tend to be an animal lover. I do enjoy eating meat, but I don’t approve of hunting for sport. I enjoy watching the tint fawns I have spotted on the edges of the village, and my dad raised me to notice things such as hawks perched on posts, groundhogs watching traffic from the roadside and other aspects of nature.

Unfortunately, sometimes wild animals can become nuisances. In fact, they can be extremely destructive. That is one of the reasons that hunting seasons are actually quite important. They help to control animal populations and prevent certain species from becoming a danger.

Obviously the state won’t declare a deer season to help keep them from invading my garden. But if the deer population has reached the point where they are wandering municipal streets at night and damaging people’s property, it is likely that there are enough deer out there to be a serious hazard to motorists.

This will become even more true during the fall as they mate to produce offspring for the coming year. But hunters will not be able to harvest deer that roam mainly in populated areas, since this would create a whole new danger for the community.

Meanwhile, I guess we will simply have to find ways to stay one step ahead of our hungry vistor. I’ve been told that frequently changing the configuration or appearance of a garden fence can help to confuse and frustrate deer, keeping them at bay for longer.

So, I’ll keep blowing up balloons and searching for pinwheels. I just hope that will be enough to ensure that we have future fresh harvests of salad veggies, squash and more. I can’t wait for that first ear of corn on the cob!

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