I couldnt resist the beautiful, purple balloon flower. Neither could my four-legged neighbor. It chomped off the lovely blossoms and pulled the whole plant out of the ground. Something also ate the red flowers of my geraniums. Aarrgh!
The culprit could have been one of the rabbits Ive seen cavorting about the yards in my cul-de-sac. But theyre not the only wildlife to make messes of gardeners hard work.
One of the biggest challenges to gardeners is dealing with wildlife in the garden, said Michelle Wallace, consumer horticulture agent in Durham County. Deer and rabbits, along with voles, squirrels, groundhogs and raccoons, can create problems.
The solutions are varied including chemical repellents, fences and plants the animals find distasteful and success varies.
There are lots of repellents out there, from sweaty T-shirts to Irish Spring soap, but I like taking a couple of eggs, diluting them in water and pouring them around the garden, David Goforth, an extension agent in Cabarrus County, said. I saw one of the commercial repellents contained putrefied egg solids, and I said, Hey, I can putrefy an egg?
The eggs are diluted enough that the solution doesnt bother humans, but the stink keeps deer and rabbits away at least for a while. Deer Off, which I have tried, is one of the commercial products with putrescent egg solids. The products Web site says it should work for up to three months. It kept deer and rabbits out of my garden until the rain washed it away.
A flier from the N.C. Cooperative Extension tells how to make your own repellent mix four eggs in a gallon of water and spray the mixture on the plants you want to protect. Other homemade sprays that may deter deer include one-half cup of heavily scented dishwashing liquid in a gallon of water; one cup of dried hot peppers soaked in a gallon of water; or several tablespoons of Tabasco sauce mixed in a gallon of water.
Another way to keep out unwanted wildlife is to consider what they like and dont like when youre deciding what to plant.
I plant herbs with strong smell around edges of the garden, said Marti Kane, manager of the Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park in North Raleigh. Some examples are oregano and rosemary. Plant your coneflowers, daylilies, small azaleas and similar plants that deer may find tasty in the center or farther away from the perimeter.
Include plants that have toxins, Wallace suggested. These plants are not poisonous to touch, but they are poisonous to eat. Some examples are Lenten rose, peonies and yews. Most animals have a better sense of smell than humans and stay away from them.
Wallace, whose four acres are home to at least two herds of deer, no longer grows hostas and daylilies, which deer love. But her garden has some plants the animals like (hydrangea and azaleas) and others they dont like planted in front of or next to them, such as dwarf butterfly bush Buddleia Miss Ruby, Spirea Little princess and Mt. Fuji, Forsythia giraldiana Golden Times, dwarf crepe myrtle shrub Lagerstromia indica PIILAG-II Strawberry Dazzle, canna lilies, ornamental grasses and various iris species.
Fencing is another option to keep deer and rabbits out. Kane, who grows flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, uses inexpensive folding fences (about 3 feet tall).
Sometimes I use a double row of fencing spaced 1 to 2 feet apart, she said. Sometimes I clip small garden flags to the fences that blow in the breeze. And sometimes I have to wire one fence on top of the other to make it taller. I go low to start with and see what the deer do.
If you have a vegetable garden, youll need a taller fence at least 8 feet tall. Wallace has a 30-by-30-foot deer fence around her vegetable garden. She says deer have poor depth perception, so a tall fence combined with a planting of deer-resistant shrubs in front of it should help keep them out.
To keep rabbits out, Goforth recommends a 2-foot fence with 2-inch mesh buried 2 inches in the ground.