Deer can be graceful and beautiful in their quiet way. They can also be destructive. After Jean O Connell wrote for some ways to keep the deer from feeding on her shrubs, a herd of other readers wrote to me.
Kathy Konnert lives near Detwiler Golf Course in Toledo and loves watching the deer. This has been such a hard winter, I have had them in my yard just six feet from my back door. They slowly move in, munching on birdseed. My cats are enthralled by these appearances.
But Debby Nassif of South Toledo isn t so enthralled. She lives near Swan Creek Metropark and has deer droppings in her yard. She says her neighbors put corn out to feed the animals and her yard becomes part of their comfortable habitat.
There are approximately 14 deer per night. I cannot go into my backyard or walk down either side of home without stepping in all of their feces. I must gather a bucket or two weekly. It is horrid, she says. I have called the [park] and they said the deer might not come around if they did not feed them.
But the neighbors don t want to give up feeding the animals, and Ms. Nassif is left with deer droppings for her compost pile and a lot of tension between property owners.
Whether the deer are a welcome neighbor or not, they are searching everywhere for something to eat during the winter. If your shrubs have soft green leaves, or your trees have fruit, or you leave a pile of corn in the yard, they will find it. Michigan Conservation Officer Rick Villerot says he has tried many remedies around his own Michigan garden. I tried hair clippings and sprays, with marginal results. Dryer sheets tied to stakes around the garden helped for a little while.
He says you must change your tactics often because deer and other animals will figure out that a threat is harmless and go right past it. A scarecrow with aluminum pie tins worked for a while. The movement of the shiny pans and noise as they rattled in the wind scared them away. Mr. Villerot also used a motion light pointed in his garden area to scare them off.
Toledo gardener Bob Avery came up with a different home remedy that may not appeal to everyone. In the late spring, once the chance of frost has passed, crack a couple of soft-boiled eggs into a glass jar with a metal lid. Poke a few holes into the lid with a nail or ice pick so the stinky smell can leak out. Dig holes in various places around the garden and sink the jar into the ground deep enough to leave the lid exposed.
After a few days, the eggs will begin to rot and give off an odor that will keep animals away, and unfortunately, you too if the wind is blowing just right, he says. He leaves the jars in the ground all season and removes them in the fall.
Another reader, Tex Bynum, writes, I grow my own fruit and the deer usually beat me to [it]. He says he unsuccessfully tried smelly soap, fox urine, and other topical treatments, but found some luck with a motion-triggered water sprinkler. He puts the sprinkler in the area where deer usually come into the yard. But, then I turned off the sprinkler and it only took about two days before the deer were back. The only problem is, I may be paying for my fruit in my next water bill.
Don t give up. Remember, we are living in their neighborhood so you may have to compromise. Next week, we ll discuss remedies available at home and garden stores.