Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Garden Pests’ Category

The seedling was a Pierpont, and its parent weighed-in at a whopping 1,196 pounds. And sometime within its first 24 hours in my garden, in the dark of night, a villain stole in, dug in the rich soft dirt, and killed the seedling. Pierpont is gone.

 

MH the Grower (formerly blogged about as Michael Horst) responded: “It is what it is.” And he gamely went back to the Pinkham Plantation nursery…

 

MH_Seedling_Greenhouse

 

…and selected one of the few remaining seedlings left. A Powell, this time. And one whose parent weighed 1,548. A more impressive lineage and perhaps the reward for perseverance.

 

MH_Powell1548

 

Another reward for this second attempt was that I was present to document The Planting in complete, possibly excruciating, detail. Let’s start with The Digging of the Hole:

 

MH_digsHole

 

Note the incredibly dark rich organic compost that will be the home of this lucky Powell 1548. (I like naming it that. Alpha + Numeric = the pumpkin version of an R2D2 or a C3PO.)

 

The hole was dressed with a fertilizer called Bio-Starter, an organic multi-component mix that includes mycorhizzae, a beneficial fungi. Those little white bits? Evidence of the addition of Bio-Starter. Let there be no doubt.

 

The Hole

 

Next, one modest tablespoon of Superthrive, mixed with a full gallon of water. Superthrive is a hormone-type plant growth stimulator. Trust that MH the Grower is not interested in cultivating an “Oh, isn’t that a cute little pumpkin!” No, he’s going for a Powell 1548 – an Atlantic Giant. A monster. This is, after all, an entry into the Pumpkinfest Weigh-Off in October, so there’s no messing around. Superthrive it is.

 

WaterHormone

 

And in it goes, a robust healthy pumpkin seedling with its first set of true leaves, one of which is large and points in the direction that the main stem wants to grow.

 

MH_PlacesSeedling_Hole

 

And my dog MacKenzie watched from afar, content to be near all of us, happy that she’d found some shade, and not quite certain what all the fuss was about.

 

Plant_MacInBack

 

MH paid full attention to this leaf and its demonstration of intent. The seedling was planted with the leaf facing the greatest area of open space in the reserved portion of the garden. That vine will have nothing in its way for at least 20 feet. For the purpose of humor, I wish the seedling was facing west, but it isn’t. It’s facing north, and so I must say, “Go north, young seedling! Go north!”

 

Here’s a photo of the open area, the wide wilderness that the Powell 1548 will explore:

 

TheRange

 

Because this was a do-over, the decision was made to protect the seedling from nighttime marauders. I offered my stash of tomato cages, but that proved both ineffective and silly. MH decided that four stakes, a roll of chicken wire, a length of rope, and a recently unearthed brick would do the trick. Here’s the entire sequence:

 

StakesInstead

StakesInPlace

CircleWithWire

TieWithRope

 

And the result:

 

Caged

 

This photo is comforting to MH and myself, and we hope it is deeply disturbing to the assassins of the night, the ones that care not for infant pumpkins and care more for the grubs, worms, and other burrowing creatures they are certain reside deep in the compost. They will not get the chance to try again. The Powell 1548 is caged. For a day or two, at least. That baby’s gonna grow, and FAST.

 

Stand back, and stay tuned.

 

WORDS FROM OTHERS:

“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”

 

— George A. Custer, Cavalry Commander (1839 – 1876)

 

 

Read Full Post »

Oh, how I wish this WERE a fable. But it’s not. It’s a true story of yet another victim of the winter of 2014-15. The story goes like this:

The former owner of our house was quite a gardener. She planted lovely perennials, trees, and shrubs, and very few of them were to my liking. (But to be fair, she didn’t plant them for me.) I am living with most of her choices because I do recognize her skill, and the health and vigor of the plants. This includes two dwarf Japanese maples (acer palmatum) that flank the driveway-side of our house.

These two trees met the winter in a similar way: healthy and fully clothed in bark. But sometime, during a dark winter night before the first blizzard, a porcupine (erethizon doratum) started snacking on the bark of one tree. When the snow receded, the extent of the damage became clear. And I now know why this critter’s Latin name is so apt. “Erethizon doratum”? Your translated name is “quill pig” and that’s about how I’m feeling towards you right now.

Witness:

The one maple tree that survived unchewed:

RedMaple_Safe

And the stripped maple tree that was far enough from the doorway to escape our notice so that the cowardly rodent could pig-out:

RedMaple_Chewed

Here is a close-up of a chewed branch. Note the teeth marks:

RedMaple_ChewedBranch

Am I upset? You betcha. But perhaps not for the reason you imagine. Husband is very very upset that we have lost a beautiful tree. Me? Not about that. Remember, this wasn’t my favorite inherited planting. I’m more upset that we have a porcupine close to our house and to our two dogs.

I am not alone in my dismay about these prickly beasts. They have been referenced by comedians, poets, and Communist leaders alike, and all seem to agree: These are tough customers. Two more quotes to accompany my “Words from Others” widget:

“If you start throwing hedgehogs under me, I shall throw a couple of porcupines under you.”

  • Nikita Khrushchev (Russian politician, 1894-1971)

“The porcupine, whom one must handle gloved, may be respected, but never loved.”

  • Arthur Guiterman (American writer and poet, 1871-1943)

Lest you think that I am a heartless, unfeeling porcupine hater, I will share two facts with you that prove that even porcupines are creatures that a mother could love (a Quill Pig mother, I mean).

Fact #1: Baby porcupines are called “porcupettes.” (awww)

Fact #2: A baby porcupine’s quills are ready to use 20 minutes after they are born. (It is that 20-minute delay that earns them a mother’s love.)

The snow has finally retreated, and the full extent of this winter’s damage is known. I’m hoping this is the last hurrah for our porcupine neighbor. If I have to write a blog about rushing our dogs to the vet in the middle of the night for Quill Removal, you can bet I will not be including any cute facts about these little prickly pigs at the end of that post.

WORDS FROM OTHERS:

“I’m a little hoarse tonight. I’ve been living in Chicago for the past two months, and you know how it is, yelling for help on the way home every night. Things are so tough in Chicago that at Easter time, for bunnies, the little kids use porcupines.”

— Fred Allen, (Comedian, 1894-1956)

Read Full Post »

Planning the Garden

We have moved and things are different. Our mortgage is gone. Our taxes are halved. And my garden has doubled.

I left behind a 40’ x 50’ garden in New York, and now I have a 100’ x 180’ garden in Maine. I had better plan this carefully.

Here is a photo of the sketch Husband did of the area I will be working on this year. The scale: 1” = 10’.

SketchOnBoard

The rectangular shapes are stone walls, and the poofy swirls are trees.

From left to right, starting in the back: that smaller rectangular area has woods to the back and our neighbor’s field to the left (northeast). My plan is for this smaller area to have sunflowers, herbs, a seat for quiet contemplation, lots of fragrance, and lots of butterflies.

The larger area to the right will be the flower garden, with the wooded area at the far-right becoming the shade garden.

The area in the left foreground will have the orchard (we have apple, peach, and pear trees coming on April 30th!), and that circular area is the base of a silo. I’m thinking of a rose-covered arbor across the back half of that curve.

How will I tackle this enormous area? Here are my first thoughts:

Step 1. Don’t plan to do too much this first year.
Because we are starting two new businesses, which includes Husband’s art gallery and studio, and a rental apartment above the studio, and because we are having the outside of the house painted in the spring, I cannot plant everything I would like this first year.

I will not be planning or planting anything that is next to the house. I’m going to let the painters come and go as they will, trample anything they want, and I will not be biting my fist in an attempt to stop screaming. I will let this area go entirely.

I have planned 11 flowerbeds out in the back field, and I will be happy if I get 4 of those beds up and running this year.

Step 2: Know the enemy — earth.
What is under that lovely dark, formerly-a-horse-farm soil that I have out back? Is it rich dark loam, enriched over the years by those long-gone horses? Or is it one or two inches of dirt sitting on top of rock ledge? We have lots of granite rearing up that we can see, and that I’m already planning to use as flooring or backdrop for seating in the garden.

But the rest of that vast expanse….will I be able to dig beds there, or will I be begging Husband to supervise the construction of 11 raised beds?

Husband prefers I dig into the ground rather than go to the expense of building raised beds. So as soon as the ground thaws (April?) we will be out there with a metal spike and a mallet, and will tap our way across the field, trying to determine how deep the soil is. We will be graphing the underground lay of the land.

Step 3: Put my thoughts on paper.
Done. I filled several pages in my notebook with lists of the plants I wanted, with the goal of having something blooming all season long. Here’s a look at one corner of one page:

NotebookPageClose

Step 4: Shuffle the cards, and stack the “beds”.
After I write, I need to see. I wrote the name of each plant on an index card, and borrowed Husband’s colored pencils to mark the color of the bloom. Here are the pencils he so graciously loaned me:

ColoredPencilsClear

I mixed and shuffled and reshuffled these cards for days and days. I wanted the tallest of the plants at the top of the stack, with the spring-bulbs at the bottom. Once I was happy with the 11 stacks of cards, I taped them together so that I could then move the “beds” around and arrange them.

CardsOfElevenBeds

And here’s a closer look at a few of the “beds” I have planned:

BorageCardClose

LilacCardClose

WitchHazelCardClose

I am planning to scatter shade-loving woodland plants under the trees at the southeast corner of the garden. While I have these gathered into a “bed” stack, I’m going to plant them individually. Here’s what I’ve chosen:

SweetWoodruffCardClose

Step 5: Know the enemy – roots
I want a bed of mints, which means I need to plan ahead to thwart the invasive roots of these plants. I figured I would gang them up in one area, and install some kind of gulag around them. I’m planning to have monarda didyma to welcome the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, and flank it with lemon balm, and mint. While I wanted peppermint and spearmint specifically, I now know that mint plants do not produce true from seed, and so my seed packet is labeled, humbly, “Common Mint.” If I want specific mints, I will have to buy plants. I may do that.

AstersCardClose

Step 6: Think tall.
I ordered some shrubs, trees, and plants from FedCo, a cooperative seed and garden supply company in Waterville, Maine. My neighbors rave about them. My garden heroes (Barbara Damrosch, for one) recommend them. FedCo offers the plants and shrubs and trees that I want, and their catalog is jammed with wonderful advice. And their prices are astounding. I had to exercise enormous restraint when filling out my order form. I got all of my taller plants from them.

FedcoCatalogClose

Step 7: Know the enemy – Odocoileus virginianus and Meteagris gallopava silvestris.
These super villains have secret identities: white-tailed deer and Eastern wild turkeys. They have free run of the place when my dogs are inside.

I need to keep the deer out of my garden at night, and the turkeys out of the garden during the day. I have considered and rejected installing an electric fence. I am concerned, of course, with the safety of our garden’s guests, but truthfully, the most likely casualty of an electric fence ZAP would be me. I tend to look down when I am in the garden, and I’m certain I would walk directly into that fence daily.

The plan, for now, is to buy yards and yards and yards of deer netting, and fasten it to the trees on 3 sides of the garden. If that isn’t effective, I will add a 4th stretch of netting across the house-side of the garden, and will add another chore to the daily list: walking the “4th wall” across the garden and fastening it at the end of each day. I will be, I guess, tucking my garden in for the night.

And so there you have it, my Plan to-date. What’s next? My favorite task of the year: Making soil cubes and planting seeds. That will happen in mid-March, and I am counting the days.

This last plan solves T.S. Eliot’s dark observation of the despair and frustration gardeners feel each April: “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

My plan is to thwart cruel April by tending my seedlings inside. When May comes, I will have my memories of gardens past, and my desire answered by the seedlings. I will be ready.

Stay tuned.

Read Full Post »

I am starting to say good-bye. My garden is part of my very essence. We came to this home five years ago: a lovely house, and an untended yard. Husband built me a 50 X 40′ garden on a south-facing slope. It was perfectly positioned, with rich, black soil. We planted, tended, harvested, and breathed. Here is how this garden fed me, body and soul for the last 5 years.

2009: The grass is removed, the borders are defined, and the deer fencing is up.

2009: The grass is removed, the borders are defined, and the deer fencing is up.


The trellises are in place, the paths are lined with newspaper to suppress weeds and covered in straw to please the eye.

The trellises are in place, the paths are lined with newspaper to suppress weeds and covered in straw to please the eye.

After one year, I’d settled in, and 2010 was the most spectacular year in the garden. I had enough time on the weekends and during the week to tend to the garden. I planted, experimented, harvested, stored, shared, and reveled.

2010: Lush!

2010: Lush!

Here are a few of my favorite crops:

Good Mother Stallard beans are an heirloom variety of dry shelling bean.  I love working in the hot summer garden to have something delicious to eat in the frozen winter.

Good Mother Stallard beans are an heirloom variety of a dry shelling bean. I love working in the hot summer garden to have something delicious to eat in the frozen winter.

Good Mother Stallard beans, shelled.  A feast for the eyes, too!

Good Mother Stallard beans, shelled. A feast for the eyes, too!


Broccoli, dicicco, the Italian variety.  I preferred this variety and the Lacinato variety of kale, as both were sweeter and lighter in presentation than their American counterparts.

Broccoli, the Italian variety. I preferred this variety and the Lacinato variety of kale, as both were sweeter and lighter in presentation than their American counterparts.

I chose flowers, herbs, and vegetables for many reasons. One of the most delightful was to attract pollinators:

The buddelia bushes attract everything with wings.  It is living art.

The buddelia bushes attract everything with wings. It is living art.


Bumblebee on Marigold.  I'm also happy to report that in the last 5 years, I've seen the population of honeybees increase significantly.

Bumblebee on Marigold. I’m also happy to report that in the last 5 years, I’ve seen the population of honeybees increase significantly.

I experimented with different techniques in planting, staking, and harvesting. My favorite exploration was with the Florida Weave: a method of staking tomato plants that supports their branches at regular intervals by weaving string between posts.

The first row of string supports the new plant.

The first row of string supports the new plant.

I did battle with pests. Let’s start with the insect variety. I learned that products that show the initials OMRI on the label are environmentally safe to use. I used Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew to rescue my brassicas from the ravages of moth larvae:

BEFORE:  Ravaged kale.

BEFORE: Ravaged kale.


AFTER:  The recovery was dramatic.

AFTER: The recovery was dramatic.

I did epic battle with chipmunks. The little varmints discovered my delicious, young bean plants one year, and completely wiped me out.

The growing vines were cleanly nipped, and the plants never recovered that year.  NO GREEN BEANS. Disaster.

The growing vines were cleanly nipped, and the plants never recovered that year. NO GREEN BEANS. Disaster.


I spent the summer trapping and releasing (miles away) 37 chipmunks.  MacKenzie was interested in this process.

I spent the summer trapping and releasing (miles away) 37 chipmunks. MacKenzie was interested in this process.

I discovered and used fabulous tools. My favorites:

Compost Turner:  Insert deeply into compost, turn, and lift.  The compost is fluffed and aerated.  I admit it, only a Garden Geek would find this thrilling.

Compost Turner: Insert deeply into compost, turn, and lift. The compost is fluffed and aerated. I admit, only a Garden Geek would find this thrilling.


The broadfork.  It aerates the soil without disturbing the tilth.  Place, step down, rock back, remove.  Again, thrilling.

The broadfork. It aerates the soil without disturbing the tilth. Place, step down, rock back, remove. Again, thrilling!

I made cloches out of milk jugs to get a jump-start on the growing season. I cut off the bottom of the jugs, cut a hole in the handle, pressed a stake through the handle into the earth, and made a mini-greenhouse around delicate seedlings. My neighbor asked if I was growing a crop of heavy cream. 🙂

Pea plants are sprouting under those jugs.

Pea plants are sprouting under those jugs.

I took great delight in starting seeds indoors and Husband made me gorgeous wooden seed trays. Like everything he puts his mind to, the results were both functional and beautiful:

3 out of 8 trays: Pre-polyurethane.

3 out of 8 trays: Pre-polyurethane.


The trays in place, by my office window.

The trays in place, by my office window.

Another fabulous tool is the soil-block press. This particular one makes four 2″ square cubes at a time. These cubes allow the seedlings to grow without becoming root bound.

The first soil cubes go into the tray.  Ready for planting!

The first soil cubes go into the tray. Ready for planting!

I had bountiful harvests. We ate like kings, I had more than enough to share, and I tried my hand at canning. An enormous amount of work up-front, but we reaped the rewards all winter long. Another benefit of canning: you do not fear power outtages and losing an entire harvest in the defrosted freezer. Here are a few photos of the bounty:

A basket of beans next to a heavily laden zinnia.

A basket of beans next to a heavily laden zinnia.


Harvested green, because frost threatened that night.  These were wrapped in newspaper to ripen, and made into sauce.

Harvested green, because frost threatened that night. These were wrapped in newspaper to ripen, and made into sauce.


Too many tomatoes to can immediately?  I froze them, and canned at my leisure.  They resembled bags filled with croquet balls!

Too many tomatoes to can immediately? I froze them, and canned at my leisure. They resembled bags filled with croquet balls!

Garlic, hanging to dry.

Garlic, hanging to dry.

Jar after jar of pickles.  Dill and sweet!

Jar after jar of pickles. Dill and sweet!


Jalapeno peppers, the Dulce (sweet/mild) variety.  I froze many and canned even more.

Jalapeno peppers, the Dulce (sweet/mild) variety. I froze many and canned even more.

I took the overflow into my office on a regular basis. Here is one morning’s offering:

This was in 2010, so to my 2012-13 office-mates, please forgive!  I was growing flowers almost exclusively during my time with you.

This was in 2010, so to my 2012-13 office-mates, please forgive! I was growing flowers almost exclusively during my time with you.

I experimented with craft projects from my gardens. Two of my favorites:

Ristra peppers became...

Ristra peppers became…

...a curtain of sorts.  I harvested enough to make curtains for both windows.  They dried, and were a cheery decoration that looked especially nice during the holidays!

…a curtain of sorts. I harvested enough to make curtains for both windows. They dried, and were a cheery decoration that looked especially nice during the holidays!

And then there were the decorative gourds that became bird houses:

I dried them until you could hear the seeds rattling inside.

I dried them until you could hear the seeds rattling inside.


I used a dremel to grind a hole, tapped out the innards, brushed them with polyurethane and hung them to dry.

I used a dremel to grind a hole, tapped out the innards, brushed them with polyurethane and hung them to dry.

And yes, we had birds move in!

I had the Summer of the Snakes. 2011 was the year when Black Rat snakes made frequent appearances, getting tangled in deer netting, and tangling our heart strings. Husband and I rescued 4 and had to bury two. It was emotional, more than a little unnerving, and ultimately gratifying to see the survivors slide away. MacKenzie was a little too interested in these events, and was banished inside the house.

Going back to where he belongs.

Going back to where he belongs.


Banished MacKenzie, broken-hearted at being removed from all the fun.

Banished MacKenzie, broken-hearted at being removed from all the fun.

Of course, the most wonderful part of having a garden is sharing it. No one shared it more regularly, and with so much enthusiasm as my dogs. Gordon, Puppy Extreme, sometimes was a little too enthusiastic, and had to be banished, for the safety of the seedlings:

On the wrong side of the fence.

On the wrong side of the fence.

And sweet MacKenzie just wanted to be near me. As long as a bed wasn’t planted, I had no objection to her using it as, well, a bed.

MacKenzie warms the soil, prior to planting.

MacKenzie warms the soil, prior to planting.

All of these topics have been discussed in past posts. You can find more info and more photos by searching for key words/phrases.

My beautiful garden. I am leaving you! I hear the new owners are thrilled with what they saw when they came to see the house, and I hope they feel about this small patch of soil as I do:

It is a place of beauty, food, scent, and solace. I hope to carry what I have learned and felt to my new garden, one gardening zone north, and a whole new Life away.

WORDS FROM OTHERS
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”

–Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) British horticulturist, garden designer, writer

Read Full Post »

All in a Breath

That’s how long it felt. One breath in, one out, and one in again. That was all that was needed to lose, heal, and regain my broccoli and kale plants. Mother Nature is a speedy young thing.

I raised my Italian varieties of kale and broccoli from seed, planted them, and tended them. They grew strong and sturdy. And then overnight it seemed (it was probably more like three days), they were gone. Decimated skeletons, whispers of their former robust selves, brought down by the larvae of the delicate cabbage butterflies I so enjoy watching. The fluttering white wings, with their coy black spot, delightful to watch, but with a deadly darker side.

These lovely ladies are on a mission to preserve their species, and so they lay their eggs on the underside of my babies, to hatch their voracious larvae.

Here is what I found that dreadful morning:

This used to be kale.

And this used to be broccoli.

And so I did some research for an organic solution. “Gardens Alive” is a reliable resource for me. So I read their catalog descriptions of products for my problem, and then searched for the needed ingredient. It seemed to be spinosad, and was described in Wikipedia as follows:

“Spinosad (spinosyn A and spinosyn D) are a new chemical class of insecticides that are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) to control a variety of insects. The active ingredient is derived from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium called Saccharopolyspora spinosa, a rare actinomycete reportedly collected from soil in an abandoned rum distillery on a Caribbean Island in 1982 by a scientist on vacation.[1] It has not been found in nature since that time, and was subsequently described as a new species.”

Have I unleashed a biological nightmare? Or simply used a gift from Mother Nature…a rare bacterium from the Caribbean, islands of rum and gentle breezes?

I found spinosad in this product:

It seemed appropriate that a bacterium originating in the islands would be bottled beneath the name "Captain Jack." Yo ho!

First, I removed the beyond-all-hope leaves, and was left with this:

Stripped kale.

And stripped broccoli.

I mixed the liquid in my watering can and poured it over the plants. It seemed to take immediate and positive effect. Just wishful thinking? Perhaps. But within two hours of application, I SWEAR my plants looked better.

They were standing up straighter. And in 10 days, I harvested my first broccoli of the season. Husband still will not touch the kale, resurrection notwithstanding, but I will.

Thank you, Captain Jack, for my brassicaea. It was a mighty close call.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“Spinosad is relatively fast acting. The insect dies within one to two days after ingesting the active ingredient. There appears to be 100% mortality.”

http://www.wikipedia.org

Read Full Post »

Cervine Chutzpah

It began as long ago as 1923, it seems. Backtalk from deer. First with Bambi’s incessant questioning of his mother, and then on to 1938, when Flag (aka, “The Yearling”) ate Jody’s mother’s vegetable garden.

And now it is 2011, and while my vegetable garden is adequately protected from white-tailed deer, my flower beds have suffered. Not content to eat my flower buds and leaves, they also (oh, the indignity!) use my plants as MATTRESSES, bedding down for the night.

Yes, I have a guard dog. I have MacKenzie, noble, true, and, as the deer well know, confined by her Invisible Fence. They know exactly where that invisible line is that MacKenzie cannot cross, no matter her frenzy. Evidence from last year:

Brazen deer, hysterically ineffective dog.

And even though she failed, we praised her effort, and she grinned with pride. Good dog!

The deer used to consider my yard their equivalent of I-95. I cleaned up after the deer more than the dogs. They strolled down the hill behind our house under cover of darkness, snacked on my rudbeckia buds, “Autumn Joy” sedums, and my ill-advised hostas, and continued on to the reservoir woods across the street.

Then Husband built my beautiful garden, and erected a 7′ high fence of deer netting. Not only were the deer denied access to my vegetables, flowers, and herbs, the fence disrupted their ravage-route, and there was no more evidence of deer for two years in our yard. I was happy.

Then….time passed. The doe(s) begat fawns, and the eating and sleeping on MY land began. Evidence:

This WAS a sunflower plant, about 36" tall, and ready to bud. Now it is a sad stalk, good for nothing, green disappearing into green....

I started to research, acquiring knowledge to combat the scourge. Know thine enemy.

All facts preceded by a double-dash (–) are from this document: “Deer facts White-Tailed Deer, Wildlife Damage Management Fact Sheet Series, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, N.Y. ©2001 by Cornell University”

First, the sobering news:

— …recovery of deer populations from only about 500,000 nationwide in the early 1900s to more than 15 million today…

That gave me pause….Do I stand a chance?

My beautiful stand of shasta daisies, brought down by some of those 15 million herbivores.

When the deer are not sleeping in my garden, they are crossing the road. Another fact:

— High populations of deer may result in numerous deer-vehicle collisions and pose a serious threat to motorists. It is estimated that each year in the United States 29,000 people are injured and more than 200 lose their lives in deer-vehicle collisions. More than 50,000 deer-vehicle collisions are estimated to occur in New York each year.

Perhaps I should not complain, then, about this:

Shrub/bed for deer, formerly known as Baptisia. (Formerly pretty, currently squashed.)

And then came the phone call while I was at work: “Mac faced off against a doe and two fawns today,” reported Husband. Apparently our landscape fit every qualification listed below:

— Deer are very adaptable, however, and greater numbers are living in suburban neighborhoods, which have a combination of open lawn, succulent summer gardens, plentiful ornamental shrubs….

I practically rang the dinner bell for them. Next, fact then first-hand evidence:

— In their first pregnancy, does usually give birth to a single fawn, though twins are common in later years if food is abundant.

Older doe + abundant food = twins.

Apparently, things at home then got rather exciting. MacKenzie charged, barking wildly, and there was no Invisible Fence as a spoiler. The doe stood her ground, and then flailed at MacKenzie with her front hooves. An imposing sight:

She looked a lot bigger, all of a sudden.

So Husband called MacKenzie back, and brought her into the house. This time, she was rewarded with both praise and a biscuit, so she was content and proud (but not smiling because she was busy crunching biscuits). The deer continued with their business:

And so how bad is the damage? Cornell has the answer once again:

— Annual estimates of deer damage are reported to exceed $2 billion nationwide, including $1 billion in car damages, more than $100 million in agricultural crop damage, $750 million in damage to the timber industry, and more than $250 million in damage to metropolitan households (e.g., landscape plantings). These estimates are conservative….

And so what is a gardener to do? There isn’t a hav-a-hart in the world big enough for these surreptitious cervines, and so I researched the obvious solutions: hunt, irritate, thwart:

Invite a hunter to sit in your yard all night with a loaded gun?

— …buck-only harvests cannot reduce or stabilize deer numbers. Harvesting female deer is essential to reducing deer numbers and deer damage.

The obvious flaw in that is that hunters prefer antlers (bucks), to does.

Plant the deer equivalent of brussel sprouts?

— No plants are completely deer-proof, and hungry deer will consume plants that have little nutritional value.

Spray some foul-smelling liquid over your plants (eliminating both human AND deer enjoyment of the garden)?

— If deer are very hungry and other food supplies are limited, repellents may not work.

Annoy your neighbors by annoying the deer with lights, water sprays, or sound?

— A variety of frightening devices, including lights, whistles, loud noises, and scarecrows, have been used to prevent deer damage. Audio and visual scare devices are not recommended around the home or near urban or suburban areas, however, because of disturbance to neighbors, possible violation of noise ordinances, and lack of effectiveness. Deer habituate to scare devices after a few days of exposure.

That last sentence was very depressing. OK, the most obvious for last: fencing.

Build a wall? (note all the hesitations and lack of guarantees)

— Rope: A cotton rope fence used with a repellent is particularly useful for preventing deer browsing in flower beds or small vegetable gardens….
— Wooden snow fence: Although not an absolute barrier, a snow fence may effectively deter deer from entering small areas….
— Plastic netting and wire cages: can be used to prevent deer browsing of individual plants or small plantings.
— Electricity: an invisible fence design that combines wire, a power unit, and receiver collars with highly active, properly trained dogs that are able to withstand harsh winter conditions. The system is not a complete barrier, so some level of browsing must be tolerated.
— Permanent woven-wire fences are the best deer barrier. They are used for year-round protection of high-value crops subject to intense deer feeding pressure. These fences are expensive, difficult to construct, but easy to maintain.

Oh, thank goodness for that last clause. For a moment there, I thought all was lost. So if I survive the installation of the woven-wire fence, I won’t have to work hard to maintain it? Small mercies….

In the end, as is almost always the case, Husband and Neighbor had the best solutions of all. The Neighbor (who hunts, and so knows): “Deer move every 6 hours. Just keep getting up and sending MacKenzie out at night!” And Husband: “Don’t worry about it.”

Okay. I will write about my morning glories instead.

Bambi, Flag, and Resident Doe + twins: Peace.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“He loved to ask his mother questions. It was the pleasantest thing for him to ask a question and then to hear what answer his mother would give. Bambi was never surprised that question after question should come into his mind continually and without effort.”

— Felix Salten, (1869-1945), author of “Bambi. Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde” (“Bambi: A Life in the Woods”)

Read Full Post »

Of Mice and Men

Or more fittingly: “Of Chipmunks and Amy.” My best-laid plans went surprisingly astray.

I have battled chipmunks for two years, and as you’ve seen from the mounting toll of the Chipmunk Scorecard (look to the right of this post), I was successful this year.

The chipmunks had an easy good winter it seems, and my garden, hillside, and rock walls were overrun with the little darlings. I was in despair. Last year, the chipmunks wiped out my entire crop of peas and beans, eating the seedlings to the ground, and even climbing the plastic trellis netting and biting through that, to get at the ripening pods that had survived the first onslaught.

And so this year I set two small hav-a-hart traps, and baited them with birdseed, which proved irresistible. I relocated them to a wooded area 1.7 miles from my home. My car was a disaster area of scattered birdseed, caused by panicked chipmunks dashing about in the trap as I drove them to their new home.

Here is a photo of the last chipmunk trapped this year:

However, it was clear that my efforts to remove the chipmunks was ineffective. The population did not diminish. So I contacted a local nature center and asked: What am I doing wrong? Why am I not making a dent in their numbers?

The response was quick, thorough, and devastating. I learned that as rodents are territorial, the chipmunks I released most likely died quickly, due to the irritation of the established chipmunks at the interlopers, the lack of burrows for them to use while they adjusted to their new home, the stress of the move, and the likelihood that predators would take advantage of their confusion to prey upon them.

Good intentions are not a substitute for knowledge.

The nature center, and various websites that I consulted all seem to agree: The best defense against chipmunks is harassment. This can take the form of wire cages over emerging seedlings, or as I chose, to protect the seedlings with milk-jug cloches. I did take a small measure of comfort from the nature-center lady who commented in her email: “I just checked out your website and saw your milkjug photos – clever. You are on the right track.”

I hope so. And to the 35 chipmunks that I trapped and moved: deepest apologies. I hope you found a warm burrow, and ample food. It was my intention all along.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontes et desirs.” (Hell is full of good wishes and desires.)

— Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153, French Abbot

These words are believed to be the source of the aphorism: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »