Fences are best way to deter deer

My question, I'm sure, is very common at this time of year, but I haven't seen an answer in your column. How can you keep deer from eating new plants?

— Nemiro, via e-mail

Wherever there are gardens and deer, there are problems, Nemiro, and plenty of people have made good money selling solutions to people in your situation.

You can see the range of possibilities in the advertisements in garden magazines. There's everything from motion-activated sprinklers that squirt deer to chase them away, to extracts from predator urine that can be sprinkled around plants you'd like deer to avoid.

You might want to consider the conclusions of a recent deer repellent study conducted in Illinois:

"First and foremost," the researchers wrote, "deer repellents are very expensive to use and are labor-intensive to apply. The results are not guaranteed and depend on many factors such as time of year applied, weather conditions, application rate, following exact label directions ..."

Well, you get the idea.

Then there are the so-called deer-resistant plants. As most gardeners with a few years of experience will tell you, deer will eat almost anything, including those deer-resistant plants, if they're hungry enough.

That said, it's true that deer tend to stay away from a number of plants, including a range of attractive and interesting species that can make a lovely garden. There are books that can help you design and plant a landscape that won't necessarily lure Bambi to your yard for dinner. You just have to understand that she may still drop in for a taste if times are hard.

The only truly effective way to keep deer away from plants you want to protect is to build a fence to keep them out. Deer are great leapers, so many people erect 9-foot fences if they want real protection.

Of course, this leaves you with a garden perimeter that has all the grace and charm of a prison yard.

In a place like Southern Oregon, where deer are rampant, you really don't have much choice. You can fence 'em out or you can plant what they don't eat — or move to town.

Just be glad you don't have wild turkeys in your neighborhood. They fly right over the tallest deer fence.

E-mail questions to youasked@mailtribune.com.

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