(Priest River, Idaho, USA)
For the first time in too many years I have a garden - last year was the first year. Talk about hard work - the garden area seems to have been used as a dump - maybe over 50 years ago. Every time I walked out to watch things grow, I picked up pieces of glass and miscellaneous curious metal pieces. When I first cleared the area, the grass was two feet tall and I found a whole pickup bumper and four batteries among many suprising pieces of rubbish; I don't think they were 50 years old. Nevertheless, I put in the sweat equity and had my garden last summer.
It took me awhile to recognize what was happening but suddenly my peas were only 6" high. I didn't know there were bugs that could eat things that fast! The pole beans were just starting to be interesting when suddenly the leaves started disappearing, the vines chomped, the poles leaning. My tomato cages were leaning- green tomatoes flung all around the bushes. We have a large herd (?) of wild turkeys - I thought they might have done the damage to the tomato cages, but that didn't explain the peas or the beans. I had seen a yearling moose run between my house and the neighbors in the early spring. I saw him twice and he had been spotted browsing the neighborhood trees the previous winter so I guess he was to be suspected and expected in the garden.
Finally I caught the true culprits. There were three deer, a mama, a yearling, and a fawn who had discovered the bountiful treasure of my garden! Their schedule was inconsistent - sometimes around 9-10:30, sometimes around midnight, and usually when I was sound asleep. I would shoo them away, they would run maybe 50' and then turn around to watch me and guage whether I really meant it.
I don't have the money to put up a fence so I tried some stinky spray that was supposed to repel them. I didn't seem to work. I searched online for solutions and the thing that actually worked were sprinklers. More specifically, they were called scarecrow sprinklers. They have heat and motion sensors that, when triggered, squirt an array of water for about three seconds. Their effectiveness was probably in the sudden movement, the sound, and the fact that the spray didn't hit in exactly the same place every time. This coming season I'm going to add more. The drawback is that they are quite expensive - around $60- and I had to bring them in when it started freezing; I didn't want them to be damaged because I want to keep using them. My plan is to get two more so that I have a little better coverage because I think the deer might have begun to recognize that certain areas were less protected.
This year I plan to build a "moat" of lavender and other deer resistant plants all around my garden. They didn't seem to like the dill or the rosemary, sage, and basil plants and they ate the chihuly rose but didn't seem to like the polareis rugosa right next to it. They loved the hollyhocks but left the zinnias alone. It wasn't until late in the fall that they began digging the carrots and beets but they had enjoyed the beet greens gleefully during the summer. The turnips seemed safe but the cucumbers were tasty morsels to the giant rodents. With my scarecrow sprinklers and my moat, I might again begin to enjoy the wildlife instead of seeing them as giant rodents.
Gwyn, thanks for the great story. If you have pictures we would like to see them and post them. I added a link to a sight that offers the scarecrow and I have it and some others on my mechanical deer repellent page. Check out the Guardener. It is more expensive but it does both water and sound and buying one of these may be cheaper than buying two more scarecrows.
Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler