September 12, 2007

Deer and Drought Update

Six weeks with no rain....here's a recap of my goals and the results so far.

I decided to create a deer tolerant, rather than deer resistant, garden. My definition of deer tolerant is: A plant that still looks good after being nibbled by deer.

An example has to do with new blooms. The deer nibbled a few new blossoms, but then left the plants alone. The result was that they had pinched back some of the perennials (which I would normally do) which increased the bloom count and bushiness of the plants. I also don’t mind if the deer come through in the fall and winter and deadhead the remaining blooms on sad looking perennials. I leave seed heads for birds, too.

I also made another big decision about gardening with deer on this property. I use no applied repellents. It makes no sense to me to spend hundreds of dollars every year to apply and re-apply repellents to the garden. I speak from experience! At a previous house, I had hostas and hydrangeas out in the back yard. I tried many different kinds of deer repellents at great cost – only to have the deer sneak in just after a rain and before I could reapply the repellent. I also tried the deer netting, but it really distracts from the plants.

With the current drought, the deer herd on our property (now exceeding 20+), is coming into our outer garden nightly to drink from our manmade stream and waterfall. With the natural creek in our woods dried up, I'm glad to be helping the deer and co-existing in harmony. With all the tracks around the plants and yet no damage, I do believe I've established a garden with the right plants for both deer and drought.

My definition of drought tolerant: Once established, plants can survive without water for two-three weeks in the summer.

That said, at the time of this writing, most of the outer garden hasn’t received any supplemental water and no rain in over six weeks. We’ve had temperatures in the 95-100 degree range for many days and weeks at a time.

We have an unusual environment in that we receive full sun all day in the summer. (We took advantage of this setting for a passive solar home.) Such a setting requires really tough plants. Lavender, buddleia, cotoneaster, lantana, snapdragons, black and blue saliva, lambs ear, and creeping perennial heliotrope have received no water in six weeks and are thriving. All of the plants are well-mulched in good garden soil. None of these plants have been in our garden longer than two years, having moved here in September 2005.

I'm now planning what bulbs to add this fall and what plants need to be moved or discarded. I am also planning an ornamental grasses garden. While I've used OGs throughout the garden, I want to make a nice display garden using some of the very large varieties.

Meanwhile -- there is finally rain in the forecast! Perhaps I'll be reporting on our rain garden in the near future!

Happy gardening,
Cameron

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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