Friday, June 29, 2012

Deer Control

Homeowners want lush gardens in spite of a rebounding deer population. Whitetail deer are the most common.

According to Dr. Clay Nielsen, Southern Illinois University, by 1930 U.S. populations were approximately 300,000, now there are roughly 29 million. Any plants with foliage or edible stems can become food sources. Neil Soderstrom’s book, “Deer-Resistant Landscaping: Proven Advice and Strategies for Outwitting Deer and 20 other Pesky Mammals” (Rodale, 2009), addresses these growth explosions.
Deer Browsing Our Woodland Area
“Today deer overpopulation among whitetails has proven almost disastrous in many wild areas,” writes Soderstrom. “In over-browsed areas, amphibians and insects have no cover . . . Birds and other wildlife that are dependent on those same insects must move on or starve.” Some forestland has more than 200 whitetails browsing per square mile. A healthy deciduous forest will support about 15. Rock Creek Park in the Washington, DC region is estimated to have 375 deer living there, reported by Chief Ranger Nick Bartolomeo on May 30, 2012.

Deer control theories begin with keeping them away from your plants. They are beautiful to watch, but “not in my backyard,” from a gardener’s standpoint.

Keep them from your garden with fences too high for them to jump -- 8’. Most county codes here allow 6-7’. If you must meet a 6’ height code, widen the horizontal distance deer must jump with deer resistant tall, spreading shrubs along both sides of the fence.

One fence is stiff plastic mesh that comes in rolls. It can be wrapped around and drawn between trees for support in woodland areas without staking. It’s black and not very visible. For information, call Benner’s Gardens at 1-800-753-4660, Also check see-through mesh netting available as Poly Deer Fence,

Other deterrents are draping netting over favorite plants, hanging CDs on shrubs to scare them; water blasting from motion activated automatic sprinklers (Scarecrow) and deer repellents.

Based on the fact that deer are herbivores, you can try home remedies such as hanging human hair in wool bags on plants, rubbing and stringing bar soap on shrubs and trees, and suet, if you’re using bird feeders.

Commercial repellants range from putrescent eggs to animal urine. Try an egg-based product like Deer Guard, or Coyote Urine,, a deer and rabbit repellent made of ammonium salts of fatty acids.

Another class of repellents makes plants taste bad. We've had tremendous success in our garden with Messina Wildlife’s Deer Stopper,, approved for organic growers. Active ingredients are rosemary oil, mint oil and putrescent whole egg solids.

Use plants deer don’t like – those with thorny, hairy leaves, thick, leathery foliage or herbs (because of their strong flavor or odor). Deer prefer fertilized and irrigated plants. The more accustomed they are to people, the better the chance they’ll eat ornamentals. If they’re hungry, they’ll try almost anything. They’re known to have varied tastes.

Two Web sites that offer excellent suggestions for deer resistant plants and additional information about deer control are:
Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station,  and Out Out Deer,

©2012 Joel M. Lerner
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weed Control

Last week I watched a gardener battling overgrown honeysuckle vines grown onto a privet hedge, through chain link fence, and even though cut back to their trunks were inextricably meshed with the fence. This occurred from years of neglect.

Weed control is key to having a handsome landscape. Gardens are lost in weeks, especially this time of year, without care. Keep weeds at bay.
Amur Honeysuckle

Lawn Weeds
Herbicides are very effective at controlling weeds, however they are toxic. Don’t use them around children, pets or edible plants. On sloping properties they will wash into rivers and streams, affecting the food chain. We have chosen to simply keep our lawn mowed and not treat with any toxic herbicides. When weeds are mowed as part of a lawn, they become part of the green carpet that is your turf.

The best weed control for turf is to maintain thick healthy grass through proper mowing, fertilizing and watering. Foot traffic, pets, rocks, low organic content in the soil, or shade can cause weed problems. Correct these situations by aerating or tilling the soil, amending with a layer of compost.

Many lawn weeds can be pulled by hand. Dandelions, when young and tender, are at their best for making wine and salads. If you use them, you might not have enough in your lawn, so get permission to harvest your neighbor’s lawn too.

Chicory roots can be pulverized for a coffee substitute and purslane is edible. The red, fleshy stems, thick succulent leaves and small yellow flowers of this plant can be eaten in salads or cooked.

NOTE: Before eating any weed, be sure to get a positive identification from a garden center, plant clinic, or Cooperative Extension Service. A thorough text on this subject is “Eat the Weeds” by Ben Charles Harris (Keats Publishing, 1995). Also check out Eat The Weeds and other things, too by Green Deane, Be certain any weed you eat has not been treated with herbicides or insecticides.
Kudzu or Porcelainberry

Weeds in Garden Beds
Best approach to weeds in planting beds – pull them when they’re young. That’s our preference. Every time you pass your beds, pluck some. Trees can begin as weeds and go unnoticed until they’re firmly rooted and difficult to pull.

If actively growing weeds are invasive, the most effective herbicide is glyphosate. This non-selective herbicide will kill any plant it contacts. Reportedly, it biodegrades quickly, and can safely be sprayed over roots of mature shade trees to control poison ivy, porcelainberry, or mile-a-minute weed. Read and follow labeled instructions, and apply glyphosate very carefully, even if it means putting it on weeds with a cotton swab or paintbrush. A gust of wind while you’re spraying could blow the spray onto ornamentals. I will only use glyphosate in extreme situations.
Nutsedge, Oxalis & Ground Ivy In Planting Bed
Vinegar has been approved by the EPA as a safe, non-toxic, non-selective weed killer. It burns and kills foliage it contacts. It’s very effective when weeds are saturated.

After you’ve gotten your weeds under control, apply Preen Organic (corn gluten) for a safe pre-emergent herbicide that will discourage weeds from germinating.

Information and advice on herbicides is available from:
• Environmental Protection Agency,
• Cooperative Extension System,

Mulch is a practical method of controlling weeds without using chemicals. Materials that can be laid in beds as protective coverings will reduce evaporation, prevent erosion and control weeds. Use compost, straw, salt hay, pine bark nuggets, shredded hardwood bark, shredded pine bark, wood chips, newspapers or landscape fabric. I prefer organic, partially composted materials.

Put a 1” veneer of your favorite ornamental mulch on top to provide a clean unified appearance in your garden.

©2012 Joel M. Lerner
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