En”Deer”ing Friends and Your Garden – Winter Version

Another cold, winter week goes by, and I have noticed that hats, gloves, coats, mittens and boots wet with puddles dominate the landscape of my whole house. Scarves in the bedroom and living room, coats hung on the dining room chairs — you get the idea. I love winter, I love the change of scenery, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. My daughter loves it too, and plays in it with style:

She couldn't help herself when we got back from the doctor's the other day. Had to play on a snowy swingset!
She couldn’t help herself when we got back from the doctor’s the other day. Had to play on a snowy swing set!

The two aspects I don’t like about winter? Driving in it and deer.

How so you say?

Well, in my neighborhood, we have a severe deer problem. Overpopulation at its finest. They are a year round nuisance, (spring/summer versions will be coming), but they have been proving to be the most destructive in winter for my garden.

Every hunter's dream -- to have this big guy in your back yard!
Every hunter’s dream — to have this big guy in your back yard!

Here’s why:

It’s winter, and food sources are scarce. If it’s a particularly cold winter, they will pretty much eat ANYTHING. Even the “deer resistant” plants that you purchase. They are so hungry, they will eat anything, including thorn bushes at times. They have massacred my holly bush, and that is supposed to be “deer resistant”. I even have chicken wire around it!

You have a bird feeder around. Yes, I have a bird feeder, and this is where I found this “deer” friend 5 o’clock at night on Thanksgiving:

This grainy photo is evidence that my "deer" friends eating out of my bird feeder.
This grainy photo is evidence that my “deer” friends like eating out of my bird feeder.

They will eat your bird seed and then start scoping out the rest of your yard.

What I have learned about bird seed and deer. They tend to like the super cheap stuff you can get in the 20lb. bag for $6 bucks at any store. I have the pricier sunflower seed in my feeders now, and they don’t like that as much. They also do not like thistle seed either. I put some in last year to attract more finches.

So, how do you protect your plants against deer in the winter?

Cover up. Burlap or any other full covering is the best protection in my opinion. I have fenced some other plants, including my holly bush, and they will avoid it as long as they can find other food. Once they can’t find anymore food, they will become aggressive and make their way into the wire. Now, fencing works for bigger things such as trees. Lesson Learned for me: burlap all of the smaller plants and bushes!

If all else fails, just deal with it. If you have done everything on your part to keep the deer away, and they still are making problems for you, just worry about it in the spring when you can actually do something about it. The damage will be minimal if you have covered it up for the most part. Winter itself can do serious damage to your plants, so it’s a trade-off at one point or another. It will grow back, and if it doesn’t, you can always get a new one!

Disclaimer: Deer are really wonderful animals, but they are also very destructive when it comes to your landscape. As a gardener, you spend a lot of time and money trying to make your home and yard look beautiful. The intention of this post is to give you tips on how to deal and live with the deer you have in your neighborhood, without harming them.

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