Recently I watched as this deer tore off big bites of these luscious Japanese Maple leaves. Freshly unfolded this spring, they were green and tender, just like a new spring salad. Our small Washington city of Sammamish, home to almost 46,000 people, is surrounded by green. We residents of the Northwest love/hate our green. We demand that it stays, even though we continually try to fill it with other colors. East of Seattle, Sammamish is 310 feet above sea level overlooking Lake Sammamish to the West and the Cascade Mountains to the East. My favorite building in our city is the library which has a gas fireplace, lots of great gardening books and a green roof on top which no one can see (but I know it’s there). Our wildlife also includes an exponential number of rabbits, bobcat, coyote and bear. A bear recently found its way into a friend’s garden shed, ripped open her large container of Sluggo and apparently ate it all. We were surprised a bear wanted Sluggo and figure it didn’t feel very well the next day!
Deer have access to most neighborhoods and people are always complaining about losing their plants. Today I read an interesting passage about how to live with deer munching on your garden. I found it in Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. A few friends recently recommended this book and I’m finding it fascinating, thoughtful and full of information that just makes sense. Have you ever read a book and kept nodding your head…yea, I agree, I agree, I agree….of course, why isn’t everyone doing this? Gaia’s Garden is one of those books. I’ll do a full review once I’m finished, but here is an excerpt about how the author lived with deer in his garden.
“Here’s another example of how connected-ness can make gardens more natural and also save work. When we lived in our rural place in southern Oregon, deer were a big problem, chomping down almost any unprotected plant. They trampled a well-worn path into my yard from the southwest. So on that side I placed a curving hedge to defect them from other tasty plantings. The hedge was built around a few native shrubs already there—oceanspray, wild roses, a lone manzanita. But I chose the other hedge species to do several jobs. I planted bush cherries, Manchurian apricots, currants and other wildlife plants for wildlife food and thorny wild plums, Osage orange, and gooseberries to hold back the deer. but on the inside of the hedge–my side– to some of these hedgerow plants I grafted domestic fruit varieties. The wild cherries grew sweet cultivars on the hedge’s house-facing side, and the shrubby apricots and wild plums soon sprouted an assortment of luscious Asian plums. This food bearing hedge (sometimes called a fedge) fed both the deer and me….As the hedge matured, deer became less of a problem for us. By the time the animals had munched along the hedge to its end, they were almost to the edge of the yard and showed little interest in turning back toward the house.” He goes on to say that a neighbor started putting apples out for the deer and he eventually had to put up a section of fence, but I consider his approach an ingenious way to solve a deer problem. It might be harder in a small yard, but it is definitely an idea worth exploring.