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In The News


April 28, 2005. Article is from the Northwoods Press. Text is reprinted for clarity.

DEER LOVE to browse on impatiens, pictured in the foreground, and other flowers that are popular in the area. Beth Engels, owner of Rhodes Garden Center south of Nevis, has heard many stories from customers who have tried some innovative ideas to stop deer from eating in their gardens. Photo by Richard Whitcomb.

By Richard Whitcomb
April showers bring May flowers as the saying goes, but it also brings deer - ready to eat anything green after a long winter of browsing through snow. Many area gardeners can attest to the destructive presence of deer, rabbits and other things furry, as they try to keep their garden buffet free of unwanted diners. Annette Rhodes and Beth Engels, owner of Rhodes Garden Center on Cty. Rd. 33 near Nevis, have seen and heard it all from gardeners who have tried in vain to keep their gardens from being eaten. Engels remembers two creative ideas she heard that people have tried to keep unwanted deer away. "Someone hung jalapeno peppers from apple branches," she remembers. "I think it worked for a while." Engels said the deer probably acquired a taste for jalapenos, too. Another favorite remedy, Engels recalls, is of the person who bought a talking fish, called "Billy Bass," and hung it from a tree near the garden. Every time a deer would come close the bass would start singing "Take Me to the River" and scare the deer away.

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Engels and Rhodes both say if a deer in hungry enough it will eat just about anything, but some plants are more tasty to a deer than others including geraniums, hostas, impatiens, day lilies and petunias. "They ate all my geranium blossoms and I blamed the landscaper," Rhodes said laughing. "Last year, deer came up the steps and ate the petunias." Deer aren't the only problem animal who populate the lakes country. Rabbits, woodchucks and groundhogs can all pose problems for a garden. "They (woodchucks) taste everything," Rhodes said adding they are picky eaters who say "I don't like this one, so I'll try that. We moved the garden because of the woodchucks." Fences, even electric ones, don't seem to stop deer either. Deer can jump as high as six feet and are ballerinas of the animal world, who can easily stand on their hind legs to browse for food. "Deer would jump into the garden - eat the garden and jump back out," Rhodes said. There are some repellents that help deter deer from entering gardens. Engels uses Liquid Fence, an organic product Rhodes Garden Center sells that is environmentally safe and the only product, she says, that will truly keep deer away from a garden. Engels said the product smells awful when applied, but after it dries the smell fades. "Once it dries you don't smell it," she said. "The deer smell it, but you don't." Liquid Fence lasts about a month before it needs to be reapplied or reapplied after a heavy rain of one inch or more. Other deterrents include Hinder, which is used in ammonia-based soaps. The products repels deer through smell and taste and can be used on any plant. High and wide fences are also effective although they can be expensive and unsightly. Otherwise there are a number of plants that deer don't like and would only eat as last resort iincluding: barberry, balsam fir, honeysuckle, lilacs, allium, foxglove, peony, sage, marigolds, periwinkle, snapdragons, zinnias and wax begonias.