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Oh Deer! In Texas, it's tough keeping the Bambis out of the garden and landscape One of the more unique issues gardeners and landscapers in Texas deal with is the native deer population. You don’t have to conduct a study or research to know that deer prefer to eat some of the same things we eat, and unfortunately, they will also eat many things we plant in our landscapes. The following is a true story and is an example of how deer can impact our landscapes in very little time . . . . A customer in Austin called us in to install a landscape that was designed by his daughter, who had just graduated from Texas as a degreed landscape architect. So this was her first step into the water, so to speak. She designed the plan and chose all the plants. We installed the landscape, a very large one which included bordering, fence partitions, yard art, etc. Then the final day was reserved for planting all the plants and trees. It required most of the day to do this and once we did, our job was complete. We opted to stay in a hotel in Austin that night and return to DFW the next morning. Around 7 am the next morning, the customer calls and asks me to come out because many of his plants are “missing.” I return and find that all 268 Mountain Pea plants (a ground cover) we had planted as part of the plantings were eaten to the ground. The deer had feasted on every single one of them in one evening. Uggghhhh. By afternoon, I had returned from a local nursery with 268 Horse Herb, a ground cover that deer will not eat. Problem solved. Unfortunately, many of the plants we will prefer to have in our landscape and also favorites of deer, such as daisies, roses and geraniums. And likewise, many of the vegetables and fruit we grow are on the menu for deer. So what do we do? Is it hopeless? Certainly, not. Here are a few ways to win the war with deer without anyone having to be hurt. 1. Use a product that is designed for deterring deer, such as “Deer Scram” or even granulated Fox or Coyote urine. With these products you would disperse on the perimeters of your garden and landscape. The scent they contain is not something you will be able to smell, but the deer can and that smell represents a predator scent and will, in most cases, make the deer want to leave. I have used these products with some degree of success, but they must be re-applied frequently with our irrigation systems in place or after any rainfall event. 2. You can surround your vegetable garden with plants that are highly scented. Deer often avoid these type plans because they interfere with the deer’s ability to sense predators by scent. Plants such as Rosemary, Lavender, Marigolds, Society Garlic, and even Copper Canyon Daisies are all types that are highly scented and will deter deer. For the landscape, you could simply incorporate some of these selections and group them in various spots at the perimeter of your beds. 3. Fence your garden. Some won’t be able to do this and it’s really not practical to fence a landscape, but you can fence your garden to protect it from deer. Any such fence will need to be high enough that deer cannot jump over it. I’ve heard some recommend putting a fishing line string back and forth around the garden, attached to posts. They do this to avoid the eyesore (in their opinion) of a real fence. Deer cannot see the line so it often results in bad things happening. I do not recommend this method. 4. Other plants that deer do not care for, but for reasons other than their scent . . Lamb’s Ear. Deer don’t like the wooly texture of the plant and avoid it. Yarrow, a flowering plant popular in xeriscapes, is a plant that deer dislike because of its bitter taste. Sage, due to both its texture and strong, overpowering scent, will help keep deer away. Narcissus, a flowering plant that looks somewhat like a daisy, will cause deer to keep out. This plant has calcium oxalate, which will give any deer a severe case of indigestion. You can mix in Narcissus in with flowers that deer really love, such as Tulips. This will help keep them away from your “deer candy” Tulips. Peony is also a plant that deer will turn their nose at. 5. One method that I know works with planting annual flowers was taught to me by an elderly lady who grew a fabulous garden. She would take a bar of Irish Spring soap and shave strips off it, placing them just slightly in the dirt around the flowers. The trick lasts as long as the soap lasts, so its a practical solution given that most bars will last a month or more. The soap will also help keep Aphids away and causes no harm to the plants themselves. 6. Noise deterrents – some folks use all sorts of techniques to create noise that will spook deer away. One method is to hang a line with tin cans on it and when a deer touches it, the cans make noise and the deer flee. Another trick is to use CD’s and string to hang around the perimeter. The motion of the CDs in the wind is highly unusual for the deer and will spook them. 7. Deer are fairly smart animals and will adapt, eventually, to whatever you’re doing to deter them (aside from the plants). So I would suggest using several different methods to deter deer, sporadically changing just to keep them off guard. The amount of deer activity in your garden and landscape will largely be affected by the climatological conditions in your area. If you’re going through drought, deer will become more bold in what they will seek out and eat. If your area has had ample rain and there are abundant vegetation available to them, you won’t seem them as much. Many of the tips shared here to ward off deer will also work in deterring other animals, such as rabbits, who have also plagued suburban neighborhood gardens. One reason you’re seeing more and more reports of bobcats and coyotes seen in suburban neighborhoods is because of the abundant rabbit population (due to a past lack of predators). And that is another column for another day. FALL COLOR ARRIVES! When I say “Fall Color” I can actually mean two different things. Flowers and Trees Turning. In this case, I talk about both because they’re happening at the same time. If you’re wanting to replace your summer flowers with ones that will thrive through Fall and Winter, plant Pansies. They come in a wide variety of colors and two different styles. You may also want to mix in colorful Kale as centerpieces to your flower groupings. These two types of winter color will remain throughout the winter, though most ice or snow. Pansies will be arriving at your local nurseries here in Texas within the next week or so. You can also add Mums to your beds, but know that they will die off when the first frost/freeze comes. They are spectacular while they last though. The “other fall color” is the color we’ll see from our trees. Its always a beautiful time of year and we can aid in that process by keeping our trees fed and watered through the growing season. Much of the color display is dependent on climate conditions (we need cool nights and warm days) but its also chemical-reactions that make it happen. Keeping the trees with plenty of nutrients and water through the growing season and in the latter part of the season in particular, will help ensure that you have peak performance from your trees during the fall! WINTER RYE GRASS October is here so the time is right for sewing winter rye grass for lawns. Before we continue, you need to know that if you applied pre-emergent last month, you are probably not going to be able to get your winter rye seed to germinate. I recommend those with Bermuda lawns apply winter rye if they want their winter lawns to be a lush, dark green. Getting a winter rye lawn is a little tricky, but if you follow some simple steps you can do it by yourself. 1. Scalp your lawn. You will need to achieve seed-to-soil contact so not only do you need to scalp your lawn, it would be helpful to lightly scatter some topsoil over the lawn right after scalping. 2. Apply your seed. You can use a common spreader to do this. Load the hopper full of seed and start marching! The more seed you put down, the thicker the lawn will be. Just remember, wherever the seed falls, you may have rye grass growing there. So try to keep the seeds out of your beds. 3. Apply a 21-0-0 fertilizer or comparable ratio. Just use the same spreader and apply it moderately to everywhere you put the rye seed. The fertilizer will help speed up the germination of the winter rye. 4. Water. Begin watering twice a day (morning/evening) once you have the seed down. Continue this until the Rye emerges and takes root. Once that happens, return to a normal watering schedule. 5. Winter Rye does not grow real fast, so you’ll only need to mow once every two weeks or so. It is best to go ahead and get your Winter Rye seed down now or as soon as possible. Waiting until late October will put your application in line with the bird migration south. And they will feast on your rye seed. I do not recommend Winter Rye applications in St Augustine lawns. Yes, it can be done. But because you can doesn’t mean you should. Rye applications will cause long-term detrimental effects on St Augustine turf. If you must, make it a once in five years type thing. CHRISTMAS LIGHTING PROCESS BEGINS I know most folks don’t like to think of these things until the season arrives, but October is actually when the Christmas lighting process begins. If you don’t already have professional Christmas lighting at your place, now is the time to contact a Christmas light installer to begin that process. With Green Thumb and some others, we have a consultation with the homeowner to discuss the particular wants and desires with regard to their Christmas lighting. From that meeting, the designer (me, in GT’s case) will create a lighting plan for your home. This plan will include all the things planned during the meeting, as well as date of installation and a date of removal. There is no charge for the consultation or estimate/plan. With Green Thumb – for the first year installation you will pay for the lights purchased and also for the installation. In following years, you only pay for the installation since you own the lights. We pack up the lights during removal and store them at our storage facility or can store them at your home, whichever is preferred. Each year we install them on the date of your choice. This process begins in October because it often takes that long to have all the preliminary stuff completed. Don’t procrastinate! The schedule will fill up fast as the holidays approach! For DFW folks, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org WELCOME STAGECOACH TRAILERS! We warmly welcome the new sponsor of this column each month, Stagecoach Trailers. If you’re looking for a trailer that will exceed your expectations and can be custom-built, Stagecoach Trailers is the place to go. We buy our trailers from Stagecoach! To learn more, go to www.stagecoachtrailers.com or call 903-897-0681. All trailers are made at their facilities in Naples, Texas.