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  • Sue

Oh Deer

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

This week a vital project has been to tackle the growing problem of deer damage.

We have always had a problem with deer because they roam locally, live in the woods beyond our neighbouring vines and, last year, we even had a little family at the bottom of our own garden. There are benefits – we had the pleasure of watching the doe rear her two fawns in the summer of 2020 - but there are disadvantages too. They can cause tremendous damage to plants. They eat young shoots and leaves, nibble rose buds and, in worst case scenarios, completely ring young trees by stripping them of bark. The layer which is responsible for the passage of nutrients within a tree is just underneath the bark, so once the bark has been stripped away the tree will die above that point.

The Ginkgo biloba pictured below was almost completely ringed by deer in late spring 2020. There was a small strip of bark remaining, but when the really hot weather arrived the vascular tissue under the thin strip of bark could not cope with the rate of transpiration demanded by the tree (this is the flow of water from the roots to the leaves where it evaporates). Above the damage the tree withered and had to be cut away.

Over the last 12 months the problem has increased dramatically because winter 2019/2020 was very mild – leading to improved deer survival rates. Then, during the first lockdown, hunting was curtailed and less deer were culled. The local chasse (village hunt) has a quota of the various species of wildlife it is allowed hunt and kill each year. This, along with the dates of the hunting season for each species, is strictly regulated; the purpose being to use local hunts to help manage the wildlife population and try and maintain some sort of balance. This plan collapsed over the last year, which partly explains the big increase in the adult deer population around us.

I do my best to discourage deer from attacking individual plants by hanging bags of human hair of them. It does look faintly ridiculous, but it seems to work. They scent a human presence and move away to another plant – hopefully one better able to stand their advances. On Monday evening I sewed a dozen open ended bags, which is simple to do as I don’t bother with hemming raw edges. I use muslin as I feel that it is thin enough to allow as much “human smell” to escape as possible, and it weathers in quite well. The bag measures about 8cmx16cm with one open end into which I stuff the hair. I then tie it up with a piece of string leaving long ends of string to attach the bag to the plant. These are renewed annually, usually in about April. I get the hair from my local hairdresser who knew exactly what I wanted it for when I first asked for a bag of hair sweepings.

Can you help?

If anyone reading this knows of other natural or non-invasive remedies for dealing with garden pests please let me know as I would like to put together a list of them. On the new website you can do this via the “chat” button at the bottom left-hand corner or by contacting me via the About Us page.

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