The Great Coverup!

| 7/6/2012 9:39:54 AM

Tags: deer damage, crop protection, shade cloths, Kate Copsey,

A few weeks ago, a groundhog came to visit and dug holes in the raised beds, uprooted newly planted tomatoes and ate the bean seeds. A quick sprinkling of pest deterrent that is based on natural herbs seemed to fix that problem. Alas, when the groundhog moved on to other feeding ground, the deer moved in. Mainly they targeted the new leaves of the few bean seeds that escaped the groundhog, but soon moved on to other growing beans and then the almost mature cabbages that were making nice firm heads. I could say the deer has a great diet – no drying out leaves of drought stressed azaleas for these guys – they want the healthy green vegetables!

The clue to the culprit was not so much seeing it – as I did the groundhog – but more the eating habit. Deer munch and clamp on the stems or leaves leaving them ragged, while rabbit for instance chop sharply as the base of the plant like an over-zealous pair of scissors. Plus the height of the plants being eaten was over the stretch of most rabbits.

Deer damage is ragged edge on stem

The obvious remedy would be a good sturdy fence surround the vegetable garden but that takes time and budget and not something that I could do last weekend, so I rounded up covers and support hoops to protect the vegetables. The cabbage family was fairly easy to cover with a dark shade cloth which I had on hand, but I did notice that the garden department of the local big box store had some shade cloths too. Plan B would be the always useful fabric store for dark colored tulle. This hot weather is really stressful for the cool weather vegetables so they welcome some shade and as they don’t need a pollinator this worked well. The beans and tomatoes and other summer vegetables need to be open during the day to allow for pollination and they love to bask in summer sun, so they got the white cloth to cover them which is removed every day.

The downside to the whole system is that the tomatoes and beans are growing rapidly and continually covering them is not a practical long term remedy. My hope is that I will be able to surround the whole area, at least crudely, in the next week or two – after I have put in supports for the tomatoes and beans etc.! The other downside is that the garden looks messy. Fortunately only the deer and me notice it, but something more permanent is defiantly needed.

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