Garden Pests: Deer

Suburban gardeners in Central Alabama share many pest problems with city gardeners, but the biggest pests by far are deer. They can cause a frustrating amount of damage in just one night. Our subdivision is located near large, undeveloped areas of open land and trees which are perfect for deer, the bane of the suburban/country gardener’s existence. The back of our lot seems to border a game trail of long-standing, and the does seem to consider the brushy area near the compost pile to be a perfect location for hiding a fawn.

Deer are pretty, and the fawns are really cute, but they are garden-eating machines. Our first garden at this house consisted of a bed of pole beans. It produced a bumper crop; but only because every night we went out and put on the bean’s “party dress” of nylon netting.

Sometimes the deer visit the back of our yard in the daytime, including a fairly large buck. Like many of the photographs in this post, these are from a game camera and the focus is not perfect. If you garden, buy or borrow a motion-detecting camera and set it up for a few nights. You might be surprised what visits your garden at night.

As the garden near the house became larger, a fence became necessary to keep out the deer as well as the rabbits and armadillos. This garden consists of six 4 by 8 foot beds. We pounded in T-posts and installed small animal fence and deer netting. The gate is constructed of PVC pipe covered with the same materials. For hinges we use zip ties; they need to be replaced a couple of times a year but they are cheap. The fence is only 5 feet tall. Perhaps because the enclosed area is fairly small and since the deer have a hard time seeing the top of the fence, they have not yet jumped in.

The Worried Bird

We spotted this young cardinal and snapped a photo one summer. It is not long out of the nest and has found itself in a world suddenly larger and more challenging than anything it has known. It looks like it is wondering where its next seed is coming from. Dad will feed it for about two weeks while Mom is probably off sitting on a new nest full of eggs. Soon it will be responsible for finding food and cracking sunflower seeds all by itself.

The world is always changing, full of challenges and opportunities for all of us. Time and practice will teach the young bird how to use its wings to find what it needs. Its beak is capable and very strong, able to easily crack open seeds that are more of a challenge to other birds. Like the cardinal, we need to be ready to look for the opportunities that changes and challenges bring to us. As for where the bird’s next seed is coming from…there is a feeder full of sunflower seeds about two feet away.