A photo from earlier this year. Imagine what this rose COULD have been, if the deer hadn't gnawed off all the buds like they did.
The Austin Garden is in a particularly difficult spot ... in a direct line, midway between the grape vines at the winery (deer love grapes as much as people do) and my other neighbor's pond. The deer have been nipping the taller new growth all season long. I have to do something.
Folks have suggested that I use a deer repellant chemical. I bought Liquid Fence last year (or was it the year before?) because this one seems to be rated the best. The stuff REEKS, which is why it repels the deer ... and it also is quite effective at repelling people. I thought it was stupid to try to protect my sweet-smelling roses by making them stink. (Plus, the stuff is expensive, the deer can become accustomed to it, and it gummed up my sprayer.)
There are other chemical/scent/barrier ideas that I have heard about. I decided against using bars of deodorant soap, or human hair, or rotten eggs, or tiger dung (where do they come up with this stuff). I could try to fence them out, but a traditional deer fence is at least 8 feet high, and must enclose the area to be protected. This would be expensive and completely impractical on our open property.
A visitor and I were talking about this a couple of weeks ago (Hi, Donna!) She had a suggestion that I AM going to try, which was given to her by the owner of the fabulous garden at Mount Sharon, who swears by its effectiveness. This is enough of an endorsement for me.
I bought an armload of 4-foot fiberglass plant stakes at Big Lots. They are a lovely,color-of-grass, unobtrusive green, and they only cost 70 cents each. (Tractor Supply has similar stakes in pale grey for $1.09.) I hammered the stakes into the ground at four-foot intervals around the perimeter of the Austin Garden.
Remember, you're supposed to be concentrating on the fence ... not the weeds.
Donna told me to loosely attach two strands of fishing line between the stakes -- one at the top of the stake and one near the middle. She said that this is enough of a barrier to aggravate the deer, and they'll move on. I used small zip ties to keep the fishing line in place.
Working by myself, it only took a little over an hour for me to do the whole garden. The green stakes blend nicely with the grass, and the fishing line is all but invisible.
Since this fence can't have a true gate, I left an access point by overlapping two layers of the fence across the path and I can zig-zag into the garden through this opening ... if that makes sense.
My next challenge, if this experiment in the Austin Garden is successful, is trying to figure out how to use fencing like this to help protect the Rose Field. This will be a LOT more complicated.
(edited to add: Donna just emailed me and told me that I have to tighten up my fishing line. I guess I know what I'll be outside doing later this morning.)