The morning after a recent snowfall the back garden was crisscrossed by deer tracks. This was hardly a revelation. I can’t claim that the local deer community is comparable to areas nearby that are vastly overpopulated. By comparison, there are few in this neighborhood, but the small group of deer beds down in the thicket neighboring my garden, and hoof prints in the snow lead in every direction from this nearly impenetrable tangle of briars and brambles.
It’s no secret that I’m too often guilty of failing to keep up with simplest and most basic chores for upkeep of the garden, but, by some minor miracle I sprayed the deer repellent on evergreens in November when I was supposed to. Despite prolonged cold, ice storms, and several measurable snowfalls, I’ve seen little damage to foliage in the garden, and it’s likely that what I imagine to be a few nibbles, are in fact, not. A year ago I neglected to spray, and deer predictably ate every leaf of Japanese aucubas, azaleas, and camellias that they could reach, so that these shrubs spent most of the year recovering.
Despite some minor setbacks, I remain convinced that spraying deer repellent is the easiest way to prevent damage from deer, while also enabling the gardener to plant anything he desires without regard to its resistance. In case you care to research the somewhat limited list of plants that are not prone to deer damage, Rutgers University provides a great service by grading a variety of ornamental plants (visit http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/). Unfortunately, the list is assembled alphabetically by common plant names, so occasionally I struggle when only the scientific name comes to mind.
While there are abundant deer in the garden, curiously, there are no geese, though dozens and often hundreds occupy nearby parts of the neighborhood. Along the southern border of the garden is a swath of forest bisected by a small, spring fed creek. The neighborhood was a farm not too many years in the past, and where the rolling hills descend into a damp sort of bottom land, a forest of swamp red maples and tulip poplars sprouted.
Up the hill, and on the far side of the strip of forest, is a farm pond that was constructed recently enough that it has an overflow pipe, but far enough into the past that the pond was not in its infant stage when my wife and I moved in twenty five years ago. On any day, this pond might have a dozen geese, or a few hundred, and these very often wander onto the street and to make a mess of the neighbors’ lawns.
A drive to the grocery store on a Saturday morning frequently involves shooing many slightly panicked geese off the road, but in testament to the patience and good manners of the neighbors, I’ve not yet seen one that has been hit by a vehicle (though perhaps if one was done in, the evidence was quickly disposed of). The point of this circuitous tale is that while there will be dozens of geese directly across the street digging grubs from the lawn, they avoid my property as if our old coon dogs were still prowling about.
I’m certain that there are plenty of grubs in my sad excuse for a lawn, but why geese avoid the property is relatively simple, I think. The forest and thicket, and the dense planting of the garden provide excellent cover for not only deer, but also predators. My wife and I regularly see evidence of raccoons and skunks, and on occasion we see a fox or coyote in the daylight. I suppose that geese prefer the safety of open spaces, though certainly there is temptation in a garden chock full of tasty treats.
I don’t get to decide on the trade off, but I think that I prefer having the somewhat manageable deer in the garden, rather than geese that hardly pay attention, even to the neighborhood’s dogs. They gouge holes in the lawns, and I can only presume the digging that would be done in the garden’s beds. Fortunately, my property has been declared off limits.