Gardens overrun by deer?

Published 10:33 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

FRANKLIN—At 3 a.m. the other night, Jo Ann Underwood chased the deer from her garden.

Thirty minutes later, she was out there again running off the deer and fighting a losing battle.

“It was a beautiful garden,” said Underwood, who lives at Walnut and Sycamore streets in Franklin. “I hate to disappoint the neighbors. They love for us to come with vegetables.”

The deer — she’s heard from a neighbor there are 14 — have destroyed Underwood’s green beans, butter beans and cucumbers. They are working on her tomato plants, eating the un-ripened green fruit. The deer mowed down the Hostas and are now going for her Sharon of Rose bush.

“I went out early this morning, and they were eating the leaves off the eggplants,” she said.

Underwood has experienced minor problems in the past with deer. But her garden’s never been overrun like this summer.

“I believe this has been the worst year yet,” she said. “It’s been so dry, and the deer are coming up and getting what they can.”

Janet Spencer, a state Agriculture Extension Agent for Isle of Wight County, attributes Underwood’s problems to a lack of rain and a growing deer herd.

“If she was irrigating her garden, it will be more attractive to deer,” Spencer said.

“The real brunt of the problem is there are so many deer,” she continued. “We have hunting seasons in the fall and winter, but when compared to what is taken out to what’s being reproduced over a year, it’s not enough. We’re just being overrun.”

Spencer recommends fencing in gardens, something Underwood said she can’t afford.

Spencer also suggests using repellants, which can be purchased at home and garden centers.

“They’re normally made of something that smells bad, like an egg byproduct or fish emulsion,” she said. “It smells bad and tastes bad so the deer don’t want to eat it.”

Spencer also has heard that spreading human hair around a garden will keep deer away.

“The idea is the human scent is there when they come into the garden, but once they get used to it being there (it may not work anymore),” she said.

Underwood has bars of soap hanging around the garden. She has also used bug killer, blood meal and moth balls.

Underwood depends on her garden to supplement her family’s meals throughout the year. She also likes sharing her bounty with neighbors.

“I know a lady who does pickles,” Underwood said. “I was going to give her a lot of pickles this year, but forget that.”