One of the first things any visitor to our area encounters is mule deer. Everywhere you go, mule deer are there too. Not only does one see the creatures themselves, but evidence of their presence appears on every street in town. Just take a look at the arborvitae along the sidewalk at the local store. Deer have munched those bushed to within an inch of their existence, as high as a deer can reach. Everyone living in Torrey knows, if they want their landscaping to survive, they need to think about deer. That means using deer-resistant plants or creating some structure to keep the deer away.
Judging from the number of publications and Internet sites related to the topic, it’s easy to see that Torrey, Utah is not the only place with a deer problem. One aspect one must consider is the amount of stress property receives from deer browsing. After seeing 30 deer in our pasture last winter, Scott and I decided “inordinately stressed” applied to our situation. And, after those 30 deer ate our expensive, deer-resistant mugo pines (labeled “rarely damaged” in multiple resources) down to nothing, we were feeling fairly stressed ourselves.
We should have realized this already. During our first summer here, we planted a row of cottonless cottonwoods, which we hoped would grow into a screen between our property and the lights of a business about a mile away. The trees were thriving and all was well until, one morning, we awoke to discover our local herd had had a delicious feast of Populus deltoids the night before. Fortunately the trees were still alive, and today their twenty feet of height is beginning to accomplish the job for which they were planted. That’s because we immediately built a protective fence around each cottonwood and have done the same for every one of the other 67 trees of various varieties we’ve planted since then. All of them are doing well inside their deer-proof environment. We hope the trees will eventually get big enough to withstand “deer pressure” without the fence.
Our shrubs are also fenced but, so far, the perennials we have planted really do seem to be deer-resistant.
As one can imagine, building fences around every plant involved many hours of labor. Obviously that wouldn’t’ work for a vegetable garden. We could have followed our neighbor’s example and built a 10-foot tall fence around the entire enterprise. The cost seemed prohibitive and the aesthetics leave something to be desired, so we searched for another solution. Here’s what we learned. 1) Generally speaking, deer can jump high or they can jump far, but they cannot do both. 2) If deer can’t see it, they won’t eat it.
With these two things in mind, we decided to try a double fence since we could incorporate it into a fence we already had in place and the price seemed reasonable. Using cedar and t posts, Scott installed a 56-inch high welded-wire fence around the perimeter of our garden. In one corner, a 16-foot metal gate will accommodate our tractor. Four feet inside the welded-wire fence, Scott pounded t posts at 10-foot intervals. To the top of these posts, we needed to attached something that would be visible to deer, was inexpensive, would stand up to Torrey winds, and through which Scott and I could easily pass. We decided to use polytape, an electric fence primarily used with horses. Scott wound two strands of polytape around each t-post, one strand at the top of each post, the second strand 12 inches below. It is visible, flashes in the wind, and we simply duck under it when we go into the garden. After three months of gardening, with deer in the pasture almost every day, none have ventured over the fence. So far, it’s been a success.
In addition to the fence, to create something of a screen around the garden, and to attract bees and other beneficial insects, we planted an array of flowers purchased as wildflower mixes from High Country Gardens. Not only do the flowers appear to keep away our deer neighbors, our bees enjoy the smorgasbord, and the color is a daily feast for our eyes.