Gardeners face enough challenges trying to create landscaping they can enjoy and be proud of. But dozens of 200-pound eating machines can make even the most resolute gardener want to throw in the towel.
In many neighborhoods where former woodland areas have been replaced by subdivisions, particularly in west St. Louis County, Missouri, deer have become more than just a curiosity — they’re a nuisance, especially to anyone trying to grow plants.
Holly Parks, who lives in Wildwood, says evergreens on her property look like Popsicle on sticks. “I call them deer topiaries,” she says. “They have destroyed so much and become so tame that the only thing left is for them to come in and eat at the table.”
Parks adds, “When I had the dogs, the deer would run a short distance and then turn around and stare at the dogs. Or they would come after dark when the dogs were inside.”
But gardeners try to persevere, always on the lookout for deterrents and plants that deer typically don’t browse.
“For the past 16 years, I’ve struggled with how to plant a garden that looks good that the deer won’t eat,” Terry Milne of Wildwood says. “To be honest, it’s probably a losing battle, but one that I just can’t seem to stop fighting.”
Pat Bellrose, owner of Fahr Greenhouse in Wildwood, says residents should consider deer are territorial grazers and that once they find a food source, they tend not to move on.
He says gardeners can make the mistake of trying to offer deer an alternative, such as grain, in the hope they’ll avoid their plants. But “once they establish that as their territory, it’s really difficult to get them out so they don’t eat the plants you don’t want them to eat,” he said.
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