From Pipi’s Pasture: The deer and the marigolds
July 3, 2015
When I was a kid growing up on the ranch, our family occasionally went on a day-long fishing trip up on the White River, some miles from Meeker. We always left the camping area early enough so that we could see the deer coming into the meadow of one of the ranches on the way home. It wasn't that we didn't have any deer on our Morapos ranch, but they weren't as plentiful as they are today.
When we moved here to Pipi's Pasture, we found lots of deer that came into the yard and ate the leaves on the trees and everything else they could find. (I think they even come up on the patio and eat the cat food.) People gave us lots of advice as to how we could deal with the deer. They suggested hanging bars of soap or bags of human hair (courtesy of the beauty salon) in the trees. We tried the soap. It didn't work. We tried putting moth balls around the trees and flowers. That didn't work, either.
So we ended up fencing — with a tall fence — the area where we keep the hay and plant the garden. We put wire around all of the fruit trees. That left the flowers.
Each spring I put some time and thought into the flowers that I plant in pots in the front, on the deck-like porch and surrounding area, and in barrels on the patio. The first few years that we lived here, the deer nibbled at the plants almost every night, sometimes even leaving some of the cut-off flowers on the ground.
Then — I don't remember how I came upon it — I bought some deer and rabbit repellant, with an awful odor, to spray on and around my plants. I found that if I followed the directions on the bottle, the spray was an effective deterrent for the deer — until this year.
This spring I chatted with other customers as I browsed through plants in greenhouses. They talked about the success they had when planting marigolds; deer didn't like them, they said. I bragged about the luck I'd had with the repellant. I took my flowers home and planted them. I was especially pleased with my patio barrels. One was planted with a tall, yellow marigold, smaller yellow and orange marigolds, and small orange zinnias. The other barrel was similarly planted but with smaller marigolds, zinnias, and petunias.
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I sprayed the plants, containers, and ground with repellant and went about my business, confident that my plants were safe. I even followed up with spraying the next couple of days.
Then one morning I found that the zinnias in one barrel had been eaten down to ground level. I replanted and sprayed with the repellant. A day passed. The zinnias were eaten off again, plus a small marigold.
This time I purchased two rather large, healthy-looking marigolds that weren't even in bloom yet. I planted them where the zinnias had been. I sprayed with repellant. It took a day before all of the marigolds in the barrel were eaten off. All that remain of the flowers are a few small leaves and about two inches of stems. Nobody told the deer that they didn't like marigolds. Strange as it may seem, the flowers in the other barrel remain untouched — so far.
And then the other night, before dark, two yearling deer showed up in the front, right next to the porch. They are cute-looking, indeed, with little faces and big eyes, and are tame enough that I had to shoo them away. They have returned another night since then and will undoubtedly help themselves to more plants before long. So much for marigolds and repellants. Things could be worse. We might be visited by a moose!