Maintenance Begins

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

Monday, May 19, Beth stopped by a garden center to pick up some cocoa bean mulch for her flower beds. In addition, she picked up 4 more sweet banana peppers for me, which I will plant later this week.

While touring the yard, she also noticed that one of my hollyhock plants had been pulled up, and the leaves had been eaten. She immediately placed it in a water bath, and it will survive. A new leaf is already beginning to grow from the central core. What caused this damage? My theory was a deer. A rabbit will gnaw off a leaf from a stem in a clean angular cut. It would not have the strength to pull the plant out. A ground squirrel may also be the culprit, but with many of the hollyhocks having their leaves eaten as well, deer are my suspects.

On the north end of the property, Beth also found my hellebore (Lenten Rose) dug up and eaten. I thought these plants were deer resistant, as they have thick leathery leaves that are spiny; shows you what I know. Again, she put it in the water bath beside the hollyhock. One leaf remains standing, and it should survive.

It was time to take action. Tuesday night I went forth to fight another war with the critters of the neighborhood. Our son Rob, who built the connecting fence in April, came by to see the damage. He recommended a “tent fence” for the hollyhocks until they got bigger. We have some wire fence left over, so we connected it to the south garden fence. This will let light, air and moisture get to the hollyhocks. It will not stop rabbit damage if it occurs, but it just might deter the deer. It did not take us long to tie the two fences together, which we did after I re-planted the hollyhock. While building the fence, Rob found deer tracks in the alley, which confirmed my assessment.

The hellebore got a different treatment. Years ago, a friend of mine gave me some white tiles, which help protect short perennials and other plants, especially from rabbits. I noticed that the adjacent hellebore, which had also been damaged, was trying valiantly to re-sprout again. Re-planting the Lenten Rose was easy. I placed a white tile over each plant, and then sprinkled a handful of blood meal on each plant.

While traveling around the garden Sunday morning, we noticed two pepper plants missing. This could have been the work of any number of critters. So, while I planted tomatoes, Rob sprinkled animal repellent on all of the peppers. Again, I am suspecting the deer. The next time it rains, I’ll have to renew the repellent routine, but I have plenty of product, so it won’t be a problem.

These types of protective measures will need to take place during the entire season. Our city tells us we don’t have a deer problem, but I have the evidence. On June 29, our garden will be a part of the Keep Windsor Heights Beautiful annual garden tour. With luck, maybe we’ll have a few city council members tour our yard and they will see the damage while a few deer amble through the area.

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