Friday, September 2, 2011

First Sweet Potato of the Season

The deer have been getting in my garden and eating the sweet potato vines at night. They jump a four and a half foot fence to do this. All of the vines have been completely defoliated, but amazingly, the roots seem ok. I dug one up the other day and ate it. I guess it had had enough time to get big before the munching started.

I have spent the last few days increasing security around my garden, because shortly after they ate all the sweet potato vines, the deer started in on the okra plants. Who would have thought that they'd eat hairy old okra leaves? I looked up deer and okra, and found out that, lo and behold, people actually plant okra to LURE deer!  And to make them grow big for hunting season!

At first I tried the easy way to "increase security": putting pieces of Irish Spring soap in panty hose legs and hanging them around the garden. (I buy the knee-high panty hose boxes at Walmart especially for this purpose, and no other purpose.) This worked for one night. The next night, they were back in the garden, bad smell or no. And the soap truly does smell horrible.

So then I had to resort to a more labor-intensive strategy:  I wired long pieces of bamboo to the posts of the fence. Now the posts were sticking up about 2 feet higher than the top of the fence. So I could take some 20 gauge tie-wire and put two strands of that above the top of the wire mesh fence. Now the fence is effectively about 6 1/2 feet tall. This seems to be working: there was no deer snacking last night. As a further deterrent, I took a page out of my friend Wendy Williams's book and tied some aluminum pie pans to the two strands of wire above the old fence. They move in the breeze and make clacking sounds, which is supposed to scare the deer.

Deer are interesting. Keeping them out is kind of a psy-ops situation: you have to make the fence look scary to jump over, as if they might become entangled in it if they try. It doesn't have to actually be a strong fence, just a wiggly, stringy, high fence. Very light nylon mesh fences that are about 7 feet tall, and practically invisible in the landscape, apparently keep deer out pretty effectively. Deer aren't like cows, horses, or pigs, which would go right through a fence like that.

I think these deer are invading the garden for the first time in years because of several factors:  it is very dry, and there is very little lush vegetation around the neighborhood. There was a pasture full of Johnson grass hay growing all summer nearby, but two weeks ago it was all cut down and baled, and because there has been no rain, it hasn't grown back at all. So suddenly the deer became very hungry, and they saw a buffet full of their favorite foods--beans, sweet potatoes, and okra--on the other side of the garden fence.  Another factor might be the fact that deer populations were very low a few years ago when I built this fence. There had been an epidemic that killed a lot of them. But slowly their populations have been rebounding.  That's good, but to paraphrase Marie Antoinette:  let them eat grass!  There's plenty of that around my garden too.