gcrfd deerMIDDLETOWN, NJ - Starting with the fact that deer are plentiful in Monmouth County and that while they are lovely to look at—lean and graceful with a reddish to grayish-brown coat-- they often do damage in your garden!

Bucks have antlers and can weigh between 200 and 300 pounds while the does weigh in at 120 to 175 pounds and have no antlers.  The deer are about three to four feet tall and can live approximately 16 years in the wild. Most of the local deer are white-tailed deer that can have a foot-long tail with long white hairs on the underside.  When frightened or at alert because of a strange sound, the tails are raised up as a signal to the others.

These super grazers leap over all but the tallest fences to devour the stems, leaves and buds of many types of plants, including arborvitae, fir, alfalfa and roses.  They also eat fruits and vegetables.

Spring—right now—is when deer are particularly destructive because it is now that the does are either pregnant or nursing fawns while the bucks have antlers that are growing by half an inch each day.  It is also the time to put on lost weight after a cold and nasty winter when much is not available to them.    Your spring gardens with perennials starting to pop and the new annuals that you planted present just a wonderfully nutritious meal for them.

So, what do you do?

First, you must remember that there are really no plants that are completely deer-proof.  When preferred types of food are in short supply, deer will eat almost any kind of garden plant and shrub.  However, there are some plants that they “usually” do not like to eat.  You must learn about those that are unpalatable to the deer such as forsythia. lilac bush, marigolds, zinnias, daffodils, lavender and snapdragons.  Daffodils, foxgloves, monkshood and poppies have toxins deer avoid.  They also dislike fragrant plants like roses, peonies, bearded irises, sages and ornamental salvias.  They say “no-no” to fuzzy or thorny plants like lamb’s ear and spirea, unless they are desperate.  Wouldn’t you?

So, this spring, what should you add to your garden?

gcrfd bleeding hearts

Bleeding hearts are popular with people but not the deer.  With delicate ferny foliage and appealing heart-shaped flowers that hang from graceful, arching stems, this plant looks like a deer menu item but neither deer nor rabbits nor heavy shade deters its spring blossoms.  Bleeding hearts is a perennial.

Another perennial you can use is the Hybrid Astilbe, known as False Spirea. This plant is also happy in a moist, shady area forming mounds of fern-like, medium green foliage and delicate feathery plumes of tiny blooms in many shades.  It blooms from late spring to late summer and is also happy in the sun with constant moisture.  A sprinkler system is the answer for that, or the handy watering can.

If you are a vegetable gardener, you should know that certain plants, such as rhubarb, are toxic to deer. Also, deer usually avoid root vegetables (which require digging) and prickly vegetables such as cucumbers and squashes that have hairy leaves. Finally, cultivars with strong odors such as onionsgarlic and fennel are not palatable to deer.

Protecting your garden from deer (and rabbits, too) is really an integrated approach.  So, after you choose your plants wisely, think about the application of a repellent—homemade or commercial.  Natural chemical repellents have been developed and they are safe to use. Alternating  the use of several of these repellents has proven to bring the most success.

Finally, there is the high fence to install for these high jumping animals!

To help you gather the correct annuals, perennials and vegetables for your garden, Garden Club R.F.D. will have their annual Plant Sale on May 10, 2019, at 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and May 11, 2019, at 9 A.M. to 3 P.M.  Deer resistant plants will be featured—plants that you will love, and the deer won’t!  Master Gardeners will be at our Help Desk to answer any questions you may have and give you information sheets from Rutgers Gardens.

In addition, of course, there will be wonderful hanging baskets, mini roses, herbs and vegetables plus the plants grown in our members’ gardens.  Call Nancy Canade at (973) 452-4846 for further information. 

Garden Club R.F.D. is a non-profit organization and the event helps support their historic site, The Little Red Schoolhouse, and their work in the community—maintaining the herb garden at Marlpit Hall, the planters at the Middletown train station and working with senior residents in Middletown.

We are open to accepting new members and welcome all inquiries.  We are a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey, the Central Atlantic Region of State Garden Clubs, Inc. and the National Garden Clubs, Inc.  Like us on Facebook!

The wonderful world of plants awaits you!