I vowed never to write another post about deer and rabbit damage in my yard. Oh well. Here's another one. This one's about systemic animal repellents, whose existence I stumbled upon late last year. Several online reviewers called them a waste of time, but the majority deemed them a godsend. Since I was in the market for a good miracle, in early spring I tore down my useless fishing line barrier and gave them a try.
A recap for those who tuned in late: My neighborhood is overrun with deer and rabbits. I am an idiot who refuses to give up Asiatic lilies and phlox. I have tried almost every repellent in the book. Sprays, the shock treatment, dog hair, and netting didn't do the job, so in desperation I added a fishing line barrier to the garden. It was supposed to be unobtrusive but instead it was an eyesore. Plus it didn't work.
I was this close to digging out all the plants that get eaten (i.e., pretty much everything) and coming to terms with a garden composed entirely of salvia and ornamental grasses when I read about systemic repellents. Finally, a glimmer of hope. I decided to hold off for one more season before throwing Lilium Pearl Jennifer and her over-appetizing amigos into the compost bin of history.
Let me state for the record that I am generally opposed to systemics (although Prozac is very nice). But I did my research and these seemed okay from an ecological standpoint. Repellex, the brand sold in the U.S., states that its product is "made from natural ingredients that are completely safe and humane... there are no harmful poisons or pesticides..." The active ingredient is capsaicin; it is taken up through the roots and makes the plant taste hot. Repellex adds that the product has "zero" impact on bees and other pollinators. Several online reviewers backed this up.
Systemic repellents have two big selling points: they are applied only once per season and they don't wash off. Apply when active growth begins in spring; in about 4 weeks, the magic formula is absorbed into the plant and a profusion of gloriously unpalatable blooms will commence.
Some reviewers deemed it a miracle, but if it worked in my garden "miracle" would be an understatement. It would be more like a super miracle, or a miracle squared. No more racing out with a bottle of Liquid Fence after the umpteenth summer downpour. No more disappearing daylily buds. No more heartache. No more rage.
So I tried it. I applied it to new growth beginning in late February (early spring in Raleigh, North Carolina). Now, as the daylily buds have showed their tempting little faces, the verdict is in. Can this garden be saved? I'll let the pictures tell the story.
May 28, 2018 and here's what's being eaten: asiatic lilies (no bulb protection, it seems), daylilies, sedum, aster, phlox, and lately, the monarda (yes, the deer eat my bee balm). On the plus side, the buttonbush has been nipped but should actually bloom for the first time ever. The heuchera and turtlehead have mostly been left alone and the vernonia is more in tact than it was in past years. Another positive: it looks as if the repellent has actually been pretty effective against rabbits, since most of the damage I'm seeing - even on the asters - is from deer.
So go ahead and try it - it may be the answer to your prayers. If you've been gardening for more than 10 minutes you understand that the repellent (systemic or otherwise) that works like a dream in Garden A. can be a flop in Garden B. Sadly, I have Garden B.
Southerners like to say that "you can't fix stupid," but I'm here to prove "Oh yes you can." Enough is enough. I surrender.
Here's the kicker (and I swear I am not making this up): Just after I made this decision, I got a bona fide Sign From On High, straight out of the Bible's Baby Moses story.
A newborn fawn spent yesterday hiding out in my perennial sunflower. Now when a mother deer thinks your garden is a good spot to leave her baby while she runs some errands, someone is trying to tell you something.
Salt lick, anyone?
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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