By Polly Keary, Editor
Trillium has only just started to bloom at the Fales Lake Road home of Master Gardener Program Coordinator Howard Voland.
But already many of the blooms are gone, only clipped stalks remaining in their place. For the first time since he moved there, deer have invaded, and the flowers are among their favorite foods.
The Sky Valley is host to a great many hungry vertebrates, and dissuading them all can present quite a challenge.
Here are the methods known to be most effective at keeping three of the area’s most prevalent raiders out of your crops.
Deer are among the hardest animals to keep out of your garden. Able to jump very high fences, they find flowers and garden plants
“Tender new rose shoots are like candy to deer, especially the buds and blooms,” said Voland.
A six-foot high chicken wire fence will keep deer out of most places, but that is a lot of work to install and a pain to maneuver.
An easier method is to spray your plants with repellants. There are commercial repellants at garden stores, but some gardeners do well with homemade products.
“A lot of herbivores don’t like eggs,” said Dave Pehling, pest management specialist with the WSU Community Horticulture office in Bothell. “I’ve mixed egg and milk and sprayed it on the roses. My horse would eat the roses and it kept the horses off.”
Repellants can be labor intensive; you need to reapply them after every rain. And they are as heavily regulated as are pesticides.
Another trick, said Pehling, is to lay chicken wire out flat on the ground around flower beds, gardens and fruit trees.
“Deer hate to step on it and they can’t see it well enough to jump it,” he said.
One product that is both non-toxic and low-labor is a scare device such as the Scarecrow.
“It’s a motion-activated sprinkler,” said Pehling. “It sprays and clacks and makes a lot of racket and since it’s intermittent, it’s effective.”
Electric fencing can work as well, and two 48 inch tall strands, several feet apart can do the trick.
One of the most persistent and clever animals to raid local gardens is the raccoon. The hungry beasts will eat nearly anything, from garbage to the grease on your barbecue, and fresh fruits and veggies are high their list of favorites.
Raccoons can easily climb over wooden or wire fences. Nearly the only way to keep a raccoon out of a garden is to surround it with a low electric fence with two electrified wires, 12 and 18 inches off the ground.
To keep raccoons from climbing your fruit trees and raiding the fruit, look for a raccoon guard, which look at bit like a wide lampshade that you can attach to the trunk of your tree. Also, wrapping a two-foot long piece of sheet metal, fastened with nails or screws, around the trunk of a tree can keep a raccoon from getting enough purchase on it to climb.
The bad news is that it only takes one or two moles to ruin your lawn. The good news is that you only have to get rid of one or two moles to make the problem go away.
It used to be possible to buy body-traps for moles, but an unintended consequence of a law banning leg-hold traps was that those mole traps are no longer available.
If you have mole tunnels on your property, you can try to use large rat traps, although they function poorly in the narrow tunnels.
Moles create the tunnels as a hunting method; they patrol the tunnels in search of worms that fall into them.
So there is a bait called Sweeney’s Poison Mole Worm, an imitation worm that contains a poison. Pehling said he hasn’t found them terribly effective.
The best way to address a mole problem can be to flatten the hills with a shovel in the spring and let the lawn dry out over the summer. Dry dirt means less worms, which means poorer hunting for the moles.