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Gardening: Protect your garden from hungry deer as heat, drought force them to look for anything green to eat

Polypropylene deer fencing is a sure way to keep hungry deer out of the garden. The mesh is heavy enough to withstand a charging deer and will last 20 years or more out in the sun.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
Polypropylene deer fencing is a sure way to keep hungry deer out of the garden. The mesh is heavy enough to withstand a charging deer and will last 20 years or more out in the sun. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

There is the hint of a cool down in the long-range forecast but it’s now August and the usual gardening challenges are still there. Let’s check out a couple.

With this hot weather, vegetation and the water sources in the wild are drying up, and deer will be seeking out our nicely watered gardens for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the foreseeable future. Because it’s so dry, they will likely be snacking on stuff they usually don’t eat. So, it’s time to get a good deer repellent on your favorite plants.

Over the years I’ve used several commercial brands including Plantskydd, Liquid Fence and Deer Off, and all have worked well although Plantskydd stinks when you first put it on. You can find all kinds of recipes online for homemade deer repellents. However, irrigation or rain can easily wash it off the plants and you must reapply them frequently. Commercial sprays have a strong fixative agent that keeps the spray on the plants for several weeks. Mechanical repellents like lights, soap, hair and sprinklers might work for a couple of weeks but the deer get used to them and ignore them.

The most reliable deterrent is a 7-foot fence around the garden and tied to the ground. Yes, deer will crawl under them if they can find a spot.

Fences can be of field or chicken wire, or polypropylene mesh set on sturdy posts. Wire fences will last for decades but are harder and more expensive to install and look like a fortress in the end. The polypropylene fence is a heavy-duty material with a 1¾- to 2-inch mesh that can withstand a deer crashing into it at full speed. This is much heavier than the commonly available mesh found in most stores. I have used this mesh for more the 20 years and the one buck that did crawl under the fence and got surprised by my husband took out the wood posts but didn’t break the fencing.

A bug issue we are likely to see with this hot, dry weather is spider mites – tiny, yellowish, greenish or reddish eight-legged mites that are found most often on the underside of a variety of plant leaves. The presence of a fine web may be the first clue of their presence.

Spider mites feed on plant juices and during hot, dry weather they feed more vigorously to keep from dehydrating. High populations can cause leaves or needles to become yellowed, a condition called chlorosis. In severe infestations, plants can be defoliated or killed.

Insecticidal soap sprays can be used to control the mites, but you must get to the underside of the leaves to reach them. An even simpler method is to blast plants with a strong spray of water to dislodge them from the plant every couple of weeks through the rest of the summer. This breaks up the population and slows down feeding. This also doesn’t disturb the beneficial insects that might already be feeding on the mites.

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Correspondent Pat Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com

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