Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deerproofing Your Florida Garden Using Your Kids Toys

I swore last year that I would not invest time and effort in a vegetable garden again until I had mastered the art of deerproofing. Nothing I tried seemed to be working.

  • Old dogs who never come off the porch and can't see too well proved to be pretty ineffective.

  • Sheer dumb luck seemed to work for awhile, but the deer always seemed to figure it out right before the veggies peaked.

  • A weird jangle of ropes and palmetto fronds to give the illusion of a fence fit my budget (0$) for garden enhancement, but proved ineffective as the deer realized that it was just a weird jangle of ropes and palmetto fronds the night before I was going to pick my green beans.
It became pretty clear that I was actually going to need to spend money on fencing materials if I was ever going to get a return on my gardening efforts.
Ever efficient (cheap) I turned to an old treehousey thing I had built by recycling the kiddie timber swingy playgroundy thing after the kids outgrew it.

Are ya following that okay? See, I bought pressure treated lumber to build the playground thing about 18 years ago, then after the kids got bigger than the swings, I took it apart and recycled the lumber into a treehousey thing ... which they are now too big for obviously.
(Although some kids never outgrow kid stuff)

Now the pressure treated 4x4's that served the kids in 2 different structures, are serving as extra tall fence posts in my deer proofed garden.

If you factor out the arsenic the kids absorbed while playing on these structures, that's some pretty good recycling of wood ... all thanks to pressure treatment.

I bolted the tall 4x4's to the short existing hog pen fence posts and then strung 4 foot high fencing above the 3 foot high hog panels to create a 7 foot fence, which so far has kept the mammals of mass destruction out of the garden.

Those are newly transplanted datil pepper plants in the pots. Pots in Florida tend to get really hot and dry out in our powerful sunlight, so I like to bury them partially.
Some folks paint them white, but I'm pretty sure paint costs money so I dig holes for free.

The little holes with white beans in them are my intercropping experiment. I'm planting Gator Green bush beans around the peppers to maximize space and provide a cool shady ground cover.

You can go mad trying to arrange photos in sequence using Picasa's collage feature, so I stopped here.
Use your powerful 3.5 pound brain to imagine the damaged leaf at the upper left and the upper left caterpillar in the lower left.

Got it?

Okay, let's proceed ...

I was checking out the tomato progress yesterday when I noticed the chewed branch.
He's here somewhere.

It took a little while because tomato hornworms have excellent cryptic coloration. They also have the clever behavioral adaptation of clinging to the underside of the stalk and holding perfectly still when they sense movement.

Alas, it was not enough to save him from this primate equipped with that powerful brain and the opposable thumb required to pick his green butt off the plant and deliver him to the two LOTR roosters as a snack.

My tomato varieties are Better Boy, Grape, Heatwave, and some miscellaneous bush cherries. The pepper in the picture is a Cowhorn pepper. I've never grown them before and they have a nice heat.

Any recipe ideas for that pepper?

Not pictured, but also in the garden are sweet potatoes, bell peppers, jabenero peppers, jalepeno peppers, cukes, and squash.

I plan to deer proof the second adjoining hog pen also, so I can expand the production.

Pretty sad that with 10 acres, my garden is limited to the size of a suburbanite's backyard garden.

You'd think that with 442,225 square feet of PFHQ natural habitat, the deer could leave my 256 square foot garden plot alone.

But noooooo ...

So I build my DEerFENCES and wait.

Meanwhile, deep in the shade of the PFHQ oak forest, the ungrateful ungulates watch and plot their next move.


jojo said...

why not as a ruse build a deer garden? then everyone is happy?

so u locked the pig up in an area. and then let him root it a bit. then you plant. sounds brilliant. i wonder if i could get mine to do that.

Anonymous said...

By jove I think you've got It. Those worms are eating machines, fast workers ,too. Looks like you got a well laid plan there FC, but only time will tell. Don't forget those pesty racoons. They can get into any thing.
Bro J

lesle said...

"...ungrateful ungulates...." I laughed out loud when I read this--you made my day. Language and rural rumination at its best! Thank you.

Susan said...

Thanks for investing your time into an "edge of your seat" gardening presentation. Your writing skills really make this interesting.

Gardening truly is like playing chess... with the local deer population.

This year, because the deer think MY two acres is THEIR two acres, my vegetables are either in a container on the deck or in a sunken pot nestled into the shrubs around the house. For my $30+ dollar investment, so far I've gotten one zuchinni, one cubanelle pepper, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. (But I've had fun, putzing around with the plants.)

Anonymous said...

Sounds absolutely great that you are raising that much food. The issue is that you are raising food. Somebody's gonna eat it. Not entirely sure that 3.5 pounds of squishy or opposable thumbs gives anyone an advantage here.

VitaminSea said...

Bet anything your next post will have photos of the deer climbing your fence. Who knew? LOL!

I don't have deer problems, (obviously) but I did have the tomato hornworm problem as shown in my last post. Thank you for identifying it for me!

We have a lot of wasps and birds around and I believe that's why I haven't seen the hornworm since, nor has there been any further damage. (knocking on wood!)

If his cousins come back, I'll be ready!

I like that garden, btw. All that hard work paid off! And I hear ya on picasa limitations. You would think they'd come up with an update to fix that little flaw!

caroline said...

I'm with Susan, my tomatoes and peppers, etc. are in big pots up on one of 2 decks. Ungulates are very grateful here for anything you want to offer, including fuzzy, prickly leaved things like hollyhocks and summer squash. (Insert gnashing of teeth here,) I have both white-tails and mule deer, so what one doesn't like the other takes care of.
I have certified NWF backyard habitat, so I do all to encourage birds to help out with the insect crowd. House wrens regularly scour all those plants on the deck for me, so no hornworms yet. Although I thing wren kidlets might choke to death on that fellow.
Caroline in South Dakota

pablo said...

I think your fencing arrangement looks top notch. I can't imagine what you might have done if you had received a grant to build something even better. (Although if you've visited Fragments from Floyd, you can see that Fred has created a sort of internment camp for his garden!)

Once again you alpha males make the rest of us look puny.

Dani said...

Your veggies look so yummy FC. Hopefully the deer will stay out and you'll be able to enjoy them.

debbie said...

Just this morning I picked my first batch of ripe tomatoes. The rest of the garden is coming along nicely. I also plant everything in large pots or tubs up on my deck. I need the plants close to the house so that the dogs can scare the squirrels off.

threecollie said...

Your garden looks great. Your deer eat squash too don't they? Oh, oh, my upper garden isn't fenced...

Floridacracker said...

Nothing like a swine tiller!

Bear just brought me a coon skull so there's apparently one less bandit around here.

Thanks. Words are our friends.

I thought of the chess analogy too, but since I don't play, I was afraid I'd use the wrong term.
Good luck with your veggies!

Don't count my tomatoes before they hatch. The jury is still out on whether I'm actually raising food!

Good for your birds!
Ihave a bird house or two right next to the garden in the hope that I'll get extra pest control, plus I keep a brushy pile of branches for lizard lounging. The are good pest patrollers too.

Same birdy philosophy here. I'll trade a few blueberries to the cardinals if the wrens will eat the caterpillars.

Funny, because I refer to it as my plant prison.

I hope so. I do enjoy the deer too, I just don't want to share my garden.

Squirrels! Arrgghhh. Don't get me started.
Lucky you on the tomatoes, mine are all green still.

The'll eat the squash and the vine ... to the ground.

amarkonmywall said...

Tomatoes and peppers- hurrah! Everything is looking good. Between the hornworms and those giant grasshoppers it's hard to keep a garden pest free in Florida, even without a bunch of deer wandering around. My tomatoes and peppers are flourishing on the third floor urban balcony- I'll post an updated picture soon.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I think you got 'em whipped this time, Cracker. Nice save, or savings.

edifice rex said...

I had to break down and fence my garden completely also because of the deer, and the raccoons, and rabbits... Fortunately, being one of them thar construction workers I was able to procure plenty of free fencing material. And gag! you creep me out holding one of those NASTY hornworms in.. your.. hand!! Eeewww.

wayne said...

I don't comment much, but as you can see from my ID, I am an American living in the Yucatan Peninsula. On an island in fact. At any rate, your spelling of habenero caught my eye. I have never seen it spelled with a "j". (see It is originally from Havana, Cuba and cultivated and used widely here. As is the Jalapeno. That pepper comes from the area around Xalapa, Veracruz. (sometimes spelled with a "j" but pronounced as an American "h". Here's a quick salsa for the habenero.

Dice peppers, seeds and all, into tiny pieces.
Add a dash of salt.
Add fresh lime juice.
Add enough olive oil to make about 1/2 cup liquid.

It is firey hot but you can't stop eating it! Great on everything fishy, rice and chicken.

Love your blog and wish I still had my red Wrangler!

Rurality said...

It will be interesting to see if that works! I'd heard they can jump 7' if motivated. :)

Oh and tell Annie she's being a GIRL about the hornworm. Heh.

edifice rex said...

Am not! hehehehe!

Floridacracker said...

So are you still happy with those earth boxes?
They looked so lush the last time you posted about them.

How are you?
I seem to have whipped them, but it only takes one to get in there and wreck it.

Ha! So welders are creeped out by soft baby moths!
Who knew!

Welcome to Pure Florida!
I'm not sure why I spelled it that way either, I must have just been flowing.
Thanks for that recipe, I will try it.
Glad you commented!

These are subtropical deer, typically not motivated to exert in the heat.
I think Annie got the message!

Miz S said...

So you are both handy and thrifty, huh? You would like my brother. He teaches high school Latin and raises goats and chickens on the side. He would SO approve of the recycling of the old playset/treehouse.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet you need a roof on that garden!

billg8tr said...

I like the way you recycle, or never get rid of stuff, as my wife calls it. It was pretty serendipitous to pull up your blog this morning, we discussed removing the kids swingset/playfort last night to make room for a garden in our back yard. I came to Pure Florida this morning and said "No Way!" I am nowhere near the master gardener that you are, I have only managed to grow tomatoes, watermelons and pineapples. We have decided that since everything costs so darn much we should try to grow some real food. One good thing is, I do not have to combat the deer, only the possums and coons. Thanks for the laughs.

Floridacracker said...

Miz S,
Rumors of my handiness have been greatly exaggerated ... by me, mostly.

Thanks for that link!
Welcome to Pure Florida!

Master gardener?
I wish!
Pineapples? That's pretty masterful I'd say.