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Skaggs: Drought brings unwanted visitors

POSTED: March 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.

With the ongoing drought, many gardeners are complaining of unwanted critters visiting their landscapes — namely, deer.

As we move into winter, deer browsing becomes even more commonplace.

Pansies, azaleas, camellias and many other plants are the targets of deer feeding.

Across Georgia, the reports of deer making themselves at home in urban and suburban settings continue to increase due to natural areas being replaced by managed grounds.

Nuisance deer are difficult to control in residential communities. While hunting season is open, shooting is not an option for those of us living in subdivisions and neighborhoods, and many citizens are opposed to this method of control.

Planting ornamental plants that deer do not like to eat is a solution to deer browsing. Please remember, though, that very few plants are totally deer-resistant. When deer populations are high and food is scarce, deer are more likely to feed on ornamentals.

Deer prefer tender new foliage on newly-planted ornamentals and those fertilized to produce lush new growth.

Buck deer may also cause considerable damage to young trees by rubbing them with their antlers. Repellents may stop deer from feeding, but it will not stop antler rubbing.

There are a number of commercially available repellents on the market. Contact repellents are applied to the plants, causing them to taste bad. Area repellents are placed in the problem area and repel due to their foul odor.

A study conducted in Connecticut tested six repellents. Generally, repellents were more effective on less-preferred plants. Here are the findings:

Big Game Repellent, also known as Deer Away, made from putrescent (rotten) whole egg solids was 46 percent effective.

Hinder, made from ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids, was 43 percent effective.

Thiram, a bitter-tasting fungicide that is now commonly used in repellents, was 43 percent effective.

Mesh bags of human hair, collected from hair styling shops, was found to be 34 percent effective. (Hair should be dirty, not collected after a shampoo.)

Magic Circle deer repellent, a bone tar oil that was soaked in 10-by-30 centimeter burlap pieces, was 18 percent effective.

Miller Hot Sauce, which contains capsicum, an extract of hot peppers, was 15 percent effective.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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