By Allen Hamrick
People have been gardening since time became record and record became history. It has never been easy, and it has broke many people down when the garden plot was all they had to feed their families. We began as hunters and gatherers and have become what we now know as the self sufficient gardener, as long as there is a Kroger within driving distance.
Prior to the seeds going into the ground, at least six or seven seed catalogs arrive in the mail with mouth watering photos of vegetables, beautiful flowers and fruit trees. You sit at the table and plan your order at least a month in advance before tilling begins. You envision your garden yielding bushels of food that any seed catalog would be proud to take pictures of. As a matter of fact, you will have so much that you will be able to help the people in the community whose garden didn’t yield nearly as much as yours. You pat yourself on the back knowing the cellar will be full and many families will be fed from the mountain of green beans you will have. Not only do you have the greenest thumb, but your whole hand is green.
Planting season comes in before you know it, and it’s time to start putting the sweat into your dream and get some plants and seeds in the ground. At the end of the first day, your desire to feed the community dwindles a little when your back feels like the tiller ran over your spine. The seed catalogs become decoration on the inside of the chicken house shortly thereafter. However, you plow on donning your bib overalls day after day. You stack tools and seed in the wheel barrow, or on the four wheeler, and head to the house size garden you call a homestead. Soon all the rows are planted and you breathe a sigh of relief knowing you did all you could do until the weeds start taking over. You pray for rain, but until it happens, you fill the rain barrel you installed on the side of the canning shed with five gallon buckets of water from the creek.
A couple of weeks go by, the seeds and plants are finally starting to show signs of life and you’re well pleased with the results so far. A couple of rain storms and a few weeks of hoeing later and your garden is starting to look great; you can just see the green beans in the quart jar with brand new lids. You go to bed, wake up on a beautiful, sunny day, and life is good. Your hands are a little calloused, but you’re good with that. You fire up the coffee maker to get your daily dose of hot java and the possible donut left over from last week’s birthday party before heading out to your garden to do some much-needed hoeing. You grab the wheelbarrow and before you get to the garden, you know something is wrong because the birds aren’t singing like they used to. There it is – all your field corn that you were going to grind into cornbread making meal is on the ground. The lettuce heads look as though they are all shot with double Ot-6 buckshot, and the beans are mowed down to nothing but a stub sticking out of the ground. The baby tomatoes that were just breaking out of the bloom are half eaten, and the only thing left standing are the hot peppers. You stand there in disbelief and feel as though someone ate your last Slim Jim. Why, why, why you ask yourself. The aluminum pie pans were supposed to work and the five miles of VHS tape you strung around the garden was supposed to even keep Satan out. Alas, your garden is ruined, and you have to start the process all over.
Deer, raccoon, rabbits, bugs, worms and bears all had a hand in destroying your garden in one night. It is as if they think that your sole purpose is to provide them with a giant salad bar for their enjoyment. It’s payback time, and you set up vigils every night in the foxhole at the corner of the pig pen with your trusty Ot-6. It won’t happen again you declare, but it does because they know you’re there and will not approach the kill zone until you give up.
Has this ever happened to you? Sure, it has. It happens to everybody who works hard only for it to be taken away by the masses of wildlife who belly up to our gardens. One sure way to get it back is that instead of veggies, its meat you put in the freezer. The only trouble is you can’t stand there with the Ot-6 every minute of the day trying to keep deer and other problem animals from gorging themselves on your hard work. People say, “Well, they have to eat, too.” Show me someone who says that, and I’ll show you somebody who has never felt a hoe handle in their hands. So, what do you do? This article is to give you some alternatives to the Ot-6 method, although I’m not against it. However, check with the local DNR for a permit. Pie pans, VHS tape, six foot fences, electric fences, hidden fences, live traps, booby traps and marigold flowers have all been used in the war against wildlife. In many ways, they work, but I do believe the animals are getting smarter and are getting past these defenses. Marigolds are always a good bet to plant around the perimeter of the garden as a first line of defense and so are the pie pans and tape, but this year there is a new item that is sure to make them think twice. An item called Shake Away is new for 2021 and is in most seed catalogs. The granules are made from coyote urine and fox urine, and you just shake them in the areas you know that deer, rabbit and raccoon are coming in. There is one thing these destroyers all have in common- they are afraid of coyotes and won’t come near where one has urinated. These granules are highly effective according to the manufacturer. Another new item for 2021 is called Deer-X, a 3/4 inch polypropylene mesh that helps with deer problems. It is very strong and can be used for a number of things. It comes in two sizes: 7’ by 100’ and 14’ by 75’.
These are just a couple of new items that are on the market this gardening season that have high hopes of succeeding in the wildlife war for garden independence. While all the other old time remedies do work, these are a couple more items you can use in your arsenal. I do believe the only solution to 100 percent riddance of deer or other animals is an eight foot fence with a roof, but it is not feasible for most gardeners. You can only do what you can, and when you do so, you will get plenty of food whether it’s by careful observation and due diligence or by the Ot-6 and a permit.