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Gazette Premium Content How to stop the Colorado deer from feasting on your flower garden

By Linda Navarro Published: June 17, 2013

Crunch, crunch. Chew, chew.

Bambi has the munchies - for all those pretty posies you planted in your yard this spring.

So what's a flower lover to do, especially since a hot, dry summer drought could portend a deer stampede looking for sweet, tender plants?

The solutions are as fascinating and varied as the gardeners - or urban legend lovers - who practice them.

The experts at Summerland Gardens say it might take some experimentation but warned that deer will eat almost anything when they're that hungry. Other times deer have just become accustomed to the taste and smell of a flower or plant they might have ignored in the past.

The most universally recommended flowers that might deter deer are marigolds, daffodils and petunias, but don't count on them to always work, say the horticulturists. Also on the not-so-popular-meals lists: hot peppers and sweet basil.

Deer have minds of their own when they're filling their stomachs. Colorado wildlife officers suggest trying to outsmart the deer by adding flowers and plants that have irritating sticky sap or are stinky. Or, how about something like yucca and juniper trees, which have sharp points and apparently smell bad.

Other suggestions: bagging up balls of human hair to place around or hang in the garden or spreading mothballs.

And then there are those ... ummm ... urine recommendations. A newly arrived Colorado Springs resident said her father "pees the perimeter" of his garden in West Virginia. Garden writer Peter Loewer ("Solving Deer Problems," Lyons Press) invites his male guests to go outside after a meal and pee that garden perimeter. Apparently it only works with guys who eat meat, so no vegetarians are invited for the experience.

A whole lot less controversial is spraying urine from predators to the garden, tricking the deer into thinking dangerous, meat-eating creatures are lurking there. Don't worry, this is not a do-it-yourself urine collection. Samples from coyotes, mountain lions, wolves and foxes are available in garden shops.

In addition, garden shops have a variety of deer repellents that are non-toxic and work quite well. Nancy Springston lives in deer country, Teller County, but her flowers are safe and thriving thanks to Feather Meal. She said she spreads a few teaspoons of Feather Meal around her flowers and that's that. The folks at Rick's Garden Center said Feather Meal is preferable to another repellent, blood meal, because it smells horrid to the deer but not the humans and it also acts much like a fertilizer.

At Summerland Gardens, customers with deer problems were being reminded that repeated application of repellents is required during the growing season and definitely after each rain.

COLORADO plants deer (usually) avoid

Trees: White fir, Colorado spruce, pinon pine, common juniper, Rocky Mountain maple, hackberry and honeylocust.

Shrubs: Lead plant, potentilla, Austrian copper rose, quince, blue mist spirea, winged euonymus, golden currant, lilacs, Oregon grape holly and pyracantha.

Ground covers: Creeping mahonia, English ivy, thyme and snow-in-summer.

Perennials: Purple coneflower, peony, blazing star, Shasta daisy, Mexican hat coneflower, lily-of-the-valley and Russian sage.

Herbs: Marjoram, sweet basil and lavender.

Source: Colorado State University Extension

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