Oh deer. How does your garden grow?
The task of gardening looms large before us. There are all kinds of creatures out there, from ants to deer and everything in between. Lots of ants. Lots of deer. So very, very many deer.
I have read up on which plants seem to deter deer and which don't. Apparently anything in the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes and irises, are deer resistant. The bad news is that nothing appears to be deer-proof. If they are hungry enough, deer will eat anything. And this area is seriously overpopulated with white tail deer.
"Dem äter allt. Allt."
"They eat everything. Everything," our new neighbor said when she stopped by to introduce herself. She walked up the lane one sunny morning, carrying her Nordic walking sticks.
Gunilla-Britt is a woman in her seventies. She has lived in the same house on the bay her entire life. She has known every generation of the family that lived in our house before us, and now she came to meet us. She heard about us, the new owners, from the other neighbors.
Gunilla-Britt told us where the apple trees used to be in our garden. She recommended that we collect rain water in barrels for our flowers. She extolled the joys of growing your own potatoes.
And she told us it's nearly impossible to keep the deer away. When they are hungry enough, they eat anything and everything.
A few days later, I walked up the lane to check out Gunilla-Britt's deer prevention strategies. I didn't take photos of her garden (privacy), but it's masterful. She grows tall orange lilies, potatoes, apples, berries and all kinds of flowers I didn't recognize. Her garden is completely decked out, booby-trapped for deer with all kinds of gadgets and strategies. She has hung nylon stockings around the place with smelly stuff like soap in them. She has erected three-meter wire fences around her apple trees. She has wind chimes to scare the deer away from her vegetable garden, and she has a dense array of yellow tape encircling and flapping about around her potato patch.
Yesterday we drove to a neighboring town, and I noticed even more deer deterrents along the way. One house had a store-front style mannequin, complete with a blond wig, set up in the garden.
It all starts to feel a bit hopeless about the deer. So far I haven't even managed to keep the ants away from my cucumber plants.
How does your garden grow?
Now it's August, and there is a limit to what is feasible. I scratched part of my gardening itch by putting in a few marigolds and echinacea flowers. So far, they are still there, and that's encouraging.
There are three plantings I'd like to accomplish now in the early fall: rhubarb, irises and tulips.
I am thinking of putting the rhubarb here, next to one of the rose bushes. Apparently rhubarb likes cleared out soil with no competing roots, so I took care of that. This space is about 1.5 meters square.
The rose bushes should offer some kind of natural deterrent for the deer, and on the other side there is steep rock, and on another is our house.
I also read that rhubarb thrives best if it has a good view of the sea. Just kidding.
This area gets partial shade, but enough sun during parts of the day so that rhubarb should survive. It is also well drained. Now if I could find someone who is willing to part with a rhubarb start or two so that I could get it into the ground before the first freeze.
I want this pile of thistles and nettles to eventually be home to my irises.
Somehow my mother managed to coax the most beautiful beds of purple bearded irises out of the alkali soil of western Utah, where I grew up. Can I do the same here?
Again, the biggest challenge will be keeping the deer out of them. This part of the garden is next to a wooded area, so it's hard to control.
I have so many questions. What can I plant along with irises that will bloom later in summer, but can share the same ground space? Will deer eat iris bulbs during the winter? And where is the best place to get iris bulbs in Finland?
This area, just next to the lane that goes in front of our house, is where I plan to plant tulips. Who doesn't love tulips?
Apparently the deer really love them, especially the nice spring shoots just when they are coming up. Like candy.
I spent most of an afternoon hacking away brambles and self-starting trees from this mound at the front of our house ... only to find that, underneath all that foliage, this section of earth is home to a collection of wild strawberry plants.
Smultron. 'Wild strawberries' in English. Smultron is one of my favorite words in Swedish. It sounds like something a smurf would eat.
Obviously I don't want to get rid of all of the smultron plants, but can they be in the same root space as tulips?
And I am really perplexed about how to keep deer out of my tulip plants, because there is no fence separating our property from the lane. I read something about sprinkling dried chili peppers all over the ground where the tulips grow, but I think it's going to take a lot of chilis to keep the deer out.
All suggestions are welcome.