Garden Detective

Jessica Damiano's award-winning garden blog gets to the root of things.

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Are deer decimating your garden?

A deer stands in the yard of a

A deer stands in the yard of a house on Rambler Road in Southold. (Aug. 1, 2012) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

This week's column looks at the growing deer population and what it means for gardeners (destroyed plants) and residents in general (lots of ticks, Lyme and other disease risks).

I'm very well aware of the issues and challenges created by deer in not-too-distant lands, but (and I would never gloat -- just stating a fact), my neighbors and I are completely unaffected, as I live in western Nassau. Out East (and in Westchester County and other points north), there's an entirely different story to tell.

Just to illustrate the differences, I present an email I received about a week ago from a reader named Pete. He writes:

Hi Jessica,

I know that a lot of gardeners try to keep deer away from their plants and vegetables. My question is a little different -- I love looking out the window and seeing deer. I live in Hauppauge, and the LILCO right-of-way adjoins my property (fenced). I was wondering how I could maybe attract them to stop by and "hang out"? The other day, we spotted three deer right by my window, but they soon moved on. Is there a way I can put some treats out for them to regularly stop by and nibble? Would you suggest some hay? I don't want to put out apples, because I don't want to attract other critters like raccoons and such. Is there something that they like that other animals don't like?

Hi, Pete,

I know a lot of people who consider rabbits a plague on their gardens, and yet when we're "lucky" enough to spot one, it's a big deal ("Quick, kids! Grab the camera! There's a rabbit out in the yard! Shhh! Don't scare him away!") This kind of behavior would be ludicrous if the rabbits were multiplying like, well, rabbits in my neighborhood, and eating up all the blood, sweat and tears in my garden. In that case, the conversation might go something like, "Quick! Grab the slingshot!" (I'm kidding -- so please don't hate-mail me with how-could-you-advocate-killing-bunnies letters.)

After reading about the plight of deer-sticken gardeners, you might still want to lure those cutie pies to your garden, but you'll understand why it's not a good idea. I will, however, say that deer love to eat arborvitae trees, hollyhocks, impatiens, crocuses, daylilies, hostas, roses and tulips. Most readers would take that information and avoid planting them. You can do what you wish with it.

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