You ain't messin with my garden
June 5, 2014 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Teach me how to garden. We are in Zone 7 in Southern US with one plot that gets full sun and another that gets partial sun. Our flowers keep dying or being eaten by deer. Help.

We have a lovely little garden plot and two planters. We also have no idea what we are doing. We've planted petunias, pansies, dusty millers, and marigolds; the plots are also full of Solomon's seal that we really like and are glad is growing.

However, we seem to be having terrible luck. Despite spreading fox urine, deer keep eating our plants. They ate all the lilies we planted last weekend. Our marigolds, which are deer resistant, are just drying up and dying. The petunias and pansies are OK but get eaten by deer often. We planted a bunch of succulents and hostas and the deer chomped those up, too.

We are getting sick of spending money and time to feed deer, or to just watch pretty flowers wither and die immediately. We've been mixing good fertilized soil with the natural soil, breaking up the roots a bit when planting and wetting them, and planting things in the ground with enough distance between them as per the instructions - but even with regular watering, our plants are just all dead. We had a marathon planting session on Sunday and absolutely nothing survived the deer or what I assume is the heat (it's been hot here, but it's the South - it is always hot in the summer).

Are there other flowering plants that are super easy to take care of that we should plant? What the heck are we doing wrong? The previous owner of the house had a huge, beautiful garden here, so it's something that can be done (just apparently not by us). We are total novices, but we really enjoy the activity, so we'd like to keep doing it - but not if it's just a waste of money and time. Hope us, metafilter, please!
posted by sockermom to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
We also planted a bunch of other stuff but it is all dead or got eaten and I forgot the names of those plants. This has been a vicious cycle for months.
posted by sockermom at 10:21 AM on June 5, 2014

What state or area do you live in? It helps to give more specialized advice. And are you looking for annuals, perennials, or any type of plant in particular?
posted by strelitzia at 10:50 AM on June 5, 2014

Where in the South ? What do you want to grow ? A prize winning garden, or stuff that works and is pretty ?

Deer mostly leave my lilies alone. They'll munch on the first-sprint-shoots a bit, but lilies thrive.

They'll leave liriope alone as well. (Rabbits will eat the purple flower stems).

The seem to leave clematis alone.

A better resource, as always for all gardening questions, is your local county extension office and/or master gardeners group.

eg Virginia: For deer and drought tolerant.

A fence keeps the deer out of my little garden (12x12ish, a wire-mesh 3' tall fence).

I also engage in legal urban archery to reduce the population and fill my freezer. Check your local listings, talk to neighbors and homeowners assn.
posted by k5.user at 10:52 AM on June 5, 2014

A) One of the things I dislike most about the USDA zones is that it was 1) originally geared towards productive plants (farming and vegetable plants) and 2) it's based off of minimum winter temperatures, so there's very little in it about heat and humidity, which can kill your plants just as quickly. I found while gardening in the south that it was best to rely on something like the Sunset climate zones, which split the country into different zones based off climate year round, and southern gardening resources. For example, these resources would tell you that in many areas of the south, pansies are a winter/spring/fall plant, not a summer one.

Also, certain big box stores are not very good at carrying plants for their locations, and it's better to go to a local gardening resource if you didn't for their recommendations. So my first recommendation is that you gather some gardening books tailored for your area (zone 7 Arizona is a lot different than zone 7 Alabama) or other resources like blogs, and plant the flowers they recommend. Many of these books will also have gardening plans, and if you're in a water poor area help with water-wise plantings as well; a good one will even give you a calendar for what you need to do each month.

B) ALL Deer resistant plantings. IMHO experience, "resistant" is just that, and your entire garden has to be deer resistant, not just the border....but it doesn't guarantee anything. A deer will happily step over marigolds to eat your petunias. Even then....there's some good lists out there, like this one from Rutgers, which grade resistance. You might end up setting up a fence. It doesn't have to be chicken wire and posts, though, if you spend some time on pinterest there's some lovely fencing ideas that can work well with gardens.

C) Contact your local extension agent. I don't know what state you're in, but they often are affiliated with universities and the USDA. They are very knowledgeable about local soils, plants, deer resistance, and are there to help the public. Just google "[your state] extension office."
posted by barchan at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in Zone 7a in North Carolina. We want to grow pretty stuff, just stuff that works and is pretty easy to care for. It's extremely humid and hot here. We aren't interested in doing a fence - the landlord doesn't want that on the property. We can't hunt the deer, which is unfortunate, because my boyfriend is good at it.

The pansies and petunias are, weirdly, the only thing thriving right now (aside from the dusty millers).
posted by sockermom at 10:54 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service to start.

Deer are likely to eat many ornamental plants. It is a good idea to choose species that are less likely to be grazed. Please be aware that many lists of deer-resistant plant species include plants that are invasive in the southeastern United States. By cross-checking our list of invasive exotic plants you can avoid these troublesome species. Keep in mind, however, that if deer are hungry enough, they have been known to eat almost any plant. Source: North Carolina Botanical Garden

Fencing already mentioned is a great idea. Perennials like Heuchera and Columbine can add nice visual appeal in a garden if the deer don't eat 'em.

Also, another deer-resistant link.
posted by strelitzia at 11:08 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is the master gardener resource list for North Carolina. I've never met a master gardener who wasn't kind, helpful, and passionate about gardening in their area - give 'em a call! I've had a few good ones even come to me and help me evaluate some problems/needs.

When I was in the south, I really enjoyed The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists. I struggle to remember if N.C. was included, but it was very helpful. (I gave mine away when I left, and even though I don't live there anymore, I still regret it.)

How aggressive are your deer? If they are the type to knock down things, this wouldn't work, but you can build cane fences or wattle fences that aren't permanent structures and keep deer out, and are very easy to dismantle. Even trellises can be enough.

It's still springish/early summer, so be prepared.... also are you sure deer are your only neighborhood pests? It's weird your pansies are doing okay, deer love pansies.

Good luck! Gardening can be quite awesome, and I'd hate for your experience to be ruined so much you never want to do it again.
posted by barchan at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used a different version of the Orbit motion sensor activated sprinkler shown here to deter animals from our home garden. I think that Orbit markets three different versions which all use the same motion sensor but have different support and sprinkler attachments. The sensors can be set for day, night, and always activation. With good water pressure the sprinkler can cover a 30' radius area. I modified mine by adding hose lines with additional sprinklers to cover different areas. The rainbird sprinkler head on the unit makes good amount of noise which I think helps add to the effect for deterring the undesirable critters.
posted by X4ster at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2014

« Older Seeking New Identity   |   Instructions for our house guests? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.