Deer, Blueberries and Bears, Oh My!
April 25, 2017 4:46 PM   Subscribe

We are working on the landscaping of our Northern Wisconsin (zone 3) home. I am trying to pick plants that are deer (and bear) resistant. I just found out that I can grow blueberries! My head says, no - it will attract deer and bear, but my heart wants blueberry bushes. Go with my head or my heart?

I realize no plant is safe from a hungry deer. We've seen 2 bears on the property over the past 12 years, so while they are not omnipresent, they are there. I do plan on erecting a fence, once we start a vegetable garden (in retirement), but these would not be enclosed by a fence.
posted by sarajane to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From a head standpoint, do you currently have any planting that will attract deer? If not, are you prepared to deal with a potential increase in ticks? (I'm a sucker, there's a young buck who has adopted our backyard bird feeders, this is a bad tick year here, and the first time we've had to spray our yard, extrapolate that to your yard if possible?)

I'd most likely plant them anyway. But I'm a sucker and admit that our strawberries went to the squirrels last year.
posted by librarianamy at 5:08 PM on April 25, 2017

Wildlife will eat any sort of fruit before a human thinks it's ripe, but you can take steps.

We have a plant that was eaten down to stumps by the deer every year. I bought a little bit of wire edging and criss-crossed the top with twine. The was enough that the deer left it alone. They don't like to stick their nose into in anything. Eventually, I moved to a higher fence, also with twine. I suspect that if you cover your blueberries with an appropriate garden netting, you can save the berries from the deer and the birds. Ask a nursery near you.

I can guarantee that it will work, but it's not an expensive experiment.

I've seen Michigan blueberries in the market here in Connecticut on occasion.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Deer haven't been a problem for our blueberry bushes. We have had occasional problems with deer eating some garden plants like broccoli, but they don't seem that interested in the blueberries. (We do put netting over them to keep birds from eating them.) At the time of year blueberries are ripening, there are a lot of other wild foods out there, so I wouldn't expect your berries to be such a draw that deer or bears would be coming onto your property just to eat them. Blueberries aren't that much work. If I were you, I'd plant some and see what happens.
posted by Redstart at 5:55 PM on April 25, 2017

I am in Western MA w/both blueberry bushes of varying kinds and bears (my husband is expert at unbending shepherds hooks after the deer take them down from the bird feeders).

By the time you have actual blueberries, you are fighting birds, not bears. Drive a stake into the ground, throw a jar on the top, and throw bird netting on top of that (it makes the whole thing easier to deal with.

Plant a bush or two for the birds and a bush or two for yourselves.

No worries.

(I have a thing about fighting for berries every other year--if I fought every year it would be tedious but if it's every other I'm like, 'blueberry year!')
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:28 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have blueberry bushes, and deer. The deer don't bother them. We have to fight the birds, but the deer seem to ignore them.
posted by teatime at 12:42 AM on April 26, 2017

I you want to go a bit more exotic you could grow some gooseberries. I've a few gooseberry bushes on the allotment and they tend to not be hit that bad by birds. I'm not sure about how deer would attack them, but I bet not that much because they are thorny and therefore not that tasty. I don't have to net them in the summer (I think I got more when I did net them but I also pruned them properly as well so not sure if it was the netting or the pruning that increased the yeild I get more than enough without netting or pruning)

While you can buy blueberries when I was in the States I couldn't find gooseberries anywhere. They also make very good country wine.
posted by koolkat at 5:55 AM on April 26, 2017

Bears will eat anything and little will deter them from getting at it if they are hungry enough, in my experience. In my home village up in Northern Canada, bears regularly come in to eat the wild blueberries in the surrounding bush. And if things are lean and the blueberries (talking wild blueberries not high bush variety) under produce they'll be a bit more aggressive. Last year, which was a lean year, we saw one in a crab apple tree on someone's front lawn and some were breaking into garages to get at garbage in the fall as examples. Even sometimes during the day. When I was a kid, and before the village was amalgamated into a town, we used to have a bear trap (non lethal) beside the dumpster of my school which occasionally would catch bears.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:32 AM on April 26, 2017

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