Thursday, June 27, 2013

Co-existing with Nature

There is a conflict between nature and designed human space.  We like to have our nature neatened up and easily readable with beautiful plants arranged just so.  Nature is just do what it needs to survive, with each of its members seeking out their basic needs: food, shelter and reproduction.  Conflict arises when our focal plantings become a meal or natures breeding habitat becomes a lawn.

In putting in our new garden and new plantings I have been trying to work with nature to achieve my design goals and keep our vegetables ‘safe’ without destroying too much habitat or employing chemical weaponry. 

The double fence has been keeping the deer at bay.  The outer border has been planted with seedlings of
pollinator-friendly perennials.  I may not get too many flowers this year as these plants get established.

To help control garden insects I have left some meadow areas intact that provide habitat for predatory insects.  I have also planted a border around the garden with pollinator friendly plants.  In selecting these plants I chose ones that are listed as deer-resistant.  To combat the beetle population I have a jug of soapy water.  This works well on some of the bugs whose escape strategy is to drop to the ground.  I just hold the jug under them and they drop in when nudged.

Here are some photos of predatory insects that are in the yard.  In addition to these I have seen the 6-spotted Tiger Beetle, very cool!
This nymph of a Wheel Bug looks like something from
the movie, Starship Troopers.
This 2-inch mantid was hopping from stem to stem in a patch of
moss phlox as I was looking for a Tiger Beetle.

Compared to the green sweat flies, Long-legged flies are aptly named.  
This 1/2 inch fly is a general insect predator.

Most of the landscape plantings I have selected are not deer favorites.  For those plants that are on the deer’s menu I have been using repellents that are either scent-based (putrescent eggs) or taste-based (capsaicin/hot pepper).  The hot pepper spray seems to be effective at getting the deer or rabbits to stop feeding on a plant even after they have gotten a first taste. 

You can tell deer damage by the ragged edges they leave where they tear off leaves and stems (deer don't have upper incisors).  Rabbits have sharp teeth and will leave a clean cut, or they will consume a plant right to the ground.  

The following are lists of plants that have I have put in that are 1, deer candy; 2, occasionally browsed; 3, not bothered by deer.  It is still early in the season and these comments are based on how they treat the foliage.  Flowers will be another subject (see some comments).  While it is risky to proclaim a plant to be deer proof, I have not seen any damage to the plants on this list (yet).

The buds on this Magnolia were being eaten off
until I put on the chicken wire cage 
1.  Heavily Browsed
Apios americana 
Helianthus tuberosus 
Magnolia virginiana 
Rudbekia triloba 
Campanulastrum americanum* 
Zizia aurea

*These were very small and eaten to the ground so rabbits or some other critters were responsible for this damage. 

The pinnate leaves of the ground nut have been
chewed off in more exposed locations

This Jerusalem Artichoke was being browsed to the ground until the fences went up.
Now (June 27) these are 6-7 feet tall.

This Filipendula was nearly ready to bloom when the deer
ate off most of the upper growth.  Note the rough edge
where the deer ripped off the tip of the plant.

2.  Occasionally Browsed
Achillea millefolium (flowers were removed, the foliage was left behind)
Aronia melanocarpa 
Hibiscus moscheutos (just once)
Filipendula rubra (just once leaves and flower buds, not after hot pepper spray) 
Lobelia siphilitica 
Physostegia virginiana 
This Hibiscus had the tips chewed off, but no more
damage since I applied some hot pepper spray.
Rudbeckia hirta 

(The Lobelia had been untouched until yesterday.)

3.  Resistant, so far
Aquilegia canadensis 
Asclepias tuberosa 
Asclepias incarnata 
Ceoanthus americanus 
Chamaecrista fasciculata  
Chelone glabra 
Dicentra eximia 
Hedeoma pulegiodes 
Iris versicolor 
Monarda didyma 
Monarda fistulosa 
Monarda punctata 
Spiraea alba 

As far as keeping the critters out of the garden, the double fence method is still working.  I’ve been able to harvest snap peas, lettuce, chard and collards, so far.

I did notice some evidence of moles digging around the property.  For these I put down a perimeter treatment of MoleMax, a castor oil based product that moles and other burrowing species do not like. 


Anonymous said...

Best of luck with the new garden, Curtis! I am a small woman with back problems, so I hired a contractor to fence my vegetable garden. The assorted creatures have somehow not found it yet. It has been a little scary lately with all the rain. I don't really have a chance to effectively reapply repellent to my ornamentals. So scared for my babies!

Curtis said...

I went away for a couple of days and when I returned I found that the deer had stripped most of the leaves from the Hibiscus and Filipendula. They also ate back the Physostegia, Chelone and Lobelia. Just shows that I can't let up on using the repellents if I want to see flowers.