July GOOPs: Creatures pushing me over the edge?

Here it is July 1 already.  Summer is blooming along and providing me with many Gardening Oops (GOOPs) and gardening successes . On the first of each month I share one of my GOOPs hoping to give you an edge – maybe my GOOPs will help prevent you from doing the same.

On this day, July 1, 2010, I’m really questioning my sanity.

Shake Away

A few days ago I wandered around my perennial beds sprinkling this.  Read closely. Yep, it says coyote urine granules. This is what deer browsing has pushed me to. I actually spent $15 on a jar of granulated coyote pee. I don’t know how the manufacturers came to obtain enough coyote urine to granulate it and sell it in shakable containers … and I really don’t want to delve into exactly how this is done (my imagination has done enough damage just questioning the process). But after spending my Saturday mulching … and mulching … and mulching, and really taking a look at how much munching has been going on, I was pushed to try yet another deer repellant. Since coyote frequent our area I hope the smell of coyote urine will be scary enough to send deer elsewhere for their midnight snack. It certainly would keep me from chomping on a plant.

coneflower buds deer munched coneflowersOf the large stands of coneflowers I have growing in unfenced areas just a few still stand 3 to 4 feet tall with buds ready to burst open in a cheery shade of dark pink. All the rest, including my few white coneflowers, stand about one foot tall, have no buds, just bare stems and a few leaves near the ground.  Morticia Addams might prefer just stems, even without any thorns, but I’d rather have flowers. I’ve tried multiple deer repellants over the years and none have kept deer from munching coneflowers. There have been intermittent years when my yard was not on the deer dinner path. Only then have my coneflowers blossomed freely. If I can get them to the open stage deer usually leave them alone. Look closely at the deer-pruned plants … there’s tinkles of granulated coyote urine resting on the leaves at the right. If the coyote magic works I might see one or two small coneflower blossoms on these plant. If not, score another one for the deer.

I did not, however, resort to granulated coyote pee simply to have coneflowers blooming. Deer have regularly eaten my perennial sweet peas, baptisa, and asters. The only surviving leaves on the winterberry shrubs are those too high for deer to reach. Some of the four-legged eating machines have even displayed rather unusual culinary tastes – for a deer. Daffodils, butterfly bush, and Japanese ferns have all been munched this year but remained untouched during previous years. The only safe perennials in my yard are those growing within a fence.

But back to my sanity or lack thereof.  Another four-legged pest problem has led to a rather large deconstruction/reconstruction project. Years ago I molded a sloped, but sunny area of the yard into a 23 foot long, 4 foot wide planting bed. One of the long sides runs along the slope, the lower side is a fieldstone wall. Over the years I filled the bed with home-made compost until it became a very productive vegetable growing area. To keep out deer we fenced the perimeter with welded wire attached to cedar posts. All was well for many growing seasons, then we had a mild winter. The following spring began my Vole Wars. I’d plant peas. Peas would disappear into holes in the ground. I’d plant peppers (hot ones). Peppers would disappear. I lost beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, cilantro. I’d plant … voles would eat. They found the rich, fluffy soil in the vegetable bed easy digging and easy dining. This caused many unpleasant words to spew from my mouth. I think I spotted troubled neighbors covering youngsters’ ears and racing them out of ear shot. Apparently profanity, stomping, and launched gardening tools don’t deter voles.  Neither do those solar thingys, chewing gum dropped in holes, or hose-induced floods. But I’m stubborn, I figured I could outsmart the little hairy beasts by planting vegetables in pots, filling them with the soil voles loved to dig in, then sinking the filled pots into the holes. Essentially I planted potted plants into my vegetable bed – a lot of extra, back-paining work in spring and again in the fall when pots had to be emptied and stored. I also found I had to use really heavy-duty plastic pots or the voles would gnaw through the pots to get to the plants. More unpleasant verbiage. But generally this technique worked.

My husband watched and helped with the spring pot filling/pot sinking routine … and listened to many, many, many rants over the fact that this seemed to be the only way to grow tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc., and that vegetable growing should not be so difficult or time consuming. Knowing that asking me to not plant plants is like asking me not to breath, he agreed something must be done. The result of something? The photo below. The perimeter fence is down – good thing since the cedar posts were rotting after 10 years in the ground. One of my sons dug the good soil out and piled it elsewhere. Next we will line the entire bed and sides with 1/4 inch hardware cloth – 1/4 inch to keep voles from slinking through the openings in the wire mesh. Then, hopefully, with help from the same strong back that removed the soil, we will refill the bed and re-fence the area.

veg bed redo

To increase my veggie planting area I’m heavily advocating for construction of raised beds – of course lined with hardware cloth – in an adjacent sunny area of the yard – of course fenced from deer. I currently have tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash, beans, strawberries, and pumpkins in pots (above the ground this year), and tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, zucchini, lettuce, basil, dill, cilantro, tatsoi, Alpine strawberries, and peas planted amongst perennials.

Essentially I’m spreading coyote pee to keep deer at bay, fencing below the ground to keep voles away, and fencing above the ground to keep deer from eating vegetables the voles don’t get.

Sounds like sufficient cause to question anyone’s sanity … even a stubborn old gardener like me.

So what’s the GOOPs? Had I, at the start of my gardening life in my current location, build raised beds with liners I could have avoided much of this grief. Of course I did not know I would have vole problems – deer yes – not voles. But many good raised bed plans suggest hardware cloth to keep creatures from tunneling up from below. As far as the coyote pee goes, the only GOOPs there would be spending $15 on something that doesn’t work. If I see little coneflower buds in a few weeks then no GOOPs committed. If deer continue to munch then I’m the chump.

Now that you’ve read my GOOPs how about sharing one of yours? Either leave your GOOPs in a comment below, or post your GOOPs on your own blog – just leave a teaser comment below with your link. Need ideas? Take a gaze at previous GOOPs posts.

8 comments for “July GOOPs: Creatures pushing me over the edge?

  1. July 1, 2010 at 6:44 am


    I’m so sorry to hear about your critter problems. I bet you never imagined you’d be sprinkling coyote urine around your garden! I find one of the most frustrating aspects of having deer in my garden is the inconsistency of their eating habits. Without getting into too much detail (just in case my deer are reading this I don’t want to give them any ideas :)) my garden is relatively untouched this year. I have flowers on a dark red/chocolate colored daylily that I’ve never seen before. The funny thing I’m not sure I like them now that I finally see them in bloom!

    I did hear about a device called Wireless Deer Fence (check out CL’s post over at Whole Life Gardening on 6/15) that is supposed to work well. I haven’t tried it yet but it sounds interesting.

    Good luck with the battle.

  2. joenesgarden
    July 1, 2010 at 7:58 am

    I had heard about the Wireless Deer Fence, Debbie. It sounds like it works well in small areas, but to cover a yard and gardens as extensive as mine would cost another small fortune. I’m sticking with fences to protect veggies. Though I’d love to hear from anyone with experience with the Wireless Deer Fence.

    I have a peachy colored daylily that did not bloom until I moved it into a fenced area. I was not sure I liked it until this year when it started blooming while adjacent deep purple iris were in bloom.

    I too have had years when deer stayed away. It all goes in cycles – my yard is just in their way this year.

  3. July 1, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Your battles are epic. My oops this month are pretty pedestrian compared to your life and death struggles and major garden redesign mistakes! You can check mine out at my site.

    I have used the wireless deer stakes with success, you can also check that out here:

  4. joenesgarden
    July 1, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I’m not sure I agree in the epic status, but the battles are a serious pain in the …

    Good to read that the deer zap stakes work for you. I’m not so sure they make economic sense for me though – 3 for about $60 and you use a dozen for about a half-acre? I have a pretty large area to protect, and have a granddog and granddaughter to consider. I’ll keep the deer stakes in mind, though. Thanks for sharing.

  5. July 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I love it! Granulated Coyote pee?? That is just too funny, but as long as it helps…
    I must say, I’d be torn as to whom to keep away from the garden, as I love looking at animals just as much as I love looking at pretty gardens. But when it comes to eating your vegetables… that’s personal!! ;-))

  6. joenesgarden
    July 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    So far, Ulrike, the coyote pee seems to be working … funny or not. I have new buds on my coneflowers. I’m not using the coyote granules on my vegetables – they get fenced.

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