This year's school garden saw a mix of success and failure. Many things thrived. The herbs flourished. The sungold tomatoes produced well. The nasturtiums blossomed all summer long. We had at least five pumpkins, though a couple were found smashed open. There were a wide variety of plants that we successfully started from seed. But it soon became clear that at least one deer family made the garden its primary food source for the summer. Here's what I learned.
Things Deer Love
Apple trees: leaves and bark
Cherry trees: leaves and bark (and fruit)
Strawberry plants: everything but the stems
Swiss chard: ditto
Green beans: ditto (with a strong preference for haricot verts)
Sweet potato leaves
Melon plant leaves
Pumpkin plant leaves
FYI, it's hard for a plant to grow without leaves.
Things Deer Don't Seem to Care For
Tomato plants, thank god
Herbs of any kind
The biggest tragedy was the plight of the apple trees. I had dug several deep holes and planted the rootstock, then lugged five gallon buckets of water over to their location every week all summer long because the hose didn't reach. They seemed to be thriving. Then I went to water them one day and found that all the leaves were stripped off and a lot of the bark. I strung up strong-smelling dryer sheets to dissuade the deer, changing the scent every few weeks to throw them off. A couple of leaves grew back, spotty and discolored, but then the deer came back and ate those, too. Both trees promptly died. It was heart-breaking after all that work.
Now I understand what I'm dealing with. I have to somehow learn to coexist with these eating machines. I have a few ideas, starting with this hoop-like structure with poultry netting that I built for what will be next year's greens bed.
Any other ideas are most welcome!