Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Deer Proof Vegetables?

When I was speaking to the Qualicum Beach Garden club last night I posed a question to the audience at the beginning of the talk.  I didn't rush the process. I knew I was in the company of garden keeners so I thought I would crowd source the question so many of us veggie gardeners want to know. I had them think about what they would grow in a deer prone area.

My ten day-old pea shoot micro-greens growing under lights are not deer proof
I started speaking about my New Year's gardening projects. I chatted up my indoor and very successful micro-greens project seeded December 27, 2012. I spoke about already eating three salads of pea shoot micro-greens this week just 7-10 days after seeding.
After a fun 45 minutes describing the Ten Things I Love about Vegetables I reminded the audience I needed their help. I started a straw bale garden on January 1, 2013 outdoors. Part of the garden is outside my deer-proof fence. I still need to wait for the straw to mellow and the season to improve but when the planting time comes I need a list of locally hardy vegetables for this trial area.

The audience bantered back and forth. Many ideas came forward and many were dumped right away. I discovered last year the deer avoided my squash so I put that on my list but others booed that idea. Someone suggested Shitake mushrooms but most of the audience thought no- it just wouldn't be warm enough to grow mushrooms outdoors (more on that in February when I go to a lecture on growing mushrooms outdoors and report back).
Artichoke is a beautiful and deer proof vegetable
Photo courtesy No Guff Vegetable Gardening

In the end we came up with a short list of plants I can try in  my straw bale garden (more on that in a later blog post as the garden evolves). I crowd sourced the answer and together with over 100 people we decided if you are thinking ahead to spring and wondered what might grow in an area likely to be visited by deer,  these vegetables are worth a try:

Garlic, Artichokes, Cardoon, Broad Beans, Amaranth, Corn Salad and Squash (maybe). 

Let me know at if you have any other ideas for deer proof vegetables. Let's expand this crowd sourcing to the whole world. If you write, please tell me where you live so we can create a map of deer proof vegetables!


Patty B said...

Have fun with this one Donna! I deliver lots of plants to Banff, where elk visit gardens regularly. The elk pick up the plants, then spit them out if they don't like them! My experience also says that preferences can be regional, dependent on what other forage is available or it can depend on what the animal's mother taught it to enjoy! I will be following your blog with keen interest...

Patty Bretin, horticulturist

sensiblegardening said...

I really agree with Patty's comments. Nothing is sacred in our garden with all the deer we having basically living on the property. Just when you think you know the answere they change the rules.

Donna Balzer said...

Excellent Feedback- I know deer are smarter than the average bear. In fact when I asked for this feedback from the audience at the talk they couldn't even agree. List are just guesses and personal observations. One thing I know for sure is a freshly delivered plant will be high in Nitrogen and deer can small the protein-building nitrogen and will pull it out to taste it even if it isn't a preferred plant!

If installing new plants where deer are a problem, leave them sit unfertilized for a couple of weeks before installing.

Kathleen said...

I live in the Wainwright, AB area. Deer have decided they like my beets, carrots and peas. After destroying my garden a couple years in a row, I tried laying that orange snow fence on the rows (or course that won't work with pea vines, I haven't solved that problem yet). It doesn't look all that attractive in the veggie garden, but it keeps the critters at bay. I've been wondering about planting deer proof flowers in amongst the veggie rows, will they pick their way through to the tasty stuff? It's worth a shot. If nothing, I'll have a "pretty" veggie garden.