Both deer and rabbits can do substantial damage to landscape plants. Even field mice can do a substantial amount of damage to landscape plants. Field mice can usually find enough food outdoors even during the winter. But they cause big problems in the nurseries because they get into the greenhouses and plastic huts.
The only thing in there to eat are plants. Of course a mouse doesn’t eat much, but they eat the bark off the stems, girdling the plants and killing them. Nurserymen use rodent bait that is designed to hold up under the moist conditions found in greenhouses to control these pests.
Rabbits are also a king size headache for nurserymen, golf courses, and homeowners. Rabbits love Burning Bush. A rabbit will browse through your landscape like a shopper at Wal-Mart, stopping to take a little taste of each plant until he finds one he likes. When he gets to a Crabapple tree or a Burning Bush he likes the first taste, and will stay and eat until he is satisfied. He’ll come back again when he is hungry. Being small, rabbits eat close to the ground, girdling the plants.
A plant transfers water and nutrients from the roots to the foliage just under the bark of the plant. There is a layer of tissue just below the bark known as the cambium layer. This is the life support system for a plant. When the bark and cambium layer are eaten away the plant can no longer nourish it’s self, and will die.
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What can you do to protect your landscape plants from this kind of damage? If rabbits are the only pest you’re having problems with, then there are several things you can do. If you are trying to protect ornamental trees from rabbit damage then you can simply buy plastic tree guards that spiral wrap around the trunk. Check your local garden center.
If you need to protect shrubs, you can spray the plants with a rabbit repellent also available from a garden center. Does it really work? I honestly don't know. I'm sure it works to an extent, but how long it lasts is another question.
I have seen nurserymen use a variety of different techniques to protect their plants. Some nurseryman have tied ears of field corn to stakes near the base of the plants, hoping the rabbits will eat the corn instead of the plants. They have tried collecting human hair from barbershops, placed it in nylon stockings and hung the stockings in the trees. Or have tried hanging bars of deodorized soap from trees. I don’t know how well these things work, but anything is worth a try.
Another technique that has been somewhat effective is to buy Louisiana Hot Sauce and mix it with an anti-transpirant and spray it on the plants. An anti-transpirant is a sticky product that is made to spray on plants to keep them from dehydrating and wilting. This is often used when plants are transplanted during the growing season. Mixing it with the hot sauce makes the spray stick to the plants and protects them longer.
I’m not sure how well this really works, but I can tell you one thing. With dozens and dozens of wholesale nurseries in town, our small grocery store here in Perry, Ohio sells a ton of hot sauce, and not during the barbecue season!
Because deer can do so much damage in so little time, they are a huge headache and can wreak financial disaster on professional growers. These growers have tried just about every technique imaginable.
Here in northeastern Ohio the deer population has been on the rise for years and is becoming more and more of a topic on the evening news. The park system in Cleveland, Ohio has had so many problems with deer eating all of the under brush in the parks that they claim the rest of the creatures that inhabit the parks are in danger. It seems the over population of deer is altering the ecosystem in the parks.
Just recently (December of 1998) they have started killing the deer to thin the herd. This has been a huge controversy for several years and has kept the courts busy, because there are groups that disagree with the claims of the park officials and have been trying to stop the slaughter of these deer. Just recently the court cleared the way for the park officials to proceed with their plan. They have hired sharp shooters to kill the deer. They plan on killing 300 deer over the winter. The meat is being processed into ground meat and distributed to the food banks in the area.
I don't really have an opinion about this one way or another because I don't have enough facts. But I am soft hearted, and am glad I don't live near by, because I am sure I would find the sound of the gun shots up setting. I can't help but wonder about the children who live near by, what must they think?
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In other areas professional growers are contemplating the use of invisible fence around the perimeter of their fields to contain guard dogs, whose job it will be to run the deer out.
Dan Archey, a visitor to this web site had this to say about keeping deer away.
"I have been using Elephant Garlic for several years with excellent results to prevent damage to trees from deep rubs. Simply collect the small garlic pods that develop at the top of the stem and rub them directly on the tree trunk at two to three feet above the ground. This has worked without fail. Application in the early fall and midwinter seems to do the trick. I believe garlic plantings will work as a deterrent also but I have not tested this positively. Chive cuttings also seem to act as a repellent. If you mow over a small edge of the chive patch, this will keep the deer out of the area simply from the released odor."
There are also commercial products on the market for repelling deer. One of these products is sold under the registered name of Deer-Off. This is what they say about their product.
Deer-Off® is biodegradable, environmentally-friendly and not harmful to humans or animals. Keeps deer and other garden guests from browsing on plants, flowers, hedges, buds, shrubs, grass, bulbs and small trees 'year round'. http://www.havahart.com/nuisance/deer/deeroff.htm I’ve never used the product so I can not tell you how well it works.
And last but not least is predator urine. In the wild it appears that urine is some what of a communication device. It is said that if a deer smells coyote urine they will not stay in the area because they know instinctively that coyotes are a natural predator.
So naturally some enterprising sole decided to package up predator urine and offer it for sale. Coyote urine will run off deer and raccoon, but to chase off the rabbits you’ll need some fox urine. These handy products are available from J&C Marketing Inc./Legup Enterprises of Hampden, Maine. You can give them a call at 1-800-218-1749. They also sell wolf urine as well as bobcat urine.
How about the name of the company? Legup Enterprises. Kinda catchy huh?
Just when you think you’ve got the worst job in the world, how would you like to be the person holding a specimen bottle for a bobcat or a coyote?
I’ve been told that people spray their conifers with fox urine to deter people from cutting them off at the ground as Christmas trees. I don’t quite understand the logic behind this because the odor does not become obvious until the tree is moved inside and warmed up to room temperature. Sure you might mess up somebody's holiday, but you've still lost a beautiful tree. I suppose it should stop them from coming back. But then again!