Creating a Deer Resistant Shade Garden! (Part 1)

I've always loved shade gardens.  Foliage plants like hostas and heucheras are two of my favorite types of plants and I just don't have enough space in my yard for them.  The other issue I have is deer.  They've eaten many of my plants over the years.  They love sampling a little bit of everything in the garden and there truly are few plants that are 100% deer proof.  But there are ways to make a garden resistant to deer to minimize their damage.  For my Lowe's Creative Ideas project this month I've set about to solve my deer problem by creating a deer resistant shade garden.  All the materials for the setup of this garden were purchased at our local Lowe's and paid for by Lowe's Creative Ideas.

To create a deer resistant garden of any kind you have to do several things: plant the right plants, disguise the plants with scents, or limit the access to the area.  Probably the most common thing to do is to set up a fence to limit access to the garden.  Fences for deer need to be about 8 feet high to completely limit their ability to jump over the fence but in my experience if a deer has an easier way to go they will.  Shorter fences often will serve as a decent deterrent, especially if you plant the right plants and disguise the plants with scents.

I won't be mention the plants I planted in the garden until my next post but I do want to talk about disguising them from the deer.  Many people will advocate using scented soaps, eggs, garlic, and all kinds of homemade concoctions.  Some of those ideas work very well but I went a different route.  I thought about my mulch first!  I chose two types of mulch pine bark mulch, which I used for pathways, and pine straw mulch, which is where the planting beds are.  Both mulches have a strong pine scent that is sure to irritate the noses of the browsing deer creating an effect aromatic disguise for non deer tolerant plants...AKA deer salad!

After I cleared the area of all the debris I weeded and laid down landscape fabric over the pathways.  The pine bark mulch then went on top of the pathways to make a nice and easy walking trail through the shade garden.  I didn't put the fabric down under the planting areas.  I removed nearly all the weeds from the area previously then went back over them with a scuffle hoe (which by far one of the most useful tools you'll ever run across!)  Scuffle hoes (or stirrup hoes) are shaped like a stirrup for a saddle and are sharpened on both sides.  As you run the hoe across the ground it slides just under the soil surface and cuts the weeds.  It makes easy work of weed clearing! 

After spreading the mulch I had purchased I realized something: no matter how much mulch you buy you will always need more!  I originally bought 5 bags of mulch for the pathways and needed another 6 to complete the project.  It's a good rule of thumb to plan for more materials than you think you are going to need anyway.   I love the idea of pine straw as a mulch.  It comes in bales at about $4 each.  A single bale can cover a 4' by 8' area very nicely!

There are two more parts to this project ahead: the planting and the fencing.  The planting is done and I'll share it will you soon but I haven't had time to place the fencing up yet.  I didn't want to go with a solid fence of any kind since I wanted to be able to see the garden from the outside so I came up with another idea: use fence posts to hold wires set at deer height intervals around the perimeter of the area.  By setting the wires at about 18" intervals the deer will be unable to pass into the garden.

I'll share more details on this part of the project once I can get to it!  Stop back by and check out my next post on the planting part of the deer resistant shade garden!

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