Marianne Binetti

Keeping deer out of your garden isn’t easy, but there are solutions

A mother deer nuzzles her newborn fawn in a Gig Harbor field.  They're cut, but they can destroy your garden with their foraging.
A mother deer nuzzles her newborn fawn in a Gig Harbor field. They're cut, but they can destroy your garden with their foraging. Staff file

The fourth week of March is a time of explosive growth in Western Washington, so take a moment to notice the early-blooming bulbs and shrubs and look for ways to improve your landscape.

You can fill your container gardens with spring color now and then move the blooming daffodils, tulips and primroses into your garden beds once May arrives and the spring bloomers fade. Just remember that tulips, daffs and other spring bulbs need to have their foliage left to yellow and die naturally if you want them to flower again. The dying foliage makes next year’s bloom.

For this reason I like to leave potted bulbs in their nursery pot and slip this into a larger container for spring color on the porch or patio. Then when summer annuals like petunias and geraniums are safe to put outdoors, the potted bulbs are easy to lift from the pots and moved to a hidden location as the greens fade out of site or transplanted into the landscape.

Q. When do I hire a company to prune my shrubs and trees? I moved to a new home that has been lovingly cared for, and I want to keep everything looking nice but I can no longer do my own pruning. — O.L., Tacoma

A. Stop, wander and ponder.

Most trees and shrubs need no pruning, and that is especially true of a landscape that has been well cared for.

Pruning of woody plants, especially blooming shrubs and ornamental trees can cause rapid growth and provide entry for disease. So if in doubt, don’t prune.

If a shrub is too big for a space or blocking windows or walkways, consider moving it rather than giving it a constant haircut. The general rule of green thumb is to cut out anything dead, diseased, damaged or deranged — that would mean a branch heading off in a weird direction. You can have the four D’s removed from trees and shrubs any time of year or perhaps once every few years.

Enjoy that beautiful landscape more and worry about pruning less.

Q. Help me with the overpopulation of deer in our area! I swear the deer no longer eat native plants as they prefer my roses and expensive perennials. What works besides a 7-foot fence? — J.B., Olympia

A. Oh deer — there is no guarantee when it comes to Bambi nibbles but here are a few products that other gardeners have said worked for them:

Scarecrow and Spray Away — a motion-activated sprinkler from the Contech company that will spray deer and other invaders with water.

Plantskydd — a blood-based repellent that lasts a long time but must be sprayed onto the plants and stinks for a day or two.

Wireless Deer Fence — a new product that is battery charged and looks like garden stakes with a deer attractant. When the deer bend over to taste the lure, they are zapped with electricity and learn to leave your yard alone.

You can order these products online or check at local garden centers. You also can make your own deer repellent spray with two eggs beaten, one cup of milk and one gallon of water mixed together. Strain this through a dishtowel so it won’t clog your sprayer. Spray the egg mix onto your roses and perennials but not any edible plants. After trying all these, you may want to invest in the fence.

Q. How do I divide or share my hellebores? What about sharing my black mondo grass? My daughter has a new home, and these are the two plants she likes from my garden. — “Proud Mama because my kid is going to become a gardener,” Bonney Lake

A. Congrats, as gardeners are going to save the world, so everyone needs to raise kids that garden. First, don’t share your hellebore by dividing or digging it up. Hellebores hate to be moved or divided.

Instead look for seedlings under the mama plants and transplant these to her garden. Black mondo grass can be dug now and pulled apart. The mondo grass is a member of the lily family and they grow from small bulbs. You can cut young plants from larger plants by severing the connecting root. Just like cutting that umbilical cord, you will be starting new life away from mama.

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