Unwelcome Guests

I looked out the window and to my surprise,

I saw a deer of tremendous size,

It was well-fed and sleek, it had quite a girth,

It ate all my tulips–200 dollars worth.

Planning garden beds is similar to planning a party. Combing through your list, you will have chosen the most amiable and interesting of your friends and relatives. However, because of circumstances beyond your control, you find yourself having to invite your best friend’s cousin–she’s the one with the purple hair and pierced body parts. She not only drinks herself under the table, but sometimes under several guests as well. To avoid hurt feelings, Aunt Edith’s doddering brother also has to be included. And Uncle Howie’s interminable stories of his camping trip to Dry Gulch Park can empty a room faster than your sister-in-law’s offer to sing an aria from Aida. These guests may be unwelcome, but they are nonetheless invited. It’s the gatecrashers who are the problem–people you have never met who arrive unannounced.

In the case of my garden, the welcome guests are the roses, clematis, perennials, and annuals. The gatecrashers are slugs, deer, and rabbits; added to this dreary list are the weeds, those ruffians of the garden. See Too Late for Regrets, page 216, for a vivid example.

Slugs will chew their way through a bed of annuals in a few days. These horrible hermaphrodites come out at night and are most prevalent after it rains. To deal with them, I go out with my trusty scissors and emulate Henry the Eighth–decapitating as many of them as possible. Soda cans cut in half and then partially filled with beer can be effective. Every morning when I inspect and find dozens of corpses, I rub my hands with glee and dance my way around the beds.

Deer are charming creatures, but they can devour all the tulips in your beds. A friend told me that allowing chewing tobacco to steep overnight in a bucket, then spraying the emerging foliage in early spring would deter them.

Weeds should be dealt with early in the season; the soil is soft and weeds are easy to pull out. Closely planted perennials and annuals will shoulder out the weeds, depriving them of nutrients and light.

Have you ever had any unwelcome guests–either at your party or in your garden? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Closely planted perennials deter weeds.

Closely planted impatiens deter weeds.

Lucky tulips which have escaped the attention of browsing deer.

Lucky tulips which have escaped the attention of browsing deer.

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