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Rural Vegetable Garden Design with (some allowance for) Bambi and Bullwinkle in Mind

 
Posts: 396
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Rural Vegetable Garden Design with (some allowance for) Bambi and Bullwinkle in Mind

This vaguely is related to Vegetable garden design help.

The garden sort of envisaged here, would be big enough to allow for crop rotations.  Which  by itself probably makes it too big for urban applications.  It might work for a community garden.

There are a few generic principles with keeping "wild" animals out of gardens:
1. Things with a strong odour are not liked.  If you eat something with a strong odour, you will probably develop a pronounced scent (bad breath or something else).  Which makes it much easier for predators to track you down.  Perhaps this extends to things heavy on sulfur compounds and flatulence?
2. Things that hurt to eat them.  Thorns, spines, stinging hairs.  Short needled conifers hurt more than long needled conifers.
3. Things that are sticky.  Latex sap is a common element here, but there are probably sticky things without latex.
n. Probably other things I haven't clued into.

This musing comes from studying too much about deer, and heading that way on companion planting.

Rosemary is a good thing to serve as an outer perimeter for a garden, except that it might be perhaps not tall enough.  An animal coming up to a barbed wire fence, can see what is on the other side.  And barbed wire doesn't do much to stop smells either.  Rosemary should have an odour.  But, it may be too short to block the vision.  A dwarf hemlock (conifer) might be a good approximation to rosemary, and probably tall enough to block vision.  Does it have enough odour?  Dwarf hemlock, so that your garden isn't casting too much shade.

If you need more odour, if you pick juvenile cones from conifers, they will over time exude resin.  That is the collected cones will ooze resin.  There are other things you can do with this collected resin, but putting it on cloths at the perimeter should make your perimeter more odourous.  If rosemary will grow as a perennial, perhaps coplant the hemlock with rosemary.

For design purposes where I live, one assumes that a mule deer can jump significantly more than a 10 foot barrier.  There are places where deer incidents have happened in the interior of BC; where the most likely way for a deer to get there meant going over a 14 foot tall barrier.  Deer can get underneath a 1 foot board/mesh.  It is not likely that you want to jump over your hedge, so having a gate somewhere makes sense.  It probably should be located in a corner.

I suggest you don't pick the corner closest to your house.  Inevitably, some animal will get into the garden, possibly even bambi or bullwinkle.  I am not saying your garden needs a fence, but it does need a gap in the hedge so you can enter, and that needs to be a gate.  It should be a corner where it is easy to "shoo" an animal out of your garden to escape.  Since this location isn't closest to your house, you may spot the animal before getting to the gate.  The gate should be designed such that it is easy to have it fully open for when you shoo the animal out.  It should be a dense vertical array of boards.  The gate and posts should be physically strong.

Most gardens don't want grass.  Supposedly a perimeter of comfrey (Bocking ...) will prevent "external" grass from going past the comfrey.  Do you put the comfrey outside of the rosemary/hemlock, or inside?

Next up, an invasive plant; in most locales.  You could put it in many pots.  You could drive sheets of corrugated metal, thick enough plastic, or fibreglass/epoxy wrapped plywood or ... into the ground to an adequate depth.  Or, you could make a "moat" which is closed on the side and bottom.  Anyway, a planting of mint adds another strong scent on the perimeter of your garden.  On a related note, if you are growing things where pollen drift is a problem, a moat approach where one grows a dense hedge of bamboo would probably work.  But I believe you need to give bamboo 2 foot deep of soil, so it is a bigger moat.  I don't know if bamboo would grow here.  You can get saskatoon bushes with very upright and compact habit; a dense row of saskatoons should work.  Some people call saskatoons, serviceberries.

Lots of gardens make use of "trap" plants; plants that attract pests so that the pests don't bother the plants you are trying to grow for yourself.

It may be that putting a trap in one or more corners, or in the centre makes sense.  It may depend on prevailing winds.  Having something like dwarf hemlock as the hedge surrounding the garden gives you some protection from wind within the garden.

Gardens often need pollinators.  Are pollinators confused by a dense hedge?  I suspect not, but perhaps.  If so, you might need to plant flowers outside the hedge.  But you probably want things which attract pollinators inside the hedge.  Inside of the traps (if on the outside corner(s))?  Having a water source inside the garden for pollinators might be nice.  If you want to help solitary bees, having one or more habitats (wood with various size holes in it from 1/8 to 3/8 inch) on the outside of the east side of the garden would probably be a good thing.

If a plant "repels" something that is harmful to the garden, it needs to be treated differently than something which attracts something beneficial to the garden.  The something in both circumstances is probably an insect; but may in general be considered an "animal".

Attraction is sort of like gravity, you just need to get them to the "planet".

To attract honeybees, one plant which honeybees really like is all that is needed to get their attention.  Once in the garden, they will find lots of other things to visit.  Murphy's Law states that if you only have a single plant of that species/variety;  the first time Bambi comes to your garden that  particular plants will get predated by Bambi.  If you have more than one plant of that species/variety but they are all in one close area; Murphy's Law says enough deer will get into the garden so that all of those plants will get predated by Bambi.

Repelling something is like electrostatics.  Each plant that is repelling to some "animal", has to be close to the plant it is protecting.  It is behaving like a point source or repulsion.  And one would sort of expect that at a distance that was twice as far away, it would probably be less than half as effective.  Maybe not the 1/4 as effective of inverse square law, but easily somewhere between 1/2 and 1/4.  If you have a line of plants that could be attacked, and a line of plants that can repel close by; they will be more effective than just a single plant protecting a single plant.  If we could plant a "cover crop" which repelled "animals" from harvest crops also planted where the cover crop was; then we might expect to see uniform repulsion .  If the space was 10'x10' in area, the repulsion should probably cover something like 30x30 to a height of 10'.  So the line of repulsion would be somewhere between the single plant and the repulsive cover crop.


Most of the "articles" I've seen on the Internet about companion planting are just that, articles.  They are written by one or more humans probably with a word processor, and written such that they are intended to be read by humans.  And inevitably there are spelling mistakes.  But what is worse, there are logic mistakes and complexity mistakes.

A common term in companion planting is to talk about "likes".  And some descriptions talk about if PlantA has these neighbours, that is a good thing.  Those neighbours are helping PlantA in some way.  Other descriptions are written that PlantA helps this list of other plants.  This is the converse of the first situation.  There are circumstances where PlantA helps PlantB, and PlantB helps PlantA.  That is mutual helping, and is a good thing.  I have run into a situation that two different companions have to be present together, in order to help PlantA.  Surely other complexities arise?

Companion planting assumes all the plants are planted in the same soil.  And there is the same fertility everywhere.  And there is the same moisture everywhere.  And there is the same light/heat input everywhere.

At the end of the day, a garden can be much more complicated than most people would be willing to consider.  I think that if you look first to companion plants where the help is mutual (they can help each other), and then look to situations where the companions help the plants you want to harvest; you will get a lot of the way down the path.


Not everything you want to harvest in the garden has the same height of plant.  Tall plants can shade out short plants.  I suspect for most circumstances, the walkways are wide enough that between the spring and fall equinoxes there probably isn't much shading.  I am thinking of trying to grow persimmon as a "tomato tree", and a 50 foot tall tree does introduce some shading issues.  For me, get the persimmon out of the garden.  I suspect for my garden; the shade on the west side will be significantly taller than from the south or east.


In the past, people dug a trench to plant potatoes, sweet potatoes, or ... in.  If the trench has zero slope, it is a swale.  Just a really small one.  So, we could dig shallow trenches between rows of seeds in the garden; swales.  We now can  incorporate a little more water into our garden.  But for people who till gardens, I suspect such trenches are a waste, and possibly better served by cover crops.  But if they are possibly useful and you have comfrey growing in the garden, maybe putting the comfrey leaves in the trenches is the thing to do?

-----

I hope this gets some brain cells fired up, and thinking about things.  And maybe tell Gord he is dumb because ....

I am not a farmer, and I didn't grow up on a farm.  And contrary to popular opinion, not all engineers think they know everything.  They may think that all problems of a technical nature are solvable.  Having autism, I know that few problems of a human nature are solvable by me.
 
Gordon Haverland
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As usual, forgot a point.  Nitrogen fixing.

Here (permies.com) and elsewhere, there are blurbs about free living organisms in the soil which can fix nitrogen.  Most legumes have root nodules, but some legumes seem too old for that (Honey Locust).

There are different nitrogen fixing systems at play.  Apparently some organisms produce nitrate (NO3-).  Some organisms produce ammonia (NH3/NH4+).  And then we have some related ammonia systems:
1. NH2R
2. NHR_1R_2
3. NR_1R_2R_3
The different R notations point to these groups possibly being not identical.  But, if your nitrogen fixer is producing one system and your nitrogen users are looking for something else; it may be that the nitrogen transport has to go through the soil (not nodules) so that other soil organisms can change the nitrogen.

I've seen lots of articles which said that if the roots didn't have these pink nodules on them, they couldn't be fixing nitrogen.  It may be that most are pink, I don't know that all are.  Perhaps someone else does.  Honey Locust apparently doesn't have nodules, and yet seems to have a positive nitrogen balance; so there are other ways.  If we add in free living nitrogen fixers in the soil, there are other possibilities.  It may be that some of them will change one nitrogen format to another.

 
Gordon Haverland
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And another point.

It is possible for some species of a genus to help a plant, and for other species of a genus to not help a plant.  I believe I have seen this carried down one level as well; that some subspecies can help and some subspecies won't.

Hopefully the last hiccup.  

 
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I wonder if a modernized scarecrow could effectively deter deer; solar powered to provide motion and sound and a motion detector for night-time activation.

A platoon of screaming banshees would surely do the trick.


 
Gordon Haverland
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While there are newer deer technology available, much of what I seen was still expensive.

One need not spend a lot on this.  Arduino  (or similar Open Source microcontroller) is probably all you need, but some kind of area monitoring system could make use of Raspberry Pi or similar.

Problem breaks down into 2 parts:
1. Identifying a deer is near.
2. Doing somethng.

There are cameras which have dedicated processors which can do image recognition.  There are also the standard IR or ultrasonic motion detectors, and low power lasers with photodetectors to detect the beam being broken.  Deer don't seem to vocalize much, so some kind of audio processing seems unlikely.

Things to do: emit loud noise, emit a bright flash (when dark), squirt something sticky, squirt something aromatic, squirt something fluorescent or phosphorescent.

There are probably lots of other ideas.  Alll probably well accessible to a 12-15 year old interested in electronics.
 
master pollinator
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I would not be able to grow a darn thing if I didn't have fences to keep the deer out.  My Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus were completely surrounded by Rosemary but still the deer ate all the pads they could reach before I got the fences up.

The fence that has worked for me is an approximately 4 foot tall fence approximately 4 feet from a 5 foot tall fence.  I wish I had installed these fences years ago!

Even "Deer Resistant" plants will be killed if a deer comes along, takes a bite, says "yuck!" and moves on.  20 deer later, each taking a bite and saying "yuck!", and the "deer resistant" plant is no more.

(Deer in question are Whitetail and Chital/Axis, not Moose.)
 
Gordon Haverland
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Tyler, my farm is not square.  It is only  660 feet wide.  The south west corner is the highest elevation on the farm.. The mid point on the south property line is only a little lower in elevation than the SW corner.  The SE corner is considerably lower (could be a 20% slope).  That would be the cheapest place to try adding this second fence.  The nearly level part of the fence is ordinary barbed wire.  The sloped area is not well maintained fence that was supposed to keep in buffalo, but lack of maintenance has caused issues with wires (just high tension, no barbs) not being at the heights they are supposed to be at.  It's the neighbour's fence, he was the guy with the buffalo.

I have looked at, and tried building jackleg fence as a second fence.  But building fence on a 20% slope is not fun.

----

Also, can I trade you some moose for the chital?  They look almost like a spotted mule deer.  Are they wild near you?  There was some person who brought boar to near Dawson Creek, and some escaped quite a while ago.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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The areas I have fenced aren't square.  Not really sure what that has to do with fencing it.

The Chital are feral/naturalized from when years ago they escapes or were let go from game ranches.  They are delicious, but unfortunately neither of us hunt, though our neighbors do.

I don't think Moose would like it here, too hot.  It is ideal for the Chital, because a lot like parts of their native India, but no Tigers!

 
Gordon Haverland
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About not square.  It is cheaper to fix 660 feet of fence, than to fix 2640 feet of fence (that has other things like a barn close to it).

Yes, I agree moose wouldn't like the heat in Texas.  Sorry to hear that you have a feral deer problem.
 
pollinator
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I have no idea how effective this actually is, but someone I knew swore a wide border of (prickly) squash around his garden kept the deer out. He made sure there was some tasty stuff for them on their side of the squash so they didn't have much incentive to get through. He said he'd done this a few times with success.
 
pollinator
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I have a deer fence but I also have some big lavender plants outside it that were put in before the fence went up, and the deer don't eat it. The bees also love it. I'm planning on clearing out the area around the lavender (which has gotten a bit overgrown) and letting it spread out to help attract bees/provide bee food.
 
Gordon Haverland
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I have squash planted out in the middle of the fescue pasture, wide open to bambi.  The biggest plant is just at the 4 true leaf stage.  So far, no nibbling of the squash.  Last night, more than 1 deer walked the length of my 80 foot potato planting.  One plant (at least) got stepped on.  Many plants got nibbled.

I have been thinking that allelopathy is more widespread than we think it is.  For instance, some fescues are allelopathic.  Two of my sets of potato plantings, had large weed populations to start with.

A set of 10 are 3x3 foot raised beds that I normally plant sunflower in (and I almost never get to harvest it, bambi does).  So, that is 40 potato locations.  About 1 week ago, I cut most of the weeds to about 1  inch height.  I believe out of the 40 locations, there were 6 showing potato plants.  Today, there are 20 of the 40 locations showing potato plants.  So, it may be that how much light reaches the tiny potato plants is important (before they break through the surface of the wood chips)..  I have another potato planting area, where I can also cut weeds down (so about another week "in shade", and I can see how that responds.

I had planted lavender when I was living in Grande Prairie, on the SW corner of the house.  The location was abutting the basement, so the ground was warmed to some extent, and I had 3 inch styrofoam on top (for the winter).  In spring, I took the foam off, and a week or so later we got a frost, and all the lavender died.  Maybe I should try to grow it here again?
 
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In my experience, and as someone without a deer problem but with copious smaller critters around, a hungry animal doesn't care about your "deterrents". Will mint keep the rabbits and ground squirrels away when there is other stuff to eat about, yep. Will it do it when there isn't, nope. I've a million dead trees that can vouch for that!
 
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A good rule is do not garden without fence and water!!!

This year's garden has no deer but rabbits and the like cukes plants.
 First year garden so no fence
. It is not my property.


Paul
 
Gordon Haverland
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I am probably a physicist first and a chemist second.  In either field, if you do a well designed experiment your model should probably explain  at least 90% of the variance in the data, if you have the correct model.  In biology, even if you have the correct mode, it always seemed like you model might explain a bit more than 50% of the variance.  So, there always seemed to be exceptions to rules.

My biggest problems are deer related, and so that is where I have been looking the most.

There are lots of lists of deer resistant plants, often for differing definitions of resistant.  And the definitions can depend on location.

Some plants are physically uncomfortable to eat.  Pines and spruces are both conifers.  A spruce needle being short can inflict more pain than a pine needle, mostly because the Euler buckling load for the spruce needle is larger due to its shorter length.  And lots of plants have spines, hair, needles and other things along this approach.  The long spines of a honey locust probably won't bother a squirrel much, but there may be circumstances where they might impale themselves on a spine.  I've got some young hawthorns (all English I think) that are maybe 2 foot tall.  None seem to have anything remotely like a thorn yet, so they can't protect themselves from a deer at this point.  But I don't think they could ever protect themselves from rabbits or mice girdling trunks.  Growing roses under them might help against rabbits, probably mice wouldn't even notice.

Another physical reason for a plant to be resistant, is because it is sticky.    Stickyness brings a bunch of problems, but the ability to "sneak" around is often compromised if things get stuck to you.

A whole bunch of plants are "deer resistant" for some chemical reason.  If you eat something and develop bad breath or flatulaence, predators will probably be able to find you more easily.  So, that explains much of the aromatic plants.

Hot peppers (capsaicin) are difficult for most animals to eat, but birds have on ability to even detect those compounds, let alone them bothering them.

But a big chunk of these chemical defences are various kinds of poisons.  Deer tend to not to eat a single plant to death (unless it is very small), they take a bite here and a bite there.  But probably as important, deer will eat wood (cellulose) and cellulose ends up having a huge specific surface area at some point, and it any poisons are present in the stomach, they will tend to adsorb on the surface of the cellulose and get carried through.  Another thing that deer eat is clay, and the same thing happens (clay has a huge specific surface area).  Saponins are a common class; they are soaps.  Some are also poisonous.  Another class of compounds are glycosides.  Plants are sugar factories, and attaching things to sugars to produce glycosides is a natural thing to do.  Some plants also produce an enzyme to react with some of these glycosides, to enhance their use as a defence.  So, we have Allium, horseradish and others, which have enzymes which react with glycosides to produce potent and often aromatic compounds which are in some sense very spicy.  Cyanogenic glycosides are related, except that they reacto witht eh enzyme to release HCN gas (cyanide).

Alkaloids are nitrogen containing compounds that typically taste bitter (one of our primary taste sensations).  There are lots of alkaloids we recognize: caffeine, cocaine, nicotine.  My Mom is needing a change in medication, and somehow I came across strychnine, brucine and some other relaed alkaloids.  In some senses, strychnine and caffeine act in similar ways, strychnine just happens to have a much more pronounced effect.  They are glycine antagonists, at least in part.  They bind to neuron receptors that normally glycine interacts with.  Pretty much all animals are affected in the same way and to similar concentrations of these alkaloids in a glycine antagonist toxicity problem.


Can robots help with some of these smaller critters?  Maybe.  If we have conifers around, it might be economically feasilble to make an "adhesive" based on rosin to put in robot controlled squirt guns, to spray critters.  I've seen plans for this sort of thing with respect neighbour's cats coming into gardens.  If the animal in question senses capsaicin, then adding some kind of hot pepper sauce to the adhesive makes sense.  Adding a soap (saponin) could also work.  Nobody likes to eat a bar of soap, and if you have to lick a sticky substance off of fur, you will eat a lot of it.

I think there are plant seeds which "rattle".  Squirt an  adhesive and throw some rattle seeds in that direction, and whatever you sprayed will be making more noise on the way home than they want to.

But you probably can't add any old thing to your adhesive.  Too many liability or legal issues can come up.  Sticky and rattles probably works, sticky and hot sauce probably works, sticky and sand probably works, sticky and soap might work.  Astringent?  Sticky and green bananas?

Squirrels?  My only dealings with squirrels relate to bird feeders, but I have observed them  many times.  Robotic stuff can be awfully fast.  Have an angled "fence" on the bottom of a branch they frequent, and when they approach, it rotates around the branch and turns into a barrier which knocks them off the branch?  Blast of compressed air to knock them off (it would have to be low enough pressure not to perforate the skin)?

In the case of bambi, most governments cannot set reasonable population density guidelines.  Too many Disney people in the voting lists.  Can a person regulate squirrel density?  Or is this just a byproduct of predators?  Some wildlife management talks about contraceptives, but I don't think a private citizen can get away with either sterilization or contraceptives.

I'm about out of ideas on this track.  For now.  


Paul, is the lack of water because you are in a rain shadow of some kind?  I would have thought that cucumbers would have spines on the vine like squash.  But it could be if cucumbers do have spines, the animal is too small for that to help.  I did read about one person who had some very productive squash vines, which went up and over a trellis which  went over a shed or garage.  That might work for you.  Or do your rabbits climb trellis like a goat might be able to do?
 
Gordon Haverland
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Apparently among the many things mint will repel, is ants.

My farm probably has over 1000 ant colonies, some black and some red.  Since the queens and princes can fly, I mint border isn't going to keep ants out of your garden; should that be a goal.  What the mint border will stop, is the ants taking the overland route to get to your garden from the outside.

Apparently, if you just put vertical barriers in the soil, even an 18 inch deep barrier may at some point allow mint rhyzomes to escape.  Geotech fabric will allow water and air to pass, but not the rhyzomes.  So, you probably don't need 18 inches deep if you line your "moat" with geotech fabric.  You probably want the vertical barriers to extend above the surface by at least 2 inches.  But if the mint bends over the barrier and contacts the ground outside, that could allow it to spread.  So, you need to monitor it for that.

Mints probably prefer shade.  Mints are affected by some insect pests, such as aphids.  So, if you have your garden surrounded by a dwarf hemlock border, the south side should get enough shade every day for mint, the east and west sides may need some kind of cover which grows taller than 2 feet, and the north side will need cover for pretty much the entire day.

There are lots of kinds of mint, you probably should have many kinds in your garden.

 
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