Milorganite Update: Remarkable Success!

An Hydrangea brought as a cutting from our last garden, has been grazed each year in this one... until this spring.

This Hydrangea, brought as a cutting from our last garden, has been grazed each year in this one… until this spring.  Might it finally bloom this summer?

~

The early results of our experiment in using Milorganite as a deterrent for deer remain all positive.  A month on, we haven’t seen a single deer in our garden since applying Milorganite in early April.  We haven’t seen a deer, a hoof print, deer droppings, or any damage to the tastiest of our plants.

This is absolutely remarkable!  Spring has proven one of the busiest seasons for deer breaking through our fences and into the garden, right as tasty and tender new foliage emerges.  Damage done in these crucial first few weeks of the growing season has stunted growth and marred the beauty of plants for the entire season… in past years.

~

Deer stripped this struggling little Camellia of all its leaves this past March. It happens once or twice each year, yet the Camellia hangs on. New leaves have begun to emerge from its naked stems.

Deer stripped this struggling little Camellia of all its leaves in March. It happens once or twice each year, yet the Camellia hangs on.  New leaves have finally begun to emerge from its naked stems. 

~

Deer pressure in the garden increased during the last two weeks of March.  A tea rose was nibbled back to its canes the day after I pruned away the Lantana skeleton protecting it.  All those early leaves and tiny buds simply gone overnight.  That was what pushed us into accepting the counsel of other gardeners to at least experiment with Milorganite.

~

This four year old R. 'Pope John Paul II' was grazed within a day when I cut back the Lantana in early March. Protected by Milorganite, it is recovering and has a few flower buds.

This four year old R. ‘Pope John Paul II’ was grazed within a day, in early March, when I cut back the Lantana growing around it. Protected by Milorganite, it is recovering now and even has a few flower buds.

~

Milorganite, or Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen, is the heated and pelletized remains from the city of Milwaukee’s sewage treatment plant.  See why I was reluctant to try it?  But it was much easier and more pleasant to use than the various deer repellent sprays I’ve tried over our years in this garden.  I wanted to simply hold my breath while using most of the sprays we’ve tried!

Milorganite is a clean looking, grey material made of tiny dry pellets; much like Osmacote or pelletized lime.  There is no dust or obvious odor to my human nose.

~

milorganite~

Wearing gardening gloves, I simply scooped it and broadcast spread it using a discarded plastic food container.  I made a 4′ perimeter along the inside of our fence line, and added an extra stripe of it in the plantings along our street and along our drive.

I also spread it around specific shrubs which need protecting, as added insurance, and in areas we’ve seen deer moving through the garden in past years.

~

We spread a double stripe of Milorganite on both the streetside, and the garden side of our deer fences nearest the street.

We spread a double stripe of Milorganite on both the street side, and the garden side of our deer fences nearest the street.  We have Azaleas, native blueberries  and Oak Leaf Hydrangeas to protect in this area.

~

I used the entire 36 lb. bag, which is advertised to cover around 2500 square feet.  This was a huge bargain:  We bought the bag at Lowes for under $13.00.  If you’ve paid top dollar for animal repellent sprays then you know a single bottle can cost twice that amount!

~

Our Hostas have emerged beautifully this spring. I simply abandoned this part of the garden last season due to pressure from deer crossing through the fence and grazing heavily here.

Our Hostas have emerged beautifully this spring. I simply abandoned this part of the garden last season due to pressure from deer crossing through the fence and grazing heavily here.

~

Now, we wondered whether the Milorganite would repel other mammalian visitors to our garden.  Since spreading it, we’ve continued to see rabbits munching on the front lawn and squirrels running about.  But the squirrels already had nests high up in our garden’s trees.  The rabbits were grazing in areas where I hadn’t broadcast the repellent.  We haven’t found any plants damaged by their grazing.

The number of vole tunnels we’ve found this spring has dropped dramatically, too.  Several factors have helped control the voles, particularly the many Daffodils and Hellebores we’ve planted throughout the garden in recent years.  But we’ll assume that perhaps they are avoiding ground treated with Milorganite, too.

~

This little Oakleaf Hydrangea, with ferns and bulbs, gets grazed once or twice a year. So far the Milorganite has protected it this spring.

This little Oakleaf Hydrangea, with ferns and bulbs, gets grazed once or twice a year.  The Milorganite has protected it this spring.

~

And we’ve been delighted to see new growth on the rose which pushed us over the edge.  It has covered itself in foliage and formed new buds over the last month.  Other roses, heavily grazed in past years, are growing happily this spring.  Covered in buds, they have actually bulked up a little!

Little Azalea shrubs, planted by previous owners of our garden, show signs of recovery, too.  Grazed to their stems over the past few years, they have been barely holding on.  But new growth is bursting forth this spring, and many of them bloomed.

~

Hydrangea, Azaleas and Rhododendrons grow in the open Connie Hansen Garden in Lincoln City, OR. Deer have free run of this garden.

Hydrangea, Azaleas and Rhododendrons grow in the open Connie Hansen Garden in Lincoln City, OR.  Deer have free run of this garden.

~

We realize that deer, and their fawns, form habits in early spring for where to go each day to graze.  We believe that keeping them out of our garden in these first few months of spring will help them learn to avoid visiting us during the remainder of the year.

~

I surround roses and other tasty treats with fragrant herbs, which generally protect them. This baby rose grows protected by chocolate mint.

I surround roses, and other tasty treats, with fragrant herbs, which give some protection from grazing deer. This baby rose grows protected by chocolate mint.

~

Deer are actually quite intelligent and resourceful.  And so we opted to re-apply another bag of Milorganite this past week.  Even though we expect an application to last between 6 and 8 weeks based on our reading, we decided to go over the perimeter and the critical areas once again after only 4 weeks.

~

The wider view shows Violas also untouched this spring.

The wider view shows Violas also untouched this spring.

~

We’ve had a lot of rain, and we didn’t want to take any chance that the scent would weaken and a few deer might slip in.  We probably won’t apply it again until late June or early July.

~

The first rose we planted here in 2010, this shrub rose has been grazed repeatedly. In rare years we actually see it bloom. This year it hasn't been touched by grazing and so is bulking up.

The first rose we planted here in 2010, this English shrub rose has been grazed repeatedly. In rare years we actually see it bloom. This year it hasn’t been touched by grazing and so is finally growing a bit.

~

But we will continue our integrated approach to discouraging deer in the garden.  Not only will we monitor our perimeter deer fences, but I still plan to plant fragrant herbs throughout the garden.  I picked up a selection of scented Pelargoniums this weekend to plant near our smaller roses, along with Basil and Lavender.

~

Pelargonium 'Skeleton Rose' has lovely scent and foliage. Rarely hardy for us, I search it out again each spring.

Pelargonium ‘Skeleton Rose’ has lovely scent and foliage. Rarely hardy for us, I search it out again each spring.

~

And we continue adding plants with poisonous leaves and stems, which deer won’t graze anyway.  As awful as that might sound, many of our favorite ornamental plants, like Caladiums, Daffodils and Hellebores are poisonous from leaf to root.

Other favorites have leaves deer don’t care to eat.  Lamb’s Ears, or  Stachys byzantina, most ferns, Lantana, Comphrey, Geraniums, Iris and other garden favorites have leaves with objectionable textures and scents which deer leave strictly alone.  Many ornamentals can be planted in safety no matter how many deer visit one’s garden.

~

Ferns and Hellebores won't be bothered by deer.... ever.

Ferns and Hellebores won’t be bothered by deer…. ever.  Here, transplanted seedlings of Hellebore surround a newly planted Maidenhair fern.

~

I walked around the garden last week admiring this spring’s growth.  All of our Hostas have emerged and are growing undamaged.  Roses and Azaleas grow ungrazed.  Our beautiful Oak Leaf Hydrangeas are bulking up undamaged, for the first time ever.  Perennials continue waking from their winter’s rest, wildflowers bloom and even the low-hanging branches and fruit on our pear tree have gone untouched.  (Deep contented sigh….)

~

Daylily emerges in this bed each spring, but rarely has the chance to bloom. So far the new leaves remain untouched.

Daylily emerges in this bed each spring, but rarely has the chance to bloom. So far the new leaves remain untouched.  Apple mint runs among the Columbines, Iris, Daffodils, ferns and Vinca minor.

~

I overheard some of the volunteer gardeners discussing deer damage to new plantings at the Connie Hansen Garden, when I was in Oregon last month.  I didn’t admit to eavesdropping by breaking into their conversation; I’m shy that way most times.  Deer roam freely in their neighborhood, and the split rail fences around the garden present no obstacle to the deer at all.  They were discussing what a particularly damaging spring it has been for their garden.  But I wanted to interject, “Have you tried Milorganite?” 

~

Epimedium grows this spring in one of our 'stump gardens.'

Epimedium grows this spring  with Salvia and Hellebore in one of our ‘stump gardens.’

~

With the zeal of a recent convert, I’d like to share our success with everyone plagued by deer in their gardens.  Finally, at long last, we seem to have found a product which effectively repels deer; excludes them, actually, long term.  It is working thus far for us, and I hope others with deer problems will soon try it, too.  Please leave a comment if you have experience with Milorganite, or another product which protects your garden from grazing deer.

~

May 2, 2016 garden 015

~

Because beyond the obvious benefits to our plants, the most exciting benefit has been for the gardeners:  We haven’t found a single tick since our first Milorganite application in early April.  In fact, I’ve had only one tick bite this entire year, and that was in mid-March.  My partner hasn’t had any, despite the many hours we’ve both spent outside in recent weeks.

Keeping deer out of our garden has kept ticks out of the garden, too.

May our good fortune continue….

~

May 2, 2016 garden 046~

Woodland Gnome 2016

~

May 2, 2016 garden 048

Advertisements

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

14 responses to “Milorganite Update: Remarkable Success!

  1. It must be such a relief to have discovered Milorganite. I can just imagine how you are feeling when you walk around this year – we are ‘deer-free’ here, but they used to graze my front garden in a previous house – reduced me to tears sometimes! Interesting also that the voles don’t like hellebores … one to add to my list of tricks. Thanks

    • Dear Cathy, only someone who has seen their beautiful plants grazed truly understands. I’m glad to know you are deer free this season! I also feel for the deer who are under such pressure to find food that their best choice is to browse our gardens! Must be very upsetting for them, too. Hellebores are very poisonous… every single part, including the roots. Finding plants with poisonous roots has been a useful strategy for us here. There were so many voles, and they come in from neighboring yards. Whole areas would suddenly be dug up and plants gone down the vole hole! Because our garden survives on such a steep grade, keeping the ground stabilized is one of our high priority considerations. Especially in rainy spells, like this one, we try to reduce erosion. Eliminating tunnels is important to keep the ground from washing away. We normally carry sticks of cheap chewing gum in our pockets. We put a quarter stick of gum, still wrapped in its papers, down any vole hole we find, then pack the whole closed with gravel and earth. That one strategy has made a tremendous difference in helping us to control them. Hope all is well with you, Cathy. Thanks for visiting today! ❤ ❤ ❤

      • How very odd! The chewing gum is still in the wrapper and it works? I much enjoyed seeing your garden and also felt some of the relief that you must feel watching your plants grow away – you really have created something special. Well done!

        • Cathy how exceptionally kind of you. On our last visit to our favorite garden center my husband was described as my ‘enabler.’ The word ‘compulsive’ found its way into that conversation, too…. Perhaps we are kindred spirits enough that you understand 😉 I love the garden and love watching it develop, expand, and thrive. The voles are attracted to the fragrance of the chewing gum and of course nibble a bit, paper and all. Everything is growing so fast this spring that I’m still catching up with weeds and trimming from my week away; but I counted 4 different varieties of Iris in bloom yesterday in a rainbow of colors. What a beautiful time of the year!

  2. Lita Sollisch

    Do you think there is a down side to using this product?

    • Lita, that is an excellent question and one I’ve had in the back of my mind as well. My main concern lies in potential for Rx drug residue from the sewage- The product is certified ‘organic,’ yet I don’t know whether it has been tested for such compounds. As it dissolves it all eventually runs down to our pond, to College Creek, and into the water table. That isn’t a direct concern for us personally, but potentially could contaminate the pond over time. It is almost a moot point, however, as many of our neighbors still use septic tanks. That was how our neighborhood originally was plumbed…. Thus far we have found only positive effects from using Milorganite. Thank you for voicing such a great question, and for visiting today ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. Everything looks beautiful! Our woodland garden is doing well this year, and we’ve had no deer even though we’ve done nothing to deter them. Glad you found a way to keep down the damage they can do!

    • Now that is just bragging… But I’m happy for you and yours that you aren’t dealing with deer this season. Any ideas why they aren’t visiting you? Thank you for the kind words. I was a little hesitant on using some of these photos as there are parts of the garden that aren’t quite as beautiful as others! Thanks for visiting; hope you are well ❤ ❤ ❤

      • Actually, I worry that there are no deer. No idea at all about where they are or why they haven’t visited our garden. We see fewer and fewer deer each year. They used to walk across our front yard and down the middle of our road, but we haven’t seen them do that in several years.

  4. Sounds fantastic. I’ll be interested to see how healthy your plants become as the stuff is absorbed into the soil. Have you checked for earthworms?

    • That is a good question! I haven’t specifically checked for earthworms, but we tend to have a lot of them, anyway, in areas we cultivate. Since Milorganite contains iron, as well as N, I am hoping it will boost the soil around the Camellias, which tend to be heavy feeders and sometimes develop yellowing leaves when they need a snack 😉 Thank you for visiting ❤ ❤ ❤

  5. This is a huge victory for you! I know you have struggled with deer damage for years. What a thrilling (and affordable) discovery. Yes! 🙂

We always appreciate your comments. Thank you for adding your insight to the conversation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 510 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest

%d bloggers like this: