As we anticipated moving to Vancouver Island, I was very excited about the gardening possibilities afforded to me by a zone 8 (or at least 7a) climate. Upon arrival however, it became apparent that the unfenced acreage was gardened primarily by deer. As I walked through the garden with one of the owners she described various attempts at warding off the deer but then acknowledged sheepishly she kind of liked having them around.
Fantastic. Those pictures we saw of vegetable beds were essentially deer fodder. The evidence was everywhere. Mowed down rows of lettuce and carrot tops, carefully caged tomato plants ‘pruned’ clean.
I was sad – but easily distracted by the grape vines, apples, pears, and prolific wild blackberries. I put off thoughts of growing vegetables and figured in spring I would possibly fence in some of the berry bushes but leave the rest of the garden to the deer. After all, it was a rental property – we weren’t committed to the place and I didn’t want to spend any money on deer proofing.
I thought I had come to terms with this.
But then spring showed up. First came snowdrops, anemones and a few crocuses. Then tulips started edging up and I got so excited – there were so many of them – we were going to have hundreds of tulips blooming in no time. It was going to be beautiful!!
And then they got mowed down, night after night, and still do. New shoots that I was getting excited about meeting for the first time – things that didn’t grow back in Edmonton - gone. Even the ‘deer resistant’ daffodils…
I spent some time googling ‘shooting deer on your own property’ and decided against it. The lure of free meat and blooming tulips just isn’t enough at this point.
I started by putting a few tulips in containers and carrying them to safety on our back patio. Then a few other things I wasn’t quite sure of beyond their appeal to deer. In short, if a deer was eating it, I dug deeply around it and stuck it in a container of some kind. If the deer start climbing the stairs to our back porch I will re-visit plan A.
And yesterday I decided to move all edible bushes. The owners won’t be back here for five years at least and future renters would rather eat berries than watch deer strip the bushes – plus I was never explicitly told NOT to dig up anything. Perhaps this is assumed - but there are some problems in this garden that need to be addressed.
We have a small sloped bed raised up by the hot tub that has questionable soil but is well out of reach…I think.
Sure you can’t access it without jumping down off the hot tub ledge, and there’s no good footing…BUT..if anything grows well enough we could be eating berries while in the hot tub. That’s a goal worth pursuing.
The boys saw me digging a big hole, then hacking the roots of some fruitless bush nearby, and finally proceeding to carry a huge clump of dirt with spindly branches sticking out of the top. They asked what I was rescuing (they’ve been helping – and apparently paying attention).
I explained that this here -
I immediately had Silas’s attention. He’s obsessed with fruit. Seth asked why I was putting it there.
“If this bush gets blueberries on it – and we leave it where it was over there (gesturing to its’ former home) who is going to get the berries?” I asked them.
“The deer” they both yelled. Silas looked very concerned.
“And who should get these berries?” I asked them.
Silas grinned as wide as his little face allowed and screamed, “ME!!” Seth echoed him but then pointed to me as well. Good kid.
“We all should,” I declared, sensing I was tapping some emotion with this, “so we’re going to rescue these berry bushes…..we’re the Berry Rescuers!” I shouted, and we all started cheering and slapping high fives, and Silas started to dance/jump up and down. I had obviously connected to some deep emotion in his two year old self.
(I also may have put some heavy expectations on this wee bush. But if it survives my transplanting, it will undoubtedly bear the most highly prized berries these boys have eaten)
Now that we were the Berry Rescue Squad (today dubbed the Plant Rescuers by Seth) we proceeded to fill in the dirt from the first bush I removed and then dig out another one. Both boys had themselves worked into a sweat. I’m not sure what the second bush is, but its’ fruit bearing self is now safe in an extremely large pot on our back porch. We’ll see where it ends up – it might just stay in the pot. We grabbed a few more ‘new to us’ bulbs and stuck ‘em in pots too.
At that point the moderate rain that had accompanied all of our excited digging and plant moving turned into a downpour so we called it a day and went in for supper.
As we came inside I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was so thankful for the physical and mental health that got me outside with them despite the weather, allowed me to break a sweat gardening/landscaping, and most importantly enabled me to be completely present, completely engaged with the boys – something that I often haven’t had the capacity for.
Forming a heroic rescue squad felt pretty good too. I think our next rescue project may involve outfits – I’ll check in with the boys and see what they think.