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In Your Face, You Miserable Deer and Slugs

By Steve Fagin

Publication: theday.com

Published June 30. 2012 4:00AM

During my years of attempting to grow a few measly tomatoes, peppers and zucchini I have expended more time and energy fending off voracious animals and insects than it would have taken to mine my own gold, smelt the ore, trade it on the precious metals exchange and use the proceeds to purchase mountains of produce at the supermarket.

In short, it has been a long, hard-fought battle – but after my latest defensive maneuvers I am finally declaring unilateral victory.

More than a month has passed since I finished constructing what absolutely will be my final barricade – if it fails I will give up gardening and take up needlepoint – and nary a critter has penetrated.

It’s over, you puny deer. My opposable thumbs, superior intellect and dogged determination have prevailed.

I cringe now thinking back about the ridiculous, jerry-rigged fences I initially built before realizing I had been dealing with a mutant strain of robo-deer. They must have laughed, if deer are capable of finding humor, when they observed such flimsy barriers held together with baling wire and furring strips. All I can say is: Who’s laughing now? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha….

Here is how I won:

First of all, I’m deeply indebted to my friend and neighbor Bob, who took pity on my travails and donated some 75 5x8 pressure-treated posts he no longer needed.

Before I continue describing my actions, I should note that they have been extraordinarily labor-intensive and only those with OCD tendencies and way too much time on their hands should attempt to repeat them.

All right, after lugging the 8-foot posts a couple hundred yards to my hillside garden I dug 2-foot-deep holes every 8 feet or so. This being New England, virtually every excavation required the use of a pry bar and mattock to remove rocks, some as big as a chest of drawers.

Next, I drilled holes into and then lag-screwed 7-foot, heavy gauge metal fence posts to the wooden posts. Allowing for the 2-foot holes in the ground and 1 foot of overlap of wood and metal, this made the overall height above ground of 12 feet. Even robo-deer can’t jump that high.

Then, I placed an extended wood and metal post into each hole, wedging them with rocks below and above ground and filling the remainder with leftover dirt.

Next, I unrolled sections of 6-foot-high metal fencing and nailed them to the posts with galvanized U-shaped brads. After going around the perimeter, some 300 feet, I added a second row, thereby making the overall height 12 feet.

I secured the bottom and top sections of fence with foot-long lengths of galvanized baling wire, which I also used to tie the top sections to the metal posts. Once they were all connected it would take a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to knock it down.

I should also mention that about a third of my garden consists of blueberry bushes.

To protect these from birds I built a frame using the 5x8 posts as lolly columns and pressure-treated 2x4s as rafters, and then covered the entire structure with heavy-gauge nylon netting.

Only after all these reinforcements were in place did I plant my garden, and at first it appeared to thrive.

But one fateful morning I went out to water it and discovered slugs had munched about a third of my bush bean plants.

After letting loose a few choice invectives I considered a variety of slug strategies, including placing cups of beer near the plants, before coming up with my own design.

Using leftover nylon netting, I cut strips about a foot wide and 10 feet long, and then twisted them into a kind of rope. I found it easiest to drive a stake into the ground, secure one end of the strip and then used another stake like a baton to help with the twisting.

I then stretched the twine-like strips on the ground and secured them every few feet with pins I made of heavy-gauge galvanized wire (tent stakes will also suffice).

Slugs hate to crawl over rough surfaces, and so far these scratchy strands seem to be doing the trick.

As an added deterrent I drove to Stonington and collected bags of the so-called “stinky” seaweed and algae that the whole borough has been up in arms over and which I swear I can’t smell, and spread them around my plants to serve as mulch and also extra slug barriers.

Finally, just in case some Kamikaze deer decided to hurl themselves against my fence I added a row of tripod-like structures, each more than 10 feet tall, made of tulip poplar saplings that loosely resemble the spiky wooden barrier at Fort Ticonderoga called a fraise that the Marquis de Lotbinière constructed to impede marauders during the Seven Years' War.

I’ve already harvested asparagus and eagerly await the ripening of what I hope will be a cornucopia of fruit and vegetables.

I’m counting on this fence to outlast me, so maybe I’ll eventually come out ahead from all the blood, sweat and tears I shed.

But in truth the experience has been a labor of love, and even if all I yield is one perfect tomato it will have been time well spent.

 

 

 

 

 

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