Oh, deer! Yes, Bambi is cute and the white-tailed deer IS the Illinois state mammal. But deer can take a toll on your carefully planned out garden. The deer population in Illinois has been reported as fairly stable over the last decade, with the count in 2021 at 640,000 deer statewide. Hunted nearly to extinction in the early 20th century, white-tailed deer are now protected under the Illinois Wildlife Code as a game species, per the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Illinois does have management practices in place.
October through January is mating season, so deer behavior will be more erratic in those months. They are most active at dusk and dawn. Deer forage on tasty plants, including shoots, leaves, grasses and bark. By late winter/early spring, these beautiful animals are hungry, particularly the does with newborn fawns. Admire these wild creatures from a distance and set up your garden for success by following some simple tips that allow us to live together in the Barrington landscape.
Deer Resistant Native Plants
There is no such thing as a 100% deer-resistant plant, since their dietary habits change frequently - mostly impacted by the change in weather. It also depends on time of year, what else is available for the deer to eat and more. Especially from late summer through to spring, deer will eat almost anything!
There ARE some great native plants that are not so attractive to a hungry Odocoileus virginianus.
Features of Deer Resistant Native Plants
Prickly: plants that have spiky thorns, spiny branches and spiky fruits. Deer will want to avoid eating these painful plants.
Aromatic: plants like Spicebush a have a resinous aromatic coating on their leaves which is pleasant to us, but which deer dislike.
Leathery: plants like Viburnum are attractive to us to look at, but are not attractive to deer as the leaves are too tough to chew and digest properly.
Here are some good deer-resistant native species that you can plant
Redbud, River Birch, Ironwood/Hophornbeam and Sycamore
Blackhaw Viburnum, Nannyberry, Snowberry,
Spicebush,Winterberry (both male and female) and Witchhazel
Don’t feed the deer! Feeding motivates them to wander into yards and then they are inclined to keep coming back.
Fence it! An 8-10 foot barrier may be needed to keep the high-jumping deer out, so this might be something of a last resort.
Motion controlled ‘scarecrow sprinklers’! These do frighten the deer, but will only protect a limited area. The deer quickly figure out the spray pattern and avoid it. Use these in a corner or up against buildings.
Deer repellents! Note that these need to be applied frequently and the deer tend to become de-sensitized to them over time.
ALWAYS protect new trees and shrubs with individual cylinders of chicken wire or hardware cloth tall enough to protect the entire plant. This will prevent both deer and rabbits from snacking on the tender bark and young branches.
"Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the Spring and ends in the Fall
is missing the best part of the whole year;
for gardening begins in January with the dream."
- Josephine Nuese
While we don't have snow cover at this time, it is still winter and the local flora is in dormancy.
** Extra points if you have been taking the opportunity to target woody invasives in your yard - this is the ideal season to work on the eradication of:
Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, Oriental Bittersweet, Russian Olive, Thorny Olive, Autumn Olive and Salt Cedar.
January IS the perfect time to map out plans
for the next growing season!
1. Want to love your garden? Love the plants that you choose to grow! Explore some websites from the warm comfort of your armchair and find some beauties - make a list. Tall or short, blooming or not, herbaceous plant, shrub or tree, sun or shade, wet or dry. Seed catalogs are a great resource. BACT has curated a list of local plant and seed sources. Here are some other great resources with lovely photos to get your creative juices flowing!
2. Make a copy of your plat of survey and use that to map out a plan for beds and plantings. Here are some sample monarch waystation layouts that you can modify for size, density and variety to suit your needs.
3. Without the leaves in the way, this is a great opportunity to walk your yard and check your trees and shrubs for damage. This is also a good time to prune certain species. If you need an arborist to help, check BACT's Resource List.
4. Help support local wildlife. By planting native plants, you are already going a long way! Leaving the leaves and stems standing over winter is also a plus - both for animals and the soil. Use ice-melt salt sparingly - again to protect the soil, water, ecosystems and even our own pets. Learn more about salt at BACOG.
National Seed Swap Day
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Stop by BACT's office on Monday, January 30, from 9am-4pm to select from packets of milkweed, indian grass, rattlesnake master and more seeds! We are located in the Barrington White House at 145 West Main Street - the doors are kept locked, so call when you arrive: 847-387-3149.
You can also visit the Barrington Area Library's seed library for additional seed selections!
Have you listened to BACT's podcast yet? Visit our website Library!
Our most recent episode: "Keystones of Barrington". A conservation conversation with Barrington “keystone” BACT Trustee Charlie Keppel about native plant keystone ecosystems.