Over the last two years in Northeast Ohio, for example, we have experienced very late frosts and even snow accumulations during the first couple of weeks in May.
The spring of 2020 was loaded with calls due to late cold snaps, frost burn, and related damage was visible well into the summer. Frost and freeze damage is a fact of life and can be deflating, but that it is far less aggravating than resident deer and rabbit populations feeding on your plants.
It is estimated that there were 500,000 white-tailed deer in the United States in the early 1900’s. Unregulated commercial and subsistence hunting nearly wiped out the herd, but due to current regulations and reduction of natural predators, today their numbers have exploded to over 25 million and rising. And they are hungry. Pair that fact with a healthy rabbit population, the potential for a flourishing landscape can all be but ripped away or mowed to the ground.
The migration of humans into previously forested areas and more rural environments has both begun to crowd that herd by reducing some of their natural habitat and introduced a tasty treat in the form of landscape ornamentals.
This once timid creature now is more comfortable with humans in their surroundings and not at all hesitant to see what is around the house to eat.
What can you do? First, determine what is doing the damage. Scouting for tracks or setting up cameras will be a good start.
Ordinarily feeding can be distinguishable also. Rabbits tend to nibble young, emerging shoots to the ground, as you can see here where rabbits have mowed down this knockout rose. They also like to peel bark from woody ornamentals or nip off some of the younger growth at a 45° angle.
Another tell-tale sign of rabbits is the round droppings that they leave behind. Deer will generally browse at higher levels, sometimes up to six feet. Their damage is also consistent with more of a tearing look as they will grab and pull.
Deer also tend to do damage in three different ways, including feeding or browsing, along with rubbing and entry or traffic. The foraging happens throughout the year and stands to be the most chronic problem.
There are several suggested "deer resistant" plants listed on the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station website, but if they are hungry enough, they will eat most anything.
Another strategy for both deer and rabbit invasion is exclusion, or the act of "building them out" of the landscape. While this can be costly, labor intensive, and a general eyesore, it may be the only sure-fire way to prevent damage. Just doing a casual Google search, you can find any number of home remedies ranging from bars of soap and human hair to predator scents. Most of these may work initially but the likelihood of reduced efficacy is high especially in denser or hungrier areas.
More popular are the retail and commercially available repellents. These products have been tested extensively and been proven to be a great tool in the animal invasion war. Ewing offers the Messinas line of repellents which includes several formulas for repelling multiple types of animals. Most of these products are available as granular or liquid products.
These tend to be very easy to use, safe for plants, and environmentally friendly. They are also not harmful to pets, other animals, kids or even the target animal pest. The design is to deter feeding and other damage by odor and taste, preserving the investment of the landscape. More information can be found on Messinas' website or by contacting us. This line of business can be a great opportunity for commercial contractors and retail customers.
Please reach out to the Ewing Technical Services Team with any questions.