Given that we were gone for a month this summer, I didn’t really expect a lot from the tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash we planted in April. The squash plants bombed on their own, though I suspect a vole had something to do with it. Tomatoes and bell peppers usually thrive in the garden boxes, however, and I fully expected to see some results from them.
They usually thrive, that is, if something doesn’t eat them first. A neighbor across the cul-de-sac has been putting out corn for a deer family that makes early morning rounds through the woods around our subdivision, and apparently they grew accustomed to crossing the street to wash it down with some fresh greenery.
In the past, my biggest problem with deer has been their propensity to take a single bite from the prettiest and juiciest of the tomatoes, but this year there were no tomatoes to bite, because they ate the vines down to a stub, and did the same to the bell pepper plants. Normally we have peppers to eat, to freeze, and to give away, but the small green pepper in this photo is the sum total of our crop for the year.
I don’t know if the deer’s tastes have changed so that they eat plants they previously spurned, or if food is so scarce that they’re desperate for roughage. In any case, after pulling up what was left of the tomatoes and reworking the soil to plant a fall crop of cabbage, collards, and cauliflower, we decided to take no chances with establishing a salad buffet. My hip relegates me to watching, but Susan carefully covered the lot with wire cages turned sideways, with a layer of open weave burlap or plastic netting over the plants. We’re hoping that will at least give them a safe start, and with the addition of a few malodorous substances around the perimeter, perhaps our nimble grazers will find other breakfast options before they discover that that figs are getting ripe.
It’s hard to be mad at the deer, because they (or their ancestors) were here long before we humans moved into their habitat. Even so, I’m hoping for an early fall and an abundance of tasty acorns and hickory nuts, so there can be happy meals for all.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.