If you build it the deer will come...

... although sometimes they show up and still try to eat everything regardless of what you've built.

The deer around here know what they like and even if they aren't sure they are not afraid to give it a nibble. There is a family group of 6 or 7 that regularly make the rounds in our neighborhood. They know the shortcuts, the good places to bed down, the houses without dogs, and they know when you leave your back gate open.

Not a lot to eat here but a few of their favorite weeds


I'm not particularly excited by the deer. I don't think they are cute, fascinating or very interesting. As a gardener the deer are more like having clay soil, an eastern exposure or an average annual rainfall. They are something that must be taken into account when choosing plants.

The photographer got uncomfortably close.

They aren't particularly concerned about me but if my 28 lb Labradoodle comes outside they instantly take notice.

Munching on a Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

Just across the street is a small, open space park with native plants like Toyon and Coffee Berry. Part of my original plan for the hillside garden was to intersperse some of those same natives with exotics from other Mediterranean climates like South Africa. Unfortunately CA natives are also the favored snacks of our local deer.  The little Toyon above was one I bought last year, never planted and put out on the path a few days ago as a test. I've since moved it back to safety.

The herd grazing

Over the last couple weeks we've also had a gopher visiting our front yard. Last year it was moles. The moles eat earthworms (which I won't begrudge them) but the gophers will eat the agave which I cannot allow. We called someone out to trap them.

As far as the deer are concerned I've found that anything fragrant or spiny they will leave alone. Unfortunately the softer succulents like Sedum, Aeonium or Echeveria don't survive long. I suppose that's ok - it's just part of the constraints this space has been dealt.

Update Spring 2021

This morning while walking outside with a cup of coffee my wife noticed what she thought at first was a rabbit hiding in the cacti.

new born deer sitting under a cactus
New born taking refuge under a cactus


  1. I would be excited upon seeing the deer but then I was excited the first time I saw bunnies in this garden - the thrill didn't last long and I turned into a version of Mr. McGregor. However, I was NOT excited when I recently discovered a gopher burrow at the edge of my stacked stone wall. A couple of people told me to try stuffing dryer sheets in there, which I did. I have no illusions that he's gone even though I've seen no additional signs of him.

    1. Dryer sheets? That's interesting. My wife tried playing loud music into the gopher holes with a bluetooth speaker because they are apparently sensitive to noise. That didn't work as far as I know. We literally watched him for a few minutes poking his head out of a hole over and over ... I think he wanted to make a run a new location but must not have feet safe - it filled in the entrance and disappeared. We gardeners have tried everything probably!

  2. No deer in our immediate area. Good thing--the blankety-blank rabbits are bad enough. Gophers, we get about one every other year, though this past week the neighbor's Labrador killed two in an hour (good dog!), and brought them in the house to eat (bad dog!).

    1. Ok! - send me your neighbor's phone # - I need to borrow their dog :) At least we don't have rabbits in my neighborhood. I'll be thankful for that and focus less on the thought of our Agaves being eaten alive from the bottom up by a gopher .

  3. I share your pain. Even the spiny agaves aren't safe in my garden come autumn, when bucks in rut will antler stiff agave leaves to shreds. I have to cage them each Sept-April.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts