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Deer, pond and gift giving


In just about every corner of Bucks County you’ll find native white tail deer.

Deer are active in the fall. They’re searching for mates and territory, and they are making ready for the coming cold and winter months.

If you have valuable plant material – including newly planted shrubs and tender young trees, they’ll be more at risk from deer damage than during most other times of the year.

As food becomes scarce deer will be compelled to forage farther than they prefer to – and that means your landscape, garden and plantings may be an especially tempting and tasty treat at this time of year.

Deer management

While various deterrent products may keep deer at bay – at least at first – Margaret Pickhoff, a commercial horticulture educator in the Bucks County office of Penn State Extension in Wrightstown Township said “exclusion” is the most reliable deer proof remedy.

Appropriate fencing may seem like a last resort, but it will be the best way to keep your plants and garden protected from famished deer.

Deer are good jumpers, so the fencing should be at least 76 inches high, or six foot tall, even taller. While adult deer will be able to jump such a fence, they won’t do so lightly. Deer don’t like to put themselves in a position without an easy escape.

“To make it harder for deer to browse on a particular plant – such as around your most vulnerable trees and shrubs – [fencing just those plants]works, and it’s worth it,” Pickhoff said.

Deer can cause lasting damage to newly planted young trees, she said.

If fencing isn’t an option right now, Andrew Eckhoff, general manager at Bountiful Acres in Buckingham Township suggests various deterrent sprays and products, which might help keep deer away from newly planted material.

Keep in mind these products smell bad for a reason, and they must be applied and reapplied regularly for best results.To keep groundhogs away from new plantings or out of the garden, fencing must also extend below the soil line, preferably at least 12 inches deep.

Winter pond protection

Outside ponds need winterizing, too.

Fish begin to move into dormancy during this time of year, and they require less feeding. Keeping their water as clear as possible means making sure leaves don’t end up in ponds.

“Keeping the pond clear of leaf debris helps the water and the fish,” Eckhoff said.

Clean nets can help reduce leaf debris. If you live near lakes, ponds or Heron rookery places, like the Great Blue Heron Park in Richland Township, nets can help deter hungry Herons from feasting on your fish.

According to Heritage, the Quakertown Swamp spanning 518 acres across Richland, East and West Rockhill townships, may be the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in eastern Pennsylvania.

An aerator and de-icer are good ways to ensure pond water remains healthy for overwintering fish so they have sufficient oxygen during the colder months, according to Hydrosphere Water Gardens, the Pond in Ontario, Canada.

De-icers and aquatic plants

Popular aquatic pond plants like water lettuce and hyacinth will die if left in cold and freezing water. Remove them before the pond environment becomes too cold. Decaying plant material could hurt fish.

For information about specific aquatic plants, check with local pond supply centers for information and guidance.

Gifts for the gardener

Whether you’re treating someone special or yourself – consider garden gifts this holiday giving season.

Eckhoff’s top suggestions include:

• Pruners, shears and loppers. Inspect and clean your own now so they’re ready for spring. Any small trimming tools – or digging tools like hand trowels – make fun, practical gifts.

• Who doesn’t love a pretty – and hardworking – garden hat? the holidays are a great excuse to splurge on a high quality hat.

• Aprons, shovels and gloves are other welcome gifts for the gardener.

“You can never go wrong buying someone a birdbath because you can never have too many of those,” Eckhoff said.

Bird feeders are another great gift for the gardener and eco-aware property owners, too.

“Select something that will compliment your garden by adding wildlife to it,” Eckhoff said.