There is a rhythm emerging in the struggle between me and the deer over who rules the garden. I grow things from seed, starting them in the basement under a small plastic tent, then under lights, then into a cold frame so they get used to being outdoors. By transplanting time, the air and ground have warmed, and the sun gets high at midday.
The deer (and I believe that it is just one) comes round under cover of night, but I believe that it had been watching and waiting. The moment in time that this became obvious was the emergence of the mysterious black-eyed Susans in the back corner of one of the beds.
As far as I could recall, I had not planted these, and indeed, I did not even know they were there. Did not know, that is, until a single deer’s tracks from a hole in the fence in their direction tipped me off. On its way from the underbrush, the deer stopped to nip all the tops off my tomatoes and sunflowers, knocked over the wire pepper frames, and stood in the garlic. It knew what it was after, by smell, I figured.
Last year, the deer let the garden be. I had more or less the same selection of plants in the ground, but only once discovered any signs of nocturnal depredation. Instead, rabbits had at it. I found the skeleton of one in the spring, under the dried stems of the African marigolds. I had not even yet put all the pickets on the fence; it was a wide-open invitation, like siren song luring sailors to their doom.
We had apples aplenty last year on the two dwarf trees; in June a deer pranced in just after the fruit had set and what it did not chew to pulp it left on the ground like my hope for another good harvest.
Now I am faced with the East End gardeners’ dilemma of whether to further fortify my modest plot or give up altogether. Time, really, is the question. The hours spent putting on more fence wire and posts I’d rather put toward other things, but I like the flowers and the satisfaction they bring. It is just unfortunate that the deer likes them too.