Oh Deer, Not Horse Manure!

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Here in the Southeast, we’ve never seen so
many deer. Reports on television and in newspapers from
many parts of the country report a widespread problem with
deer invading even city yards and eating expensive
plantings. I’ve found a simple, chemical free and
inexpensive way to keep them from devouring my gardens and
shrubbery.

Through the years, I’ve observed the feeding habits of cows
and horses in our pastures and learned some basics. Cows
will not graze where other cows have deposited their
droppings. Horses, on the other hand, will eat where there
is cow dung, but they won’t eat grass in an area
contaminated by horse manure. Interestingly, deer join
horses in the pastures and seem to have the same eating
habits, but I can never get close enough to them to see
where they feed and where they don’t.

So it happened that six years ago, when a new crop of
asparagus emerged in my garden, the deer devoured it as
quickly as it came up. I didn’t know what to do. I put up
an electric fence and it helped some, but the wiser
critters soon jumped it and helped themselves. So one day,
I sprinkled horse manure on part of the asparagus bed and
left the other part of the bed alone. The next morning
there was plenty of asparagus still sprouting from the
manure covered area, but every shoot was eaten where there
was no manure. Was it a coincidence, or did the deer just
prefer the asparagus without manure? To find out, I covered
the rest of the asparagus bed with horse manure and had no
further problem with deer eating it that entire spring.
Apparently deer, like horses, will not feed where there’s
horse manure. Since this discovery, I’ve routinely applied
horse manure to my asparagus each spring and there hasn’t
been a deer problem yet.

In other parts of the garden, I stuck with chicken manure
and cow manure for a while, and the deer kept coming. Last
year, however, I decided to switch to horse manure as my
universal fertilizer. It protected favorite deer foods like
corn seedlings and early spring peas and it kept marauding
nibblers from blueberry bushes. It protected everything.

To prove the point, I set out several new young azalea
bushes early last spring. The only horse manure I had on
hand was too fresh to put on the young, tender shrubs, and
by the next morning, they were eaten almost to the ground.
Later in the year, I moved some azaleas I’d rooted from
cuttings. I put on a layer of ground leaves for mulch, then
a light layer of aged horse manure and the azaleas have
done very well. I’ve seen deer sniff and nuzzle them, but
they have not taken a single nibble.

In our area, as in many areas, riding stables are happy to
give folks manure free of charge, so long as they load and
haul it away themselves. Some stables will deliver it for a
reasonable price. Several friends have horses and I can
obtain extra from them when our horse can’t provide enough.

For those who don’t have local access to riding stables or
neighbors with horses, the next time you go for a ride in
the country, take along some covered garbage cans (with
liners if you prefer and keep on the lookout for horses.
I’ve found that many folks who stable their horses in the
winter are delighted to have someone volunteer to haul away
the manure in the spring.

My husband makes fun of me when I go out with my garden
tractor, trailer in tow, and using a flat shovel as a king
sized pooper-scooper gather manure in die pasture. I tell
him I’m going on a treasure hunt… for brown gold.