A cheap and reliable way to keep deer out of your orchard and vegetable garden

I have been battling deer in our orchard and vegetable garden for the past few years. The four legged monsters will sneak into our orchard and eat all the growth off of my young fruit trees, consume squash plants down to the base and don’t get me going on the sweet potato vines! I’ve tried numerous organic deterrents including plantskydd, ivory soap slivers and motion sensing lighting. The plantskydd worked OK but I still saw plenty of deer hits even when it was applied. The deer just scoffed at everything else I tried.

While catching up with the latest activity on the Growing Fruit forum I came across a post that suggested running fishing line around the perimeter of your orchard and garden to deter deer. The thought is that the deer can’t see the thin line at night and get spooked when they brush up against it. I’m not real sure if this is actually what happens but will make sure to ask Bambi the next time she stops over for dinner. 😉 So I spend a whopping $10 on some 10′ test fishing line and strung two lines around our property. One line sits at 3′ and the other at 5′. Here is the obligatory picture:

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I was seeing daily deer destruction prior to putting up the fishing line and haven’t seen a bit of damage since. The line went up well over a month ago and I have my fingers crossed that it continues to work.

Cheap and easy way to keep orchard weeds in check

Two years ago I watched the amazing back to eden documentary. The authors discussed the benefits of wood chips and how they enhance the soil. The results in the video were amazing so I decided to implement something similar in our orchard. Prior to starting our orchard was filled with a mixture of weeds, clover and various types of grass. If I just put down wood chips everything would just grow right back through and I would have a massive mess. So I needed to come up with a way to snuff them out and prevent seeds from germinating the following year.

I was discussing this with one of my co-workers at lunch and he said he had amazing luck using old cotton bed sheets. They are permeable and natural so I decided to give is a try. We asked our friends and neighbors for old sheets and cleaned out a bunch of unused sheets we had been squirreling away in our linen closet. I also spend about $20 on old sheets at the salvation army. After collecting enough sheets I set out on Saturday morning to lay 2 layers of sheets everywhere I saw green stuff growing. Here is a picture taken halfway through this project:

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The sheets were then covered with roughly 10 cubic yards of wood chips from a local tree service to keep them in place. To keep our turf grass separated from the orchard we installed a stone edge between the grass and the newly mulched orchard. The results so far have been fantastic! The stone edging looks awesome and very few weeds have grown back. Most of the sheets have now been devoured by worms so the wood chips can now start to break down naturally. Now to reap the benefits!

How to optimize tomato production with sub-irrigated beds

I previously wrote about our amazing results growing peppers in a sub-irrigated raised bed. This year we decided to dedicate our second sub-irrigated raised bed to sauce tomatoes and our results were better than I could have ever expected. We planted a combination of San Marzano, Amish Paste, Speckled Roman and Romas. The plants grew like mad and by mid summer we had a tomato jungle:

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Our tomato jungle wasn’t just a bunch of green vegetation either! We had hundreds upon hundreds of tomatoes nestled on those vines:

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We had to pick tomatoes each weekend and the harvests were swell:

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Don’t those look amazing? We made some of the best sauce on earth and numerous recipes that called for fresh tomatoes. After all of that, we still had enough to can 60 jars of tomatoes… which means that we get to enjoy that fresh tomato flavor all winter. I never knew how much of a huge difference it makes to use canned garden tomatoes in a sauce rather than store bought, you really can’t beat it! I’m planning to nix the Romas this year and focus on San Marzano, Amish Paste and Speckled Romas. All three tasted great fresh and really contributed to an amazing tomato sauce. Yumbo!

How to optimize pepper production with sub-irrigated beds

This past summer was our second time growing peppers in our sub-irrigated raised beds. This method of growing peppers isn’t awesome. It isn’t magnificent. It is an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE way of growing delicious capsaicin filled peppers as well as bells and pimentos. Our first year we tried to mix peppers and tomatoes in a 12×4 sub-irrigated bed:

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That was a mistake. Tomatoes need a lot of space and even with constant pruning the tomatoes eventually started shading out the peppers. So this year we devoted an entire bed to peppers and boy was it worth it. We were hauling in bowl after bowl of bell, pimento and jalapeno peppers and we had little to no pest issues. Look at these bad boys!:

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We used Jalapenos in numerous recipes and were able to put back a ton of poppers, hot sauce and jelly. We turned our bells into delicious stuffed peppers, used them in fajitas and still had plenty to freeze for winter. Our Pimentos made some of the best pimento cheese on earth (a favorite Southern tradition)! I’m looking at the various seed catalogs now to see what I want to plant in the pepper bed next year. I’m thinking about adding Thai chili, Hungarian Wax and Santa Fe peppers to the mix. Um, um good!