- Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Q. We just moved into our new home in a wooded area. In 2003, I planted over 80 wild violet plants along our drive (you see them everywhere in the spring). I just love them. Well, so did the deer. I guess they thought I set up a buffet line for them. They ate them down to the heart. Then, I planted hostas, which they thought were tasty, too, I later learned.

So what can I plant so that the deer and I can live together peacefully? I heard they like rosebuds, too. I would like to have a cottage effect in my landscape, but my “extra help” got in there and “cut” it pretty short. Any suggestions?

We didn’t clear much area because I loved all the dogwood trees close to the house, plus we have a stream with a rock waterfall. So, I want to keep it natural looking. I did move some ferns closer to the house to help with ground cover. I would appreciate any help. — Norma Bromm, Saint Anthony, Ind.

A. Since it sounds like you’re looking for herbaceous, perennial plants for a shady area, I’ll limit my answer to those categories. For readers who would like a more extensive list of plants, visit http://www.entm.purdue.edu/wildlife/resitant%20plant%20list.htm or http://www.rce.rutgers.edu/deerresistance.

The only way to truly exclude deer involves an 8-foot deer fence, but that has little appeal to most gardeners. Selecting plants carefully is wise but not entirely risk-free. In lean years, deer will eventually work their way from hosta (a deer delicacy) to less appealing plants, meaning that given a year of food shortages, few landscape plants are safe. And for every plant listed, some gardener will have had a negative deer-plant experience! Still, you can hedge your bets by landscaping with plants that deer don’t typically choose.

In your woodland location, you might add bugleweed (Ajuga), barrenwort (Epimedium), ginger (Asarum sp.) or Pachysandra as groundcovers; Japanese sedge (Carex sp), Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) or Hakonechloa as ornamental grasses; and bleeding heart (Dicentra sp.), lungwort (Pulmonaria sp.) and Hellebores (Helleborus sp.) as perennials. You mentioned that you have had some luck with ferns; many are somewhat resistant to deer, including hayscented, wood, ostrich, sensitive, cinnamon, royal and Christmas ferns.

Spring-flowering bulbs can add a great deal of color to a woodland garden. Winter aconite (Eranthus hyemalis), snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and daffodils (Narcissus sp.) are all rarely damaged by deer.

Q. I retired to Wheatland, Ind., from Milwaukee, Wisc., after working for the power company for 38 years. I bought 11 acres here, surrounded by cornfields. I am a nature lover. I would like to plant trees, bushes, and whatever I can to attract birds and animals.

Is there anywhere I can get free trees or bushes from the state or wherever to plant? I would like to plant something that has berries to feed the birds.
Thanks. — Gene Rinderle — Wheatland, Ind.

A. I am not aware of anyone who will give you trees or bushes for free, but the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry operates two tree nurseries, which produce conservation tree and shrub seedlings and windbreak conifer trees for Indiana landowners’ use. Landowners may order and plant these trees for reforestation, erosion control, wildlife habitat development, watershed improvement, wetlands enhancement, windbreak or other conservation purposes. Please note they are not intended as nursery stock to be sold at a later date. Many of the species they list are inexpensive and attractive to wildlife.

For more information online, go to http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/index.html?http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/community/&2 or call 317-232-4105 and ask how to contact your district forester.

If any readers have sources for free plant material, please send in your thoughts!

Q. I read about the tulips and daffodils in the November article. My question is what is the best time to plant tulips and daffodils? I have several bulbs and I know they say plant them in the fall. But I was wondering what do I do now? Wait until spring? — Clydia Emmons, Shoals, Ind.

A. It’s certainly best to plant bulbs in the fall, but, if they are still firm, they may produce flowers eventually. If they are soft, mushy or hollow, throw them away. Plant firm bulbs as soon as the ground has thawed. They will probably not flower this year (depending upon the storage temperature and their vigor) but may flower in future years.

Q. I have organically grown Brussels sprouts for over 20 years with dismal results. I direct seed in my garden in early spring and early summer, and all I get are dinky and opened sprouts. My garden soil is sandy loam and very fertile. Please advise me how to grow my favorite veggie. — Joe Tiefel, Clay City, Ind.

A. Many vegetable crops, including Brussels sprouts, are best adapted to cool soil and air temperatures. Cool-season crops, such as lettuce, potatoes, peas, cauliflower and onions, actually prefer the cool, moist conditions of spring to hot, dry summer weather. Brussels sprouts do best as a fall crop, transplanted to the garden in late summer. Spring is their second preference.

The soil should be allowed to dry somewhat before working, or the soil structure will be damaged. Wet soil tends to form hard clods that last all season as soil is worked. Test the soil for readiness by squeezing a handful. If it crumbles easily between your fingers, it’s dry enough to work. If the soil forms a muddy ball, it’s best to wait until it dries a bit more.

Once you’ve determined that the soil is ready, work the ground to a depth of at least 6 Note to Readers: inches, using either a shovel or a mechanical tiller. This is a good opportunity to work in organic material.

You’ve direct seeded your Brussels sprouts in the garden each year, but they are part of a group of vegetables that are best transplanted to the garden to give them a head start on the growing season. This group also includes cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Most garden centers offer transplants for sale, but experienced gardeners may want to try to raise their own. Transplants should be set at the same depth at which they were grown. If planted too deep, their roots may be too cold and starved for oxygen. Don’t forget to give the transplants a drink of water as soon as possible after planting. Young transplants can dry out very quickly, especially if weather is sunny, warm and windy.

In last month’s column, I inadvertently included Chamaecyparis in a list of plants that are not hardy in our area. Chamaecyparis, or falsecypress, is a huge genus of plants with many possibilities for the Indiana landscape. Most do best in full sun in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Many thrive in a cool, moist atmosphere where they are protected from drying winds. Chamaecyparis obtusa and Chamaecyparis pisifera types do well in the Midwest.

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