It’s been hard to have a conversation about Mt. Lebanon recently without someone bringing up the topic of deer. While the commissioners ponder how to handle Mt. Lebanon’s deer population going forward, there’s no question about what deer are eating in our neighborhood: our plants. For many residents, their hard work planting, seeding and watering a panoply of blooms or just a small patch of favorite flowers is thwarted when a family of deer arrives, ready to snack. Though some people enjoy seeing the deer, the headless, eaten flower is a familiar sight to many as well. What’s a gardener to do?
Sandy Baker, also known as the “Deer Doctor,” specializes in deer-resistant gardening and is the author of How to Deer-Proof Your Garden in Five Easy Steps. In an effort to help educate residents as they head into planting season, the Mt. Lebanon Commission has asked Baker, who is based in New York but speaks all over the country, to share her ideas about deer-deterrent strategies in a series of free presentations and seminars, Saturday, April 25 through Monday, April 27.
For 20 years, Baker cultivated a luscious, beautiful patch of rare white wildflowers she’d personally saved from soon-to-be-bulldozed areas of woodlands. These trillium grandiflorum were wiped out in one fell swoop one fateful day by–you guessed it–deer. Since then, Baker, a lifelong organic gardener and the former owner of a retail nursery, has dedicated herself to understanding deer behavior in an effort to keep gardens intact. Her occasional seminars on the subject eventually led to her current role as a consultant for the Humane Society of the United States.
Baker’s three-day visit to Mt. Lebanon will include a hands-on presentation on gardening at Earth Day in Mt. Lebanon Park, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Sunday from 9:30 until 11 a.m., she will tour Mt. Lebanon neighborhoods and give actual examples to illustrate deer-deterrent gardening. Free seminars are scheduled at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library on Sunday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and Monday, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.
When asked what the secret was, she says, “understanding basic things about deer behavior” can help a lot. Baker finds that demystifying deer and discussing “what works and why” goes a long way in the protection of prized plants. She says, “it’s very exciting for me.”