Here’s our weekly Ask the Master Gardeners column, courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension
Q: I would like to do some vegetable gardening with my grade-school children here in Tarrytown. The area where we live, however, is overrun with deer and they do significant damage to our ornamental plants, so I imagine they would really feast on our vegetable garden. Can you suggest some deer-resistant vegetables that I could grow with my children and that will produce crops so the children arenâ€™t terribly disappointed at harvest time?
â€” Mother of three
A: Vegetables that are deer resistant? Why not try herbs instead? There are almost no vegetables a hungry deer wonâ€™t find edible.
The deer would love to feast on just about any and all vegetables youâ€™d plant, particularly the lettuce and spinach and parsley that youâ€™ll probably put in for harvest while the students are still in school.
The only deer-resistant vegetables I can think of are rhubarb, the entire onion family, including garlic, and hot peppers.
Rhubarb is fun for kids but itâ€™s so outsized, and onions and hot peppers are not as much fun. I personally have entertained Girl Scout troops for hours in my herb garden.
The variety of smells alone is fascinating. They can nip off a leaf and then smell and taste it. They are so surprised that a leaf can smell like gum (peppermint) or taste sweeter than sugar (stevia), smell like shampoo or soap (rosemary or lavender) or taste like cucumber. Then there is mint for drinks and mint jelly.
Itâ€™s because of the pungent oils within the leaves of the herbs that the deer wonâ€™t bother them. After harvesting your herbs, you can make tea, cookies and all sorts of goodies.
If you decide on a vegetable garden, I strongly suggest buying four tall garden stakes and attaching mesh deer fencing around them to prevent their foraging.
Four-foot high stakes should be sufficient as these vegetables grow low to the ground. If you plan on planting tomatoes, beans and taller crops, make the enclosure taller.
â€” Francesca Jones, master gardener based in North Salem, Joanne Redding of Rye and Barbara Rissmeyer of Tarrytown