Fenced garden mixes whimsy, critter control

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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For years Loomis residents Darci and Jack Laws planted a garden each spring, only to see their ripening peppers, squash and tomatoes snatched away by foraging deer. “We’d just water it and let it go and see what they’d eaten next,” Darci Laws said Monday. So this year, they took a different approach. Instead of creating rows of easily accessible vegetables, they fenced in a space to grow. The motivation came from a trip last summer for Darci Laws’ 25th class reunion. “I went to a friend’s house for dinner. She kept talking about making dinner but there didn’t seem to be any food anywhere,” she said. “Then she went out to the garden and picked everything for a huge salad. They had the meat already and just to go into the garden to get everything else they needed — I was so impressed by that.” In preparation for their own garden, the Laws started planning in February and purchased raised-bed kits from Green Acres and Costco. They chose a space on their four-and-a-half acre spread that gets plenty of sun. Then they measured out a 17-foot by 14-foot area. “Based on what we’d done before, I knew I wanted it fairly small,” Laws said. “We have another area we could work with if we want to expand. My husband thinks it’s way too small, but I think it’s fine.” The next step was digging the holes for the posts. Then Laws had something very special in mind for the fence. “It’s decorative loop fencing,” she said. “Placer Farm Supply had one old roll. It was so old, they had to look up the price on the computer. But I knew that was the fencing I wanted to get because it was the kind I knew from when I was a kid.” Once installed, it has turned out to be practical while adding to the whimsical character of the garden. A specially designed gate — with a wood frame and a daisy design made from horseshoes, adds to the artistry. “My husband made an awesome gate,” Laws said. Near the gate, an old wheelbarrow is filled with flowers. There’s a shovelhead on one fence corner, an angel on another post, a sign that reads “friends gather here,” and numerous other unique touches. While looking through decorating magazines for ideas, a wind chime made from silverware provided the inspiration for a unique way to incorporate the “farm-to-fork” theme. “I drilled holes in old silverware and hung the pieces from a chain all the way around the garden,” Laws said. The silverware serves more than a decorative purpose. It also helps deter the critters. “They’re things that are up high that (the deer) will see,” she said. “I also planted quite a few sunflowers. They’ll grow high and act as a visual barrier.” For groundcover, the Laws put in gravel. “It’s a lot easier to move than dirt,” she said. “And it acts as a weed barrier. First, we scraped everything. Sometimes grass pops up and I just pluck it out.” She estimates they’ve invested about 60 hours in the project, including time spent installing a drip system. Now, six tomato plants, 10 peppers, three zucchini, three crookneck squash, four cucumber, several green bean plants and a variety of herbs are thriving, interspersed with colorful flowers. “It had to be pretty,” Laws said. “It couldn’t just be functional. We have flowers all over our place anyway.” Although a fence is the most effective way to keep deer out of the garden, there are so some other options. Kim Wright, owner of Avantgarden in Downtown Auburn, stocks a liquid fence. “You spray it on the plant,” she said. It has an odor and taste repellent to deer. The spray must be applied liberally to the plants and surrounding area and then reapplied a week later and monthly after that. “It smells very bad when first sprayed, but the odor dissipates,” Wright said. Another option is to stick to deer-resistant plants. Christian Valley resident Lindsay Douglass, who raises chickens, said she uses a solar panel system that electrifies wire above the fence to fend off bobcats and coyotes. “It doesn’t hurt them, but it gets their attention,” she said. The Laws’ fenced garden is still a work in progress, but Darci Laws is very happy with what they’ve accomplished. “I love it,” she said. “My husband says if you can’t find me in the house, you’ll know where I’ll be.” She describes it as a happy place to hang out. “That’s the satisfaction of creating a beautiful space,” Laws said. “A lot of people do that with their houses. I wanted to create a beautiful space that I’d be happy in. My goal is to have a comfortable chair and table in it.”