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Gardening From Alaska
by Jeff Lowenfels
by Jeff Lowenfels


Jeff is the Past President of the Garden Writers of America, a columnist with the Anchorage Daily News, Host Alaska Gardens and Supporter of Plant a Row.

October 1, 2006

Ah, you can tell by the shortening days and, in particular, by the sight of your breath when you step outside in the morning to get the paper. It is getting cooler and pretty soon it is going to really get cold. Weekends won’t be spent working in the yard unless it is managing snow.

This is the call to arms for those who care about moose damage to the yard. When it gets cold, it will be too late to take much useful action that will deter moose from camping in your yard for the winter, surviving on all your landscape’s bounties..

Those new to this game should remember one fact about moose: sooner or later they will eat anything no matter who bad it tastes or how ugly it looks. For years they never touched lilacs. Now their buds are a favorite delicacy. Folks will tell you moose won’t eat spruce, but I have pictures of them munching down spruce tips. Nothing is safe forever.

Our moose have learned to eat right next to bags of human hair, garlic preparations, deal with predator urine sprays and plow right through most of the commercial repellant preparations. These are designed for puny deer that have very different taste buds and habits. Any remedy that works will eventually fail to faze a hungry moose. Those moose that don’t eat, die. Those that overcome the taste of a repellant, thrive and must pass on the acquire taste to future generations. Evolution at work.

Sooner or later, moose will eat anything.

So what to do while you wait? Well, we need to continually experiment. One product that thus far seems to still be effective after a few years of area-wide use is the ever popular ‘Plantskydd.’ This emulsion of blood meal is totally organic and is, in fact, a natural fertilizer. It is applied in liquid form either by paint brush or by sprayer to trees and shrubs. Because it is emulsified with oil, it “sticks” for about six months.

The idea behind Plantskydd is that the moose don’t like the smell of blood. Well if they don’t the smell of blood, then perhaps an application of blood meal to your lawn, around perennial beds, trees and shrubs or at least at the boundaries of your property, might be a worthwhile experiment. Of course, covered with snow and after a few rains it may lose its effectiveness. Still, the idea is to discourage moose from making a habit of coming into a yard early in the season, so it is worth trying if you do it soon.

Next, I have protected lilies and perennials for four years now using a gadget called the Wireless Deer Fence ( or 866-GOT-DEER (866-468-3337). These little plastic posts sit in the ground and are filled with an attractant. The moose come over and take a sniff and get a harmless electric shock. They don’t come back, or haven’t yet. Three posts cost about 60 dollars and will cover about an acre. I use one per garden.

Of course, chicken wire “cages” work well when there is no other way to deal with moose. You have seen many examples around town—simple, inexpensive, wire frames up on stilts covering the tops of trees and shrubs. You can also form a chicken wire ‘net’ over hedges and individual shrubs by simply forming and laying the wire over them. Some folks have had success with regular cloth netting, but heavy snowfall can accumulate and crush and snap plants, so I don’t suggest this route.

There are still quite a few people who have been using strips of laundry softener the past few years to keep moose at bay. Hung in trees and shrubs, the moose don’t like the smell. Who does? However, after a while these loose effectiveness in keeping some moose away. Like people, some moose get used to the smell.

There are other remedies, for sure: electric fences as well as tall fences come to mind. if you have one that has worked for you, let me know so I can share it with your fellow gardeners. We need all the help we can get to keep moose from browsing in our yards all winter long.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar for the week

Potatoes: Yes, you can harvest yours, but waiting for a few hard frosts first will improve both starch and sugar content.

Leaves: Don’t rake this fall. Mulch them in place with a lawnmower The only time you need to rake leaves is to get them off your driveway or when you collect bags for use in the compost pile and to have as perennial, shrub and tree mulch next summer.

Extra produce: Real gardeners don’t let food go to waste. Plant a row for the Hungry and Harvest it too! Get it down to Bean’s Café, The Alaska Food Bank or the Kenai Food Bank. The hurricane has desperately strained this country’s relief system. Help out locally with some food for the hungry.


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