Peppers, soap can distract deer


July 09, 2000

Q. My neighbor tells me she sees deer walking through my vegetable garden every morning. They seem to have sampled a bit of every plant but really go for the beets and chard. I love my garden but don't have the time, money or strength to build a tall fence to keep them out. Any suggestions for what I could try?

A. Some gardeners have successfully deterred deer by spraying vegetable plants with a blended and strained solution of water and hot peppers. The spray can be easily washed off and does not impart a hot flavor. You can also try hanging small deodorant soap bars from stakes, tomato cages or trellises. Some gardeners have had luck with a "fence" of parallel runs of fishing line strung at 18 and 36 inches off the ground. Deer are sometimes spooked when they touch the line. Or you can call the number below for information on constructing an electric fence.

Q. I have many container plants on my apartment balcony. They each have a shallow depression at the bottom to catch excess water, but it usually overflows and drips onto the balcony below mine. Is it OK to place my containers in larger containers with no holes in the bottom?

A. Yes, that will work. Place a brick at the bottom of the larger container to keep your pots off the bottom. A deep plastic saucer is an inexpensive alternative and will produce the same result. Some of your plant roots will grow into the reservoir of water at the bottom of the larger container. This will keep your watering time to a minimum and will not harm your plants.

Q. We found two large brown spiders in our garage and wondered if they could be brown recluse spiders. If they are, what should we do?

A. The brown recluse spider does not naturally live in Maryland. In a few isolated cases they have been inadvertently transported from Southern states to Maryland. But they simply do not overwinter in our climate. The brown recluse body is only 1/4 inch long. You probably saw a type of wolf spider, happily dining on insects in your garage. Let them be.


1. Don't water established turf during hot, dry periods. Your lawn will naturally become dormant and regrow when rainfall returns.

2. Keep birdbaths clean and filled with fresh, clean water.

3. Blossom-end rot is appearing on the bottoms of tomatoes, peppers and squash. Fruit bottoms turn brown and rot due to a lack of calcium. Alternating wet and hot, dry weather bring on this nutritional disorder. Water plants deeply and regularly and keep them mulched.

Backyard Q&A is by Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist for the Home and Garden Information Center, Maryland Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at

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