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Keep trees green, gardens growing ... and deer out

Bob Jacobus of Red Wing uses rough-cut western cedar and pvc-coated wire fencing to keep deer out of his garden.1 / 4
Bob Jacobus of Red Wing stands next to his new low-voltage electric fence. (Photos by Terry Yockey)2 / 4
Caladiums and Swedish ivy decorate the front step of the Jacobus family's home in Red Wing.3 / 4
Extension Master Gardeners visit to the Jacobus gardens the summer fo 2012. The gardens will be part of the Red Wing Art Association Garden Tour 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday July 14.4 / 4

By Terry Yockey

When you have a lawn or garden question and call the University of Minnesota Extension Office or leave a message on the Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener voicemail line at 651-385-3096, Robert Jacobus is the Master Gardener that calls you back with an answer.

Robert answers more than 250 gardening questions every season and says that so far this spring the majority of questions concern tree problems. He explains that many of the trees in our area are showing the delayed effects of stress caused by the high temps and very dry autumn of last season.

"Trees need to be watered deeply going into winter especially when there isn't enough precipitation."

Robert recently completed the six-week Tree Care Advisor course and says, "I learned a lot of about trees that I didn't know before, especially how many things I accepted as fact that I found weren't true at all."

For example, most people think that the rule of thumb for watering a plant -- whether it is a tree, corn or lawn turf -- is one inch of water per week. The real fact is that for all plants, and especially trees, the amount of water a plant needs depends on many different variables and there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to watering.

The Jacobus yard and gardens

Robert and Mary Jacobus moved to Red Wing five years ago and brought many of the plants from their previous home in Iowa with them. They immediately began planting gardens, trees and shrubs on their new lot and quickly found that the deer were not going to be congenial neighbors. The deer ate pretty much everything and also damaged the bark of the young trees where they rubbed their antlers.

For three years Robert tried to find plants the deer didn't like and products that would keep them from harming the trees and shrubs. He had some success, but last season he finally decided enough was enough.

Robert spent three months designing a new 6-foot high, deer-proof fence that would not only keep the deer out, but would also be esthetically pleasing.

His new fence is made of rough cut western cedar and PVC coated wire. He chose black coated wire for between the 4-by-4-inch and 6-by-6-inch posts, because the color blends into the garden behind making the wire appear almost invisible.

Inside the fence

Robert grows a variety of annual and perennial flowers inside the new fencing.

Each year he starts over a hundred plants by seed and cuttings under lights in his basement. Some of his favorites are celosia, zinnias, Swedish ivy and many different varieties of marigolds.

Clematis is also a new favorite and 12 vines grow on trellises spaced around the inside and outside of the fence.

Vegetables also share the fenced area with the flowers and other protected plants. Cucumbers, tomatoes and onions hide behind the bright annuals, but are easily harvested from the pathways that meander through the gardens.

Unique container plantings

Each year Robert plants over 30 unique planters with a variety of colorful annuals.

Although by her own admission his wife, Mary, does not take an active part in most of the garden projects, she does enjoy the many seasonal visits to local garden centers as they collect plants for the containers that decorate their porch, patio and many other places around the house and gardens.

Distinctive new annual varieties are always brilliant spots of color in the container plantings, but Robert also uses many tubers year to year including calla lilies, caladiums, begonias and cannas.

Protecting the other plants

Now that Robert has most of his flowers and vegetables protected behind the deer-proof fencing, he is on a mission to protect everything else in the yard that suffers from deer browsing. -His newest defense is a low-voltage electric fence around the hosta bed next to the patio. Most homeowners are reluctant to install an electric fence, but the low-voltage wires give off just enough zap to keep the deer away and only give a slight sting to a stray human that might accidentally touch the wire.

One caveat: You do have to get a permit from the city of Red Wing if you decide to use any electric fencing within city limits.

RWAA Garden Tour

The Jacobus Garden will be one of seven gardens on the Red Wing Art Association Garden Tour 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday July 14.

There will be musicians and artists in each garden and Extension Master Gardeners to answer your gardening questions. There will also be floral arrangements on display in the BlooMN Art show at the Red Wing Depot.

Tickets are $12.50 before July 10 and $15 after that. Call the RWAA at 651-388-7569 for more information.