naturalizing among deer and turkey

Asked October 7, 2018, 10:19 AM EDT

We bought a home on approximately four acres in the Mary River Estate hills in April of this year. The previous owners have cut down quite a few douglas fir trees around the house . We want to keep the area naturalized. How do we go about adding native grasses, shrubs and flowers in this area which hosts a lot of thistles . Of course we enjoy the deer and turkey, not minding if they munch and nibble, but still leave the "restaurant" afterward to move forward into the woods. Thanks for a reply on this issue. Angelika

Benton County Oregon

1 Response

Thanks for your question about establishing a natural landscape among deer and turkeys. This is really a 2-part question. Part 1 is how to deal with the thistles and any other invasive plants that might be present. There are many resources available for restoring native landscapes (one of the best is Benton Soil and Water Conservation but before planting natives, it is essential to give them a relatively clean slate, free of established weeds and invasive plants that would overwhelm them. If you have a large area, it may be best to tackle it in small pieces.
Part 2 is dealing with deer and turkeys. Turkeys don't really eat your plants, though they can certainly cause other problems, but if you have a lot of deer, they can easily destroy your plantings before they have a chance to get started. If this is the case, you may need to fence the areas you are planting until the plants are well established and can tolerate some browsing. You can try planting deer-resistant plants, but bear in mind that they are accustomed to eating native plants in their own habitat, so they like a lot of them!
You might find this publication, Gardening with Oregon Native Plants West of the Cascades, useful as an introduction to growing native plants.