A Savvy Gardener Gives Deer Their Own Clover Meadow

Susan Malatich-Asack, Princeton, N.J.

Susan Malatich-Asack
Susan's pond is a magnet for wildlife and great place to relax after a busy day at work.

When Susan Malatich-Asack moved to her new home in Princeton, N.J., two years ago, she knew she had to make peace with the wildlife. "Deer are a big problem in New Jersey," she says. "I had to take what the landscape offered and get smart about planting shrubs and perennial flowers in deer country," says Susan.

Susan's approach has been a resounding success. She's created a 3-acre oasis that flowers, deer and other wildlife all call home.

A Garden For Deer

One acre of Susan's property is wooded, one acre is gardens and one acre is for the deer. "We decided that instead of fighting the deer, we'd try to work with them," she says. Susan planted a 1-acre clover meadow, a favorite deer food. "The deer tend to stay in the field in summer and leave most of my plants at peace," she says. Susan still has to be careful because the errant deer will roam beyond the clover field. "I've found there are certain perennials and shrubs deer don't like to eat, such as iris, salvia, coneflowers, boxwood, butterfly bush, caryopteris, daisy and bee balm," says Susan. "I've replaced my roses and lilies with agastache and coreopsis. They seem to stay away from these as well," she says.

Susan keeps the flowers that she knows deer love eat, close to her house where deer are more reluctant to wander. She has also had success spraying deer and repellent on the foliage to keep them away. "This spray is so offensive to the deer, they don't even touch my hostas," says Susan.

Susan Malatich-Asack
Many of the flowers in Susan's garden are deer-resistant.

The "Good" Wildlife

While Susan has to be creative about keeping deer out of the garden, she encourages the other wildlife in her yard. "We have box turtles, turkeys, frogs and many types of birds," she says. Her pond is home to fish and frogs. To keep the pond healthy she uses Barley Balls. "My pond water was getting murky so I dropped a barley ball in and two weeks later, the water was clear," she says. Susan also uses the Aquasphere to prevent slime from growing in her pond. "There is always some kind of plant debris, such as leaves, blowing into the pond. The Aquasphere uses bacteria and enzymes to break down leaves and other organic materials that may cloud the water," she says.

With a pond often comes mosquitoes but Susan says the frogs and tree swallows mostly take care of them. She still uses Mosquito Dunks for small areas of standing water where mosquitoes might breed. "The tree swallows can only eat so many mosquitoes," she says.

A Gardening Passion

Growing up in Germany, Susan was exposed to gardens and gardeners much of her childhood. However, she gives her husband credit for cultivating her passion for gardening as an adult. "When he was my fiancée, he bought me an indoor light garden as a gift," she says. "That was 16 years ago and I've been hooked ever since." Now Susan starts all her annual and perennial flowers from seed in APS seedstarters. "I can start the flowers from seed and grow them to a large enough size to transplant directly in the garden," she says.

Susan Malatich-Asack
Susan uses Barley Balls to control algae growth in her pond.

What began as a 3x8-foot garden outside her condo, turned into a quarter-acre garden at their first home and is now 3 acres of landscaping at their present home. But it's all a labor of love. "I work managing and leasing commercial real estate. My garden is a great place to escape. It is my exercise, my stress relief and my place of beauty," she says.

Time Saving Techniques

Since she's so busy, Susan has to employ time saving techniques and products to help maintain the gardens. "I wouldn't be the gardener I am without Gardener's Supply," says Susan. "I plant lots of containers and grow many tropical flowers such as elephant ears, cannas and chenille plants. Self-watering containers sometimes let me go a week without watering," she says.

Susan uses Aqua Cones to keep her other containers moist. "My morning glories stay lush and flower continuously due to the constant water from the aqua cones," says Susan. "During the heat of summer I water some of my containers twice a day. The Aqua Cones give me a little time off," she says. Her next purchase will be a drip irrigation system.

Saving time on gardening chores lets Susan spend more time enjoying the wildlife in her yard—and chasing the occasional deer from her flowers.

Last updated: 03/13/2024