Made in the Shade: Vegetable Gardening in NorCal

While a cabin in the forest is a scenic and peaceful place to live, such a setting presents a special set of challenges to the home vegetable gardener. First, it’s mostly shady. While this is perfect for redwoods, ferns and moss, it’s not so optimal for (most) veggies. Second, there are deer — and they eat everything — even English Ivy, i found out (the hard way).

The myriad methods of discouraging deer make common conversation topics amongst the locals here when visiting the post office or hardware store in town. I’ve heard stories of fences of 6 and 8 feet that were jumped and trampled with reckless abandon. Sometimes the deer jump in and can’t get out, gorging themselves on all the greenery in sight until they are discovered. I’ve also heard stories of people rigging up sprinkler systems to motion detectors (tied to trees, they shoot horizontal streams of water at any unsuspecting intruder in range) and other MacGyver-like innovations. While intrigued by the high-tech options, i decided the best solution for me would be to keep my veggie garden on the porch.

Although limited in size, the porch outside my house actually receives quite a bit of sun (relative to the densely wooded surroundings) and also provides the aforementioned benefit of repelling all but the most desperate deer. I found some old wooden planter boxes and positioned them in the brightest corner, stocked with kale transplants. Shallow bowls and 6″ pots of herbs and salad greens are balanced on the railings. I also nailed some pots to the edge of the rail to maximize the amount of sunlight they could receive.

So far, although it’s still early in the season (and there is still plenty of greenery in the forest), the deer haven’t come to feast at my buffet. Hopefully the presence of People will deter them from my harvest… but closer to autumn, when it gets dry and food becomes more scarce, i’m guessing all bets are off.