In the woods you have.....DEER! Pretty though they are and charming their prolific children be, they are GWA, Garden Wrecking Animals!
And thats not all, in the northwest we enjoy the slimy presence of slugs and rabbits and other gwa's!
But in the years I have been gardening in the woods I have found tricks to growing flowers, herbs and food.
Even then, to make things even more difficult, when I just started here I had found that though it was a clear cut forest, the soil was mostly clay with water washing over it most of the year.
I had my work cut out for me.
1. SLUGS BE GONE!
get a duck....or two.
Though they are the first to be eaten by scavengers, if you have a strong coop (mine is even rat proof) they will be safe. Be sure if mixing chickens and ducks that you use nipple waterer systems. AND THE BIG DEAL IS that they eat every slug on you property. After two years my free range ducks ate them all! Even my neighbor brought buckets, yes buckets, of slugs over for them to eat. And though at first I was afraid they would spread and ducks would not get them all...well... my laura and lynn ducks did!
2. NO EATING MY PLANTS, DEER!
Yes deer eat almost everything, including the plants your lovely local nursery owner claims they don't. When things get lean in the forest, I found deer even eat iris. But they don't like most herbs, so thats a plus. I use cages. I buy 4 ft and 6 ft fencing for my flowers, unroll it into cylinder shapes about 3-5 ft wide, and attach with cut end twice-bottom and top for easy opening. I use the 2x4inch hole kind ,as its stiff for making cyclinders and it has less visual distraction as the chicken wire or small holes make. They also work great with a piece of green house plastic (scavenged from nurseries who take old plastic off every 5 years) for longer growing periods up north.
Things like valerian or marchmellow are good for 6 ft/5ft. And I use the 4 ft for daylillies and lower grow plants. With experiments you can figure out what works for you. BUT warning, I make sure the 6 ft is around young fruit trees (a deer favorite) and I 'stake' bottom with stickers (4 ft wood from lumber yards) for first few years. Smaller holes for this is better in later years before tree is too tall to eat from...as the deer might use bigger holes to 'climb' up.
3. GOODBYE CLAY!
Amending the soil on the cheap, alpaca & cardboard
I was working fulltime and had very little cash when I started out, so I improvised!
Gathering alpaca manure (which is not 'hot' and can be added right away to plants) I put it in the garden. It did two things: with cardboard on top to block weeds, it began to change the soil chemistry, worms ate through the poop and cardboard churning the soil. ANd the stench of the alpaca pee made the deer disappear until the next application or rain.
PLANTING: using comfrey and irises, daylillies and mint, I was able to start the garden even in the worst conditions- broke/deer/slugs/clay/excessive water. And now as soil has changed I can add other plants like, bee balm, golden rod, herbs and more. (though lavender,sage, rosemary have hard time with all the water still).
Watering: believe or not I don't have a well! For years I have used (10) 55 gallon pickle drums under gutters for the garden.some with spouts for a hose and some I just hand water with a bucket. When its gone I use my 1200 gallon gravity tank-sparingly- as its filled by a upper neighbor's 1000 gallon rain tanks.