Tony Minardi has worn many hats, but the one he began wearing three years ago may well make him a hero of the gardening set, as well as those with tick phobia. It also has the potential of making the former science teacher, coach, and seafood entrepreneur a fair amount of jing.
Mr. Minardi has spent nearly three years conducting a controlled experiment to test a formula he is calling Deer Away. A recent visitor to his house on Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton saw the fruits of his research in two groups of rhododendrons growing side by side. One group was stripped where deer that trotted across Montauk Highway from a horse farm had feasted. Beside the bare plants were rhododendrons whose leaves had been sprayed. Not a nibble was visible.
Mr. Minardi said his research began after he watched thousands of dollars’ worth of plantings be devoured by deer. “I bought this,” he said, pointing to a little black box that emitted a high frequency sound. “It made the dogs in the neighborhood bark; the village said stop.”
With years of accumula ted knowledge as a biology and biochemistry professor at Southampton College and Syracuse University, as a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and while teaching in the East Hampton schools, he set about creating a magic potion. The idea was to develop a spray that was not only safe to use, earth-friendly, and easy to apply, but that really worked.
Aware of the attributes of cellulose and other polysaccharides, substances found in plants that are difficult to digest, he looked for plants that contained them. Water hyacinths were a possible source, and he tried out a formula using them. “It didn’t work.”
He then went in another direction, which is, at this point, proprietary. “It’s based on their nutrition” was all he’d say.
The spray Mr. Minardi has concocted has to be applied in dry conditions, and only on the tops of leaves. He said it was an easy task that had to be repeated every two or three weeks. “It’s a natural process, no chemicals, not toxic.”
Mr. Minardi has started the process of applying for a patent on his potion. He said that perhaps even more important than making plants unappetizing to deer was the absence of ticks on his property.
“It works 100 percent, and there’s no ticks. I think I zeroed the tick population.”