Deer are a beautiful sight in the rural and suburban landscape. However, when they start eating the very plants we work so hard to make our landscapes beautiful, their presence becomes unwelcome very quickly. Voracious eaters, they make a habit of eating hostas, hydrangeas, azaleas and many other plants we love, quickly denuding the garden of the textures and colors we love. Many ways exist to prevent and reduce the damage they do to both flower and vegetable gardens.
Choose plants deer don’t like. Deer, like people, eat according to taste. Thorny hollies and roses don’t bother them, but they can’t tolerate tender sage. Deer often find many of the plants we consider tasty, like herbs, noxious. There are deer-resistant plants of all types and for all locations. Not all deer are the same. Deer in one state may stay away from a plant, while those in another may devour it. The best source for deer resistant plant lists, therefore, is your state’s cooperative extension service.
Plant deer-resistant varieties closer to the perimeter of your property and more vulnerable plants near the house. Deer tend to shy away from people and homes, so your boxwoods can be planted farther from the house while your delicious roses and hydrangeas should be planted closest to the doors. Placing resistant plants among vulnerable plants will help reduce the likelihood that deer will get that close to them. Vegetable plants are particularly susceptible to deer damage, so planting lavender, yarrow or marigold among the vegetables will help deter deer. The closer the vegetable garden is to the back door, the better.
Deer don’t like strong-smelling plants. They also don’t like other strong smells. Try the many repellent products available in garden centers. Some are made of wild animal urine such as bobcat or coyote. Since these sprays smell like deer predators, deer become cautious when they smell it. Use according to label directions. Some die-hard do-it-yourself gardeners effectively use human urine to repel deer. Other products mimic the smell of plants deer don’t like, such as lavender. Many home gardeners use deodorant soap hung from shrubs in old nylon stockings to repel deer.
For severe deer problems, fencing or electric wiring may be the only solution, especially around the vegetable garden. Fences or walls should be sturdy and at least six feet tall, with eight feet being ideal. Gates should be as high or deer will simply jump over them. There are electric fencing products designed to protect the garden, yet not cause real harm to deer.
Man's Best Friend
That’s right: Your dog may be one of the best deer chasers you can have. Deer don’t like dogs any more than they like people or coyotes. Deer pick up their scent and stay away even after dogs have gone inside.