Homeowners and gardeners often find themselves at a loss to protect their landscaping plants, flower beds and vegetable gardens against the mighty appetite of deer. According to the Cornell University Extension Service, a buck between 125 and 250 pounds must consume 4,000 to 6,000 calories daily. That's a lot of pepper plants. However, this does not mean that those calories have to come from your garden. There are a number of deer-control methods that will keep the wildlife out without harming the deer or your garden plants.
The most obvious deer-control method is fencing off the garden area. This will protect against deer as well as other garden pests such as rabbits, rodents, woodchucks and squirrels. Cornell Extension recommends a ½-inch welded wire fence at least 3 feet high, with the bottom edge buried 6 inches beneath the soil.
The West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service says there are a number of repellents that can be used on a short-term basis. These include commercial repellents, which offer better control but must be reapplied every three to four weeks or after a heavy rain. However, extension service also list homemade repellents such as human hair, soap, bloodmeal and mothballs.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station says that deer by nature are nervous animals. For this reason, scare devices such as sprinklers, gas exploders, strobe lights, sonic and ultrasonic deterrents are effective against small deer populations. The drawback to these devices is that they also can be annoying to humans.
There are a number of plants that give off offensive odors or have a strong taste, which, after an initial nibble, will cause deer to seek their dinner buffet elsewhere. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden suggests creating a border around your vegetable garden using plants such as lavender, sage and mint to create a deer-repellent border around your veggies. In addition to these aromatic herbs, plants from the alliums family, such as onions, leeks and garlic, can be used to deter deer from the vegetable garden.
Getting a dog to protect your vegetable garden might seem drastic. However, there are few things that will chase away a deer as effectively as a dog on the loose. If you cannot give your pooch free roaming space, a tape recording of a dog barking in or around the garden might prove effective. However, if your dog is free to roam the yard, chances are it will give chase to any four-legged creatures nibbling in your garden patch.