Creating a flower or vegetable garden is a popular pastime for many people. While you enjoy watching your hard work grow, it is important to keep in mind your garden may also be a mouth-watering treat to area deer.
Deer are opportunists and keeping them out of your garden can be tricky and involve some work and ongoing maintenance. To protect your plants, try these four techniques, ranging from safe and humane options to blocking or repelling the wildlife from your garden.
Add Fencing or Barriers Around the Garden
Deer can and do jump fences, but there are few things you can do to make a fence more deer proof. According to Better Homes and Gardens, fencing all around the garden is considered the most effective technique. Keep in mind: The taller the fence, the better. Most sources recommend a fence at least 8 feet high that camouflages the garden. Deer have to be really motivated to jump an 8-foot-tall fence that blocks their view of what is on the other side.
Consider using additional obstacles around the fencing, such as thorny shrubs or netting that is angled in front or behind the fence, to help keep out those deer that might clear an 8-foot fence. Adding obstacles will prevent a clear takeoff or landing place. Deer tend to be a bit wary about scaling a fence if they can't find a good area from which to jump.
Scare Deer From Garden Entrances
Deer are nervous and jumpy around sounds and movements that they fear are a threat, such as people, lights, pets and noisemakers. Some examples to utilize for sudden flashes of light and noise: flags, motion-sensor sprinklers, floodlights, radios and old CDs hung nearby to blow in the wind.
Deer-scaring techniques may only work for a few days because over time deer can adapt to these types of obstacles once they determine there is no threat.
Repel Deer From Entering the Garden
Organic or chemically based products are quite effective at repelling deer. There are two types of odor repellents.
First, there are those that are offensive odors that interfere with the deer's sense of smell, which it uses to sense danger. For example, a popular aromatic soap bar like Irish Spring is an odor that interferes with a deer's sense of smell. The stronger the scent, the better. Hang scented objects from stakes using burlap or cheesecloth about every 10 feet around the border of the garden. Other offensive scents to discourage deer are: hot pepper sprays, cayenne pepper, sulfur and garlic. Spray or spread these around the plants.
The other type of repellent falls into the "alert scents" category – for example, urine, which sends an alert of danger that predators are near. Two effective alert scents are coyote urine or human urine. Another popular remedy is hanging human hair in bags of nylon, burlap or cheesecloth. Human hair is easy to find at local hair salons.
Scents do weaken over time and need replacement every few days or at least monthly and after it rains.
Plants Deer Avoid in the Garden
There are some species of plants that deer will avoid. Wherever possible, make your garden unappetizing by featuring plants low on the list of the deer menu. This type of deer deterrent is usually not harmful to humans, other plants or the animal. Deer just don't like the taste, and including them in and around your garden can help keep them from eating your prized plants.
Plant these herbs alongside flowers: chives, mint, garlic or thyme. Plant these perennials to send deer on a different foraging path: rosemary, wisteria, honeysuckle, catmint and soapwort. Plant these annuals to help keep deer away: alyssum, foxglove, poppy, snapdragons and begonias.
Better Homes & Gardens has an online encyclopaedia where you can search for deer-resistant plants. When planting trees, shrubs or perennials, use this plant dictionary to search for deer-resistant trees hardy to your region.
To keep deer out of your garden, use an effective fence around your plants; wherever possible, feature plants that taste bad to the deer; and try a couple of deterrent tactics. Your garden just may be too much work for deer, and they'll find another food source.