As magical as they look from afar, deer can wreak havoc year round in most parts of the country, but winter months are often the hardest for deer.
Deer proofing is no easy task. There are dozens, if not hundreds of deer deterrents on the market today. To try to list all the options within a short blog post would be impossible, so we’ve chosen a few tips from our readers and other friends.
Fishing line to the rescue . . .
One of our Home Garden testers, Catie Anderson from Oregon has a system that we’ve put into place in our gardens to protect our shrubs during the winter. So far, it seems to be pretty effective. She places 5-6 feet tall garden stakes around the area that needs to be protected, and then runs rows of fishing line from stake to stake. For complete details, check out Catie’s guest blog post “Oh Deer . . .”
Deer resistant plants . . .
Of course, there are those who believe that it’s simply best to plant deer resistant plants and skip the tulips! Unfortunately, as deer loose some of their natural habitats, the list of deer resistant plants seems to get smaller and smaller. Their tastes vary by region and seem to be quite inconsistent when it comes to food choices. In her book Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden, published by Storey Publishing, author Rhonda Massingham Hart includes a full list of deer resistant plants by region of the US. Generally, deer to not like fuzzy plants such as Lamb’s Ears and those that are toxic such as daffodils. She explains that unless they’re really hungry, deer tend to stay away from plants that are prickly, bitter, spicy, aromatic or have a milky sap.
Planting a deer deterring border . . .
Deer are creatures of habit and tend to follow the same routine and paths each day. So, with that in mind, adding a border planting of scented plants along their pathways can often deter them from stepping into your garden (plus add some extra interest to your yard and gardens). Some easy-to-grow examples include Nepata (Cat Mint) which has lovely purple/blue flowers, grows quickly, spreads by seed and can be easily divided and moved as needed; Bee balm (Monarda) also spreads quickly, is available in a variety of colors, and as a bonus, attracts butterflies. Other easy-to-grow scented plants and herbs include Mints, Oregano, Tansy, Feverfew, Artemisia, Wormwood, Sage, Lavender, and Hyssop. Most of these plants are quick growing and spread easily, so you may want to create a separate border planting to keep these plants from taking over your other garden beds.
No room for a border? Try hanging scented soap in your trees and shrubs. The stronger the scent, the better (our favorite is Irish Spring)! You can place the soap in a piece of cheesecloth or old stocking, tie and hang from a tree, or simply poke/drill a hole through the soap and hang.
Scare tactics . . .
If deer believe an area is dangerous, they’ll tend to avoid it. So, even if they see or smell some tender morsels in your yard, scary scents can often keep them at bay. After a while, your neighborhood deer may get so accustomed to these scents that they’ll no longer sense danger, so you may want to try different approaches/scents every few months.
Here are a few inexpensive remedies to try:
Hair: Human and/or pet hair can be gathered and stuffed into old nylon stockings or cheesecloth and hung from branches. No pets? Your local pet groomer can supply plenty of leftovers.
Processed Sewage: We’ve had good success with using Milorganite, a commercial product sold as a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. We spread it around our trees and shrubs in the winter and the bonus is that it adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. Local sewage treatment plants often make similar products available to the public.
Bloodmeal: nothing says “beware!” like the scent of dried blood. Plus, this earth-friendly product is high in nitrogen and phosphorous and acts as a fertilizer.
And finally, garden writer, designer and photographer Derek Fell included this piece in a recent issue of The Avant Gardener.
Deer Control at Cedaridge Farm . . . The new home and test gardens for Avant Gardener is located next to a large county park with a big deer population. The best deer repellent has proven to be Liquid Fence, an organic formula that combines powdered rotten eggs with a garlic concentrate and a bacteria that completes its life cycle during the fermentation process. It is best purchased as a concentrate, adding one cup to a gallon of water. In this form it is resistant to an inch of rain after spraying on plants, but its repellent effect can be extended up to four weeks by adding a ‘sticking agent’ such as coconut oil. The most efficient method of application is with a three-gallon capacity backpack sprayer. Even a large area like an acre or two can be protected in a few minutes of spraying. Although the product has a strong odor when first applied, once it dries it not noticeable except to deer.
Have you had any success in deterring deer? If so, we’d love to hear about it!