Deter Pesky Deer From Your Garden

Don't fall for Bambi's doe eyes. Protect your valuable plants.

Deer Eating Plant

Deer Eating Plant

If you spot shredded stems or stripped bark, suspect hungry deer.

Photo by: Bobbex, Inc.

Bobbex, Inc.

If you spot shredded stems or stripped bark, suspect hungry deer.

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Winter is almost here and hungry deer are coming, too. And they’re eyeing your garden. What plants do they eat? The list of what they won’t eat would be shorter. When food supplies dwindle, deer will devour almost anything, including cool season veggies like cabbages and broccoli, nuts, leaves, twigs and bark and cold-tolerant  flowers like pansies and violas. 

Although they’re beautiful, ravenous deer can wreak havoc on your landscape, but there are humane ways to deter them. If one method stops working, try another. You may need to experiment or even rotate what you're doing to find the best solution.  

Smelly Deterrents

Some gardeners swear that spreading smelly things around your garden will repel deer. Just be aware that you may have to replenish them often, since the odors will eventually fade. Be sure that any repellents you use, especially around food crops, are safe and non-toxic.

Deer in Garden

Deer in Garden

Few plants or trees are really deer resistant, although deer don't prefer things that are thorny, prickly, or bitter tasting.

Photo by: Bobbex, Inc.

Bobbex, Inc.

Few plants or trees are really deer resistant, although deer don't prefer things that are thorny, prickly, or bitter tasting.

  • Bags of hair. Ask your barber shop, pet groomer or beauty salon for clippings.
  • Blood meal. This dry powder can be purchased from feed stores, nurseries and garden centers. Follow the package directions carefully; too much blood meal can burn your plants.
  • Garlic. Folk wisdom says planting garlic between your crops will protect them from deer, but it’s more likely to work if you chop the garlic and mix it in a spray bottle with water, red pepper sauce, and some rotten eggs. Spray generously and often.
  • Fabric softener sheets. Some people claim they’ve turned deer away by tying these sheets to 3-foot stakes driven into the ground. Laundry sheets can be pricey, so you may want to tear them into strips. 
  • Predator urine. Coyote urine can be an effective and natural deterrent to deer, and it’s available in liquid or granular form. Reapply it every 7 to 10 days or after a rain.
  • Commercial sprays.  It's a good idea to work your way up from natural, organic deterrents to commercial products that may contain strong chemicals.
Deer Resistant Plant

Deer Resistant Plant

Switch grass Prairie Winds 'Cheyenne Sky' is an ornamental that deer often leave alone. Growing plants that deer don't like, or interspering them with plants they do like, may help protect your garden.

Photo by: ProvenWinners.com

ProvenWinners.com

Switch grass Prairie Winds 'Cheyenne Sky' is an ornamental that deer often leave alone. Growing plants that deer don't like, or interspering them with plants they do like, may help protect your garden.

Sometimes, though, you have to step up your game against invading deer. In 2016, The USDA Forest Service tested various kinds of commercial deer repellents. While no repellent was completely effective during the 11-week test period, Deer Away Big Game Repellent Powder and Plantskydd were the two top contenders.  

In another test, the Connecticut Department of Forestry compared Bobbex, Hinder, Liquid Fence and four other products, including coyote urine. They found Bobbex Deer Repellent was 93 percent effective in repelling deer. 

Things That Move or Make Noise

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

Fencing is usually the most expensive deer deterrant, but it can be the most effective.

Photo by: Deerbusters.com

Deerbusters.com

Fencing is usually the most expensive deer deterrant, but it can be the most effective.

Skittish deer don’t like sudden movements, bright lights or loud sounds, so any of these may keep them away. Change strategies if they get used to what you're using. 

  • Motion activated floodlights
  • Automatic sprinklers or sprayers
  • Big whirlygigs
  • Wind chimes
  • Scarecrows that move

Physical Barriers

You may be able to block hungry deer with floating row covers, chicken wire or plastic netting, but fencing is usually the best option.

Deer can clear hurdles 8 to 10 feet high, so your fence must be taller than that. Ask your local extension agent how tall and wide to make it to deter the kind of deer in your area.

If fencing your entire garden is too expensive, consider protecting only your most valuable plants. Fences can be made of welded wire, plastic/polypropylene, wood or a combination of materials. Sometimes a wooden fence or a thick, dense hedge can deter deer simply by preventing them from seeing what’s in your garden. If you don't want to pay for a professional fence installation, DIY kits are available.

Mesh Deer Fence

Mesh Deer Fence

A polypropylene deer fence is lightweight but strong enough to stand up to the elements.

Photo by: Deerbusters.com

Deerbusters.com

A polypropylene deer fence is lightweight but strong enough to stand up to the elements.

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