When I was a kid, my mother loved gardening and took great delight in her shrubs and flower beds and roses. In the front beds, she had beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas. Woods lined the edge of our property, and deer were forever munching on the tops of her rhododendrons. I remember her trying all kinds of things to prevent this, but I was a kid and not especially enchanted with flowerbeds, since I was the one relegated to weeding them, so I don’t remember what she tried.
But it seems the deer-munching problem is similar to that of moles and gophers: there are lots of methods out there, but it really boils down to how much effort you want to put into it (e.g. traps are the best to stop mole damage, but no one really wants to mess with traps.) So – if you’ve struggled with a deer problem, maybe you’ll see something here that you haven’t tried before. The following suggestions are sworn to work by some, said to be useless by others. Everyone stresses the fact that all of the remedies must be applied frequently, especially after rain.
FACT: Deer aren't really a lawn care problem, because they don’t eat grass, but they do carry Lyme disease ticks!
- Grate the smelliest soap you can find (Irish Spring seems to come up frequently) in strategic places in the garden, or just hang soap from shrubs.
- Mark the territory with human scent (might want to do this at night, so you’re not arrested for indecent exposure…)
- Sprinkle damp plants with red pepper, black pepper, garlic or curry.
- Mark the area with coyote, fox or wolf urine (apparently available at lawn & garden stores.)
- Sprinkle human hair clippings (get from your local salon.)
- Cover plants with bird netting stretched over PVC framework
- Sprinkle blood meal in the garden.
- Place moth balls around plants or sprinkle moth ball flakes.
- Plant chives around the border (careful with this one – don’t want them out in the yard!)
- Plant marigolds, snapdragons, petunias or begonias (all annuals) around the border, or plant perennials like daffodils, columbine, hyacinth, foxglove, or lavender.
- Hang pouches of Milorganite on shrubs.
- Buy Deer-off deer repellant (have read both excellent and bad reviews about this.)
- Hang fabric softener sheets from plants.
- Place decaying fishheads in garden (yes, put this on your shopping list….)
- Mix a beaten egg with a quart of water and spray on plants.
- Employ noisemakers like radios or wind chimes.
- Put up 8’ fencing (or better, electric fencing.)
- Install sprinklers that come on frequently.
- Make a little deer smorgasbord on your property AWAY from your garden and landscaping plants, using the plants they like. (Okay, THAT one doesn’t seem like a good idea, does it? What if they eat them to the ground? Won’t they then chant “More! More! More!” and tromp into your real garden?)
Deer don’t like plants with stickers, or anything fuzzy, spiny, bitter or smelly. But the following plants are their yummy favorites:
Arborvitae, azaleas, rhododendrons (guess my Mom didn’t know that!) any shrub with berries, fruit trees, redbuds, yews, roses, tulips, chrysanthemums, clematis, daylilies, hostas, beans, broccoli, lettuce, peas, raspberries, strawberries, corn, and vinca minor.
Watch David Wilson give us tips for deer problems in this video for Garden Splendor.
And if anyone knows how to keep my neighbor’s enormous cats from lying on my flowers and crushing them, let me know!