There is probably no insect or animal that causes more heartache for gardeners than deer. Regardless of what area of the country you reside in there always seem to be no shortage of these destructive animals. I know that a lot of people think deer are cute and that may be true; when they are in someone else’s yard! Regardless of what you might hear there is no such thing as “deer proof.” There is deer resistance perhaps or maybe deer deterrence, but the reality is that deer will eat virtually anything if they are hungry and this includes plants that they might avoid under normal circumstances. All is not lost however; there are strategies you can employ to minimize their impact on your garden.
The first strategy is to scare them away from your yard or not allow them in at all. Physically preventing deer from getting to your yard can be a difficult proposition; particularly if you live in a residential subdivision that may not be too happy about that 8 foot fence that you want to put around your entire property. When physical barriers are not feasible you’ll need to employ tactics that will startle them and scare them away. Deer are very skittish animals and sudden changes in their environment will often make them flee. Motion detectors that trigger exterior lights or set off sprinklers can be effective as are noisemakers like radios. The one universal problem is that the deer will get used to the tactic and eventually, it won’t scare them away.
If you can’t scare the deer away then you can also try to make what they like to eat not taste quite as good. The last few years has seen a bevy of new repellants that claim to keep deer away from eating your plants. These can contain things like hot pepper which is distasteful or eggs which may not smell to us but to the deer, which have a sensitive nose, they smell like they are rotten. It also seems like every gardener has a home remedy to share. Some use human hair that they get from the barber shop or fabric softener sheets. One thing I have found is that rotating what you use can help avoid the deer getting too used to any one repellant.
Perhaps the best way to keep deer out of your yard is to not plant things that they like to eat. An emphasis on trees such as magnolias or shrubs such as barberry is one way to do this. Still, what garden is complete without some perennials or annuals? The key in picking plants that deer are usually not interested in is learning what plant characteristics are not appealing to them. Deer usually avoid plants that have strong scents such as lavender, Russian sage, or catmint. A plant that is aromatic or bitter tasting is usually not something deer are going to eat. They also avoid plants that are poisonous such as daffodils and plants that have thorns like cactus.
While it is true that no yard can be deer proof if you make it too hard for the deer to find something they like to eat or make your yard uninviting you usually can keep them at bay. If you would like more information about deer resistant plants for your area of the country please feel free to send us an e-mail or you can share your “home remedies” on our Facebook page for others to try!