Deer may be cute but they will eat just about anything, which makes them a troublesome visitor to any home garden. While the only full-proof way to prevent deer is a tall deer fence built completely around your garden, for many people that is just not be an option. However, all hope is not lost – there are a variety of tricks you can try to keep deer away from your garden. Some may work only temporarily and usually a combination of several tactics will be needed. Here’s how to deter deer from your garden.
FLOWERS & HERBS
Surround your garden and line the paths with fragrant flowers and herbs. Deer have great senses of smell but do not like fragrant plants. This is your first line of defense. Try lavender, mint, sage and thyme.
By scattering human hair around your garden you are also scattering human scent, which is known to help keep deer away. Put some of the hair in stockings and hang them at the end of rows, around the perimeter of your garden or near the deer’s favorite plants.
Try your local barbershop for as much hair as you can handle.
HOT PEPPER SPRAY
Pepper spray applied directly to any plants you don’t want eaten by deer can work and shouldn’t harm the plants. You’ll need to blend the peppers with enough water so it can be easily applied. The stronger the pepper spray, the more likely to keep the deer (and other pests) away. Keep in mind, pepper spray can have a negative effect on bees and other beneficial insects.
To brew a home batch of pepper spray, blend about ½ a cup of red peppers (cayenne pepper or chili powder) with 2 cups of water. You can also steep it in hot water. Use a funnel to pour into a spray bottle.
OTHER FRAGRANT REPELLANTS
Other repellants that may work include rotting fish heads, garlic, mothballs, fabric softener, and most anything that has a strong smell. We suggest focusing on chemical free or natural repellants. Non-organic repellants like mothballs and fabric softener can have a negative effect on your organic garden.
Commercial Deer Repellants that contain fox, wolf or coyote urine can be purchased. If you have dogs, you can also encourage them to urinate around your garden as another possible deterrent. You can also mark the garden yourself if you live remotely or can do so discreetly (or if you’re not too shy!).
Be sure to alternate and replenish scent repellants frequently.
PHYSICAL OBSTRUCTIONS & BARRIERS
Wooden or plastic fences, wire fencing, netting, fishing line and prickly branches and bushes can all help keep deer out of your garden. However, deer are clever and can find ways around many different obstructions. They can jump higher than you might think: they’ll clear a 7-8 foot fence if they have a clean take off and landing spot. They can slip through holes and under fences with less than a foot of space. Any gaps or holes should be kept at least 6″ X 6″ or smaller.
If you can’t build a tall fence, the more barriers you can present the better. Use dried branches, briars and thorns to create natural deer barriers. Fishing line works well, particularly if it is rigged to something that will cause noise or sudden movement when the deer trip over it. Row covers and nets help keep deer from getting to your plants as well, but are not foolproof.
NOISE & LIGHT
Deer are usually scared off by sudden light and noise. Sensor lights are a great way to deter deer, particularly at night when you are not around. Shiny, metallic objects can also help. Colorful objects that blow in the wind and reflect light can be useful. Loud sudden noises will scare deer off, at least temporarily. Firecrackers, radios and whistles are just a few ideas.
Large dogs are good deer deterrents. Deer do not like dogs because they are their natural predators. Let your dog out in the early morning and evening when deer like to come around. They’ll help to chase them off and the scent left by their mark will help to keep deer away even when they’re not around. Keep in mind if you live in a rural or isolated area that deer may attract predators that could be dangerous to your pets, such as mountain lions and coyotes.
FOCUS ON PLANTS THAT DEER WON’T EAT
Deer will eat almost anything, particularly when they’re hungry. However, there are certain plants and flowers they tend to dislike. Bear in mind, different deer in different areas have different palettes, so it’s hard to know for sure what they will and will not eat.
The most common plants deer tend to not prefer: foxgloves, iris, ornamental grass, onions, chives, sage and other herbs and most plants with thorns (though they love roses) as well as highly fragrant plants and vegetables.
While they may develop a taste for some of these plants, they are less likely to eat them. Some deer may even steer clear of other vegetables if these plants are grown around them.
Deer also prefer certain plants, which can attract them to your garden and keep them coming back no matter what you do. You may want to avoid these plants for that reason: roses, tulips, chrysanthemum, dogwood, sweet corn, peas, fruit trees (apples), and fruit bushes (strawberries and raspberries). Some people plant these away from their vegetable garden to lure deer away, however this is a dangerous method.
While many plants will need thorough cultivation to thrive, some may not mind a few weeds growing alongside them. Many deer will prefer the weeds to your vegetables or flowers. A thoroughly weeded garden may leave deer nothing to eat but your beloved vegetables and flowers.
DON’T FEED THEM
This may seem obvious, but feeding deer encourages them to come back. While deer may seem quite skittish, it doesn’t take much for them to drop their fear of people and that fear is one of your best repellants.