Deer are a lovely and natural part of the environment, and watching them in the wild is enjoyable.
Unfortunately, they can wreak havoc in your garden.
In this article, we’ll share tips on preventing deer from gobbling up your treasured plants.
We also share a list of deer-resistant annuals somewhat safe from hungry deer. Read on to learn more.
How Do Deer Hurt Your Garden?
Deer in the garden are problematic to all sorts of plants.
Their tastes range from crops to fruits and veggies to popular ornamental grasses, garden plants such as roses, tulips, Hosta, and many others.
An estimated 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, deer damage costing more than $4 billion in vehicle damage, according to State Farm, the nation’s leading auto insurer. [source]
Deer are most destructive in the springtime after a long and hungry winter.
Spring is also the time when does are either pregnant or caring for their fawns, so they are naturally quite hungry.
It takes quite a bit of food to keep a deer healthy.
These animals are about the size of a pony and have a lifespan of approximately sixteen years.
Bucks can typically weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
Does may weigh from 120 to 200 pounds.
How Do You Know Deer Are Eating Your Plants?
Deer are mostly nocturnal and usually set out around dusk to look for food.
This is when you may catch glimpses of them along the edges of the woods or under cover of hedges.
You may never see deer in your yard, but you will know if they’ve been there because you will see their cloven hoofs and dark, bean-shaped droppings.
Naturally, you will also notice many of your favorite flowers, fruits, and veggies have disappeared.
What Are Deer’s Favorite Foods?
Deer prefer plants providing a great deal of nutrition, and they will often eat only the most nutritious part of the plant (e.g., the flowers and the fruits).
They like plants soft and easily chewed and contain a lot of water.
For this reason, some of their favorites include:
They tend to avoid plants bristly, coarse, or spiny.
They also avoid plants giving off a strong aroma.
12 Ways To Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden
Use these tips in combination and rotate your methods so deer do not become too accustomed to your tricks.
#1 – Periodically spray your entire garden with a commercial deer repellent.
This is available in garden centers and typically contains dried cow blood, garlic, and sulfured eggs.
#2 – Make a homemade deer repellent using:
- One tablespoon of dish soap
- One gallon of water
- Half a cup of milk
- One raw egg
Combine these ingredients thoroughly and spray your entire garden frequently.
It is especially important to spray immediately after rain.
#3 – Make a very simple deer repellent by combining a gallon of water with two tablespoons of Tabasco sauce.
This also must be sprayed frequently to repel deer.
#4 – Human hair or dog hair stuffed into net bags or old stockings and hung in the garden.
The idea is the dog, or human smell will scare deer off.
#5 – Strong smelling deodorant soap placed in net bags or nylon stockings and hung about the garden.
Irish Spring is said to be the soap most despised by deer.
#6 – Purchase coyote or wolf urine at the garden store to spray around your garden and repel deer.
#7 – Some gardeners say old gym shoes stuck on stakes or dirty laundry strategically placed about the garden will make your garden unpleasant for deer, but it might also make it unpleasant for you and your neighbors.
#8 – A scarecrow of unwashed clothing filled with human/dog hair (sourced from your local barber and pet groomer) would surely throw a fright into deer.
#9 – Deers dislike loud noises, so some gardeners advise creating clattery contraptions with old pie tins or leaving a radio playing loudly and constantly in the garden.
While this might keep deer away, it could also create a public nuisance, so it may not be advisable.
#10 – Hanging wind chimes in trees and setting up wind spinners around your garden is an attractive way to discourage deer.
#11 – Install a motion-activated sprinkler to surprise deer with a spray of water when they enter your garden.
#12 – High fencing is the best way to keep deer out. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a strong, sturdy fence; just a tall one will be difficult for them to jump over.
Good Garden Maintenance Discourages Deer
- Keeping your yard tidy can work to keep deer away.
- Keep your trees pruned, so there are no low-hanging branches for deer to eat.
- Pick up rotten fruit, acorns, and leaves scattered about your yard.
- Fertilize using fish emulsion or blood meal to keep deer at bay.
- Take care not to fertilize excessively, but including these nutritious fertilizers in your regular maintenance is helpful.
- Plan your garden in such a way that vulnerable plants are protected.
- Cover sensitive plants with row cover or fabric netting to protect them from deer.
- Place deer repellent plants along the outer edges of the garden.
- Place deer attracting plants towards the center.
- Plant especially tasty deer favorites in containers and keep them out of reach of deer on your front porch or your balcony or in very high-hanging baskets.
- Talk with your local co-op extension to find out which deer-resistant plants have worked best in your area.
If you enjoy hummingbirds, Nicotiana is a deer-resistant perennial (zones 10 – 11) bicolor flower loved by pollinators and enjoys the full sun, which deer won’t nibble on.
Nicotiana is also quite a drought-tolerant plant but can tolerate being grown in shade gardens.
Annual flowers and plants deer dislike or tend to be on the deer-proof, or deer resistance side includes:
- Flowering Tobacco
- Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia)
- Ornamental Salvia
- Garden Verbena
- Signet Marigold
- French Tarragon
- Angelonia (Summer Snapdragon)
- Spider Flower Coleus
- Lilac Bushes
- Pot Marigold
- Canna Lilies
- Nasturtium flowers
- Black-eyed Susan
- Persian Shield
- Bearded Iris
- Ageratum – Floss Flower
- Dusty Miller
- Lambs’ Ear
- Russian Sage
- Lobelia (The Great Blue Flower)