Seven Techniques for Controlling Deer in the Home Garden Plus Recipes
Controlling deer in the garden can be a major
problem for many gardeners (including myself).
There are a wide variety of solutions and here's my assessment of them.
This is by far and away the best solution if you live in a semi-urban
area on a small lot or acreage. There is special deer fencing that is
almost invisible to the human eye (and deer run into it regularly) but
it is tough and tall. Deer don't jump it. The only problem is with the
entrance and exit points to your property (driveways). Generally,
cattle gates (slots in the road that deer – and cows – do not like to
walk on) are the preferred solution
You'll find deer fencing on the Internet or a local fencing contractor
can provide it for you.
"Deer in my garden
Spraying Evil Smelling Stuff
Some of these are reputed to be excellent for controlling deer.
here is to spray regularly and often.
If the deer get used to hanging
around your yard and then you start spraying, they will often not get
the point. You have to start early in the spring and continue season
Now – different products will make different claims (my spray lasts a
"month" – but mine lasts a "year" - - etc) but the reality is that you
have to spray most of these immediately after a rain or every 10 days
or so if you want them to continue controlling deer in your garden.
Some sprays are eating deterrents – you spray them on the tender shoots
of perennials or shrubs and the bitter taste means the deer won't eat
them after the first taste. These work but definitely have to be
started early and continued all season (and into the winter if the deer
browse on your shrubbery). Controlling deer with these means proving
you can outlast the deer - you spray more than they can visit.
Some sprays are said to provide a "liquid fence" type of control where
the deer don't like the smell of these products and will stay away. The
best thing I can tell you about these products is that they seem to
work for controlling deer in different areas. You may have to try
several before you find one that "your" deer don't like.
Deer Resistant Plants
And I have a bridge I can sell you… In the literature of deer resistant
plants, there are multiple listings of plants that deer don't like to
is that a hungry deer will eat almost anything up to but excluding
cactus. Non-hungry deer are a little more picky and will pass
on some plants.
They will eat almost every woody shrub and evergreen if hungry
enough (yes, including yew). So, you can feed the deer to protect your
plants if you are desperate enough. In controlling deer in the nursery,
I didn't find anything that would stop them from eating the perennial
An interesting and little known "fact" is that deer in different areas seem to prefer different foods. So what they won't eat in my yard, they'll chow down in another area a few miles away. I'm not sure why this is so (maybe deer pass along what's good to eat from generation to generation) but I do know it's going to take experimenting to find the plant deer won't eat in your yard.
Some dogs do act effectively at controlling deer. I can tell you my Old
English Sheepdog wasn't much of one. With all that hair, she couldn't
see them and if she could, she'd want to play with them – not chase
them away. The deer browsed up to within 20 feet of the old farmhouse.
The use of dog urine marking a territory will deter less-than-starving
animals. Dogs running inside a fence at night will deter deer.
Deer Repelling Fragrances
There's a ton of references in the literature to hanging soap in the
trees (there are reports of deer eating the soap), don't bet the farm
on this one.
hanging bags of human hair in trees (apparently works for a short time
but needs replacing regularly – OK if you're a hairdresser I suppose)
hanging meat in trees to rot (now this is gross and sometime
spraying rotten eggs around the edges of the property - the basis for
some commercial sprays that are effective at controlling deer.
having the male members of the family "mark" the edges of the property
with their urine (this works after a fashion if repeated regularly and
deer aren't overly hungry) One can have one's beer and provide an
effective controlling deer patrol at the same time.
Irish Spring Soap has been touted. Carve off shavings and distribute
them. Hang bars of soap in trees and near plants you want to protect.
Electronic Pest Control
Electronic scarecrows with motion detector systems seem to be effective
in close spaces. The ones that control a burst of water will protect
the plants within the water spray area. Electronic sound devices are
not rated for deer.
Modern electric fencing works if you can get the deer
to sniff the wire. Slather peanut butter on the wire every week to 10
days (unplug the unit first). Two-wire fencing is recommended – one at
3 feet and another at 5 feet and both coated in p.b.
The deer can't
resist the smell of the peanut butter and will stick their noses into
the wire for a good taste. The shock will cause them to really jump
back and they'll be quite wary of this kind of fencing. Mark the
fencing with red tape every few feet so the deer can see it (the object
is not to hide this fence but to let the deer know they'll get zapped
if they cross it).
Fencing or a Visual Barrier
Solid wood fencing works.
Combining an electric fence with a solid wood (at
least 6' tall) will stop most deer as they won't jump into something
they can't see through.
Deer fencing - 10-feet tall works most of the time although you do have to control entrances and exits (driveways etc) with cattle guards (slotted paving) or tall gates.
Many folks simply use deer fencing around their gardens allowing the deer access to the other areas.
The Bottom Line in Controlling Deer
Deer that are not hungry are easy enough to control with any of the
products or techniques listed above.
Hungry deer are only controlled physically with deer fencing or a tall
solid board fence. No technique or spray will stop a starving deer from
eating your garden.
Rotate at least two to three sprays or visual effects on an ongoing basis - regularly every two weeks or so to keep the deer "on edge" and nervous around your property. They'll avoid you if they're not really hungry.
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