Photo used with permission.
The scene is always the same. A tired, overly tan, slightly muscular figure stands in a garden, holding — ever so gently — what remains of a green bean bush. The culprit is the elusive odocoileus virginianus, or more specifically, the deer.
Little can be as enraging as battling an aggressive herd of hungry deer. Their stealth and grit go unmatched. They can wipe out a hard-earned crop in a matter of minutes, in the middle of the night, while you slumber pleasantly in your bed.
However, with a few tricks, you can most definitely encourage these furry critters to dine elsewhere.
10 Tips to Keep Deer Out and Sanity In
1. Go Ruff. Match furry creature for furry creature and get yourself a good garden dog! I will note, however, that this will ONLY work if the dog is left loose at night, as well as possesses some guarding tendencies. I have personally seen a deer walk three feet from a husky-going-bonkers because that deer knew that dog couldn't come any closer. I have also seen dogs that will use the one-eye-open technique of determining the safety of guests. A dog that is going to snooze through a visit is not going to be very helpful.
2. Go Stinky. Think predator urine. Think human urine. Think bars of soap. Think moth balls. Get creative, but make sure your garden has *some* form of undesirable smell lingering. Lovely thought, no? If you decide to go the potty route, you can purchase coyote and other predator urine at farm and garden stores, or if you have men-folk in your home, send them to the garden for some, ahem, relief. On the flip side, sprinkling soap shavings around your plants and hanging bars of soap or bags of moth balls from nearby trees have both contributed to deer-less gardens. The more offensive the smell, the better!
3. Go Plant-Crazy. Border or co-mingle plants in your garden that are on the “no” list for deer. It is important to note, however, that what deer will eat varies from animal to animal, as well as from area to area. There are so many factors that go into this. You can get an idea of the kinds of deterrent plants to try in this article.
4. Go Hairy. Human hair. Dog hair. Sasquatch hair. Get to know your hair dresser and sprinkle this stuff near your plants. If nothing else, hanging a bag of human hair from the trees in your yard will keep strangers thinking you're strange. : )
5. Go Fencing. All kinds of fencing have been used to repel deer. Electric fencing, white cord, wire fencing. A decent fence around a garden is — by far — one of the best techniques for protecting your plants. A good, completely deer proof fence will cost you, but if you have the funds to do it, this will definitely be the most low-maintenance option. Punch “deer proof fence” into any search engine and you will be bombarded with hundreds of plans and opinions. Essentially, you want to make sure your fence is two things: high and tight. Don't underestimate the ability of a deer to hop right on over a 6-foot fence. A truly deer proof fence is going to be 8- to 10-feet high and tight all around. Your other option is to construct two fenced borders around your garden. One 4-foot high fence around the perimeter, and another fence of the same height, 4-feet away from the first fence. Deer can jump high, but they dislike (and will generally avoid) jumping into a small confined area.
6. Go Noisy. The very desperate have been known to hook up motion detected radios in their gardens. We have actually used this technique to keep racoons and skunks out of our chicken coop in previous years. It works alright, but there is a catch: change the station regularly. Deer and other furry creatures are startled by the sounds at first, but it doesn't take them long to get used to the noise. We found success in varying between all genres of music and talk radio, switching the station every evening. After a few months, however, this stopped working and we had to break out the big guns, regardless.
7. Go Shiny. I'm sure you've heard of people hanging cd's and shiny ribbon in fruit trees to keep birds from stealing the harvest. This is the same concept. The flashing of cd's and tinsel-type ribbon during the day is unsettling. At night you can use motion sensor lights to give the same effect. Again, the problem you run into here is that deer grow accustomed to regularities with ease. Without switching it up from time to time, your hard work will be for naught.
8. Go Generous. The traditional farmer's adage went something like this: plant 1/3 of your crop for disease, 1/3 for critters, and 1/3 for your family. If you are participating in an inner struggle between befriending local game and keeping them out of your livelihood, I suggest you take this route. Plant enough to be okay with the one-third rule of thumb. Some families also have great success with planting cover crops near the garden that the deer actually enjoy! One friend plants white clover in a 10-foot border around her actual garden. The deer leave her plants alone and spend their time munching on one of their favorite treats instead!
9. Go Cooking. There are SO many deer-repellent recipes out there. You can find a recipe for natural deer-repellant here and here. Find tips on making your deer repellant concoction most effective here. Deer do not like spicy or rotten tastes. At least the deer I have asked in my lifetime have concurred. Egg wash and hot sauce spray have been used for decades in the world. It takes regular application, but many people have had success with this method.
10. Go, and go, and go again. The most vital piece to the puzzle of protecting your plants is the most important! In our home of toddler and adolescent boys, we like to call this technique the “game change”. Short attention spans and sharp mental capacities alike call for this trick. You must change things up ever so often — generally once a week — in order to remain effective.
Dear Deer, Don't Dance On My Plants!
What kinds of plants do you commonly lose to deer cravings?
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