Living in deer country means you have to find ways to outsmart those pesky but cute foragers. You can fence your property, and hope that will keep them out. Deer can easily jump a 7 foot fence or squirm through a 6 inch gap. If the plants look tempting to them, deer will try to find a way to get to them — and most likely will succeed.
This means you have to find ways to outsmart them. One way is to plant deer-resistant plants. Lists of these plants, mainly with fuzzy or coarse foliage, strong aromas or spiny stems, can be found online or in any good plant nursery.
Be aware, however, that these lists can be regional. What is avoided by deer in Washington or California may be tasty to deer in Ontario or New Hampshire. And if they are hungry enough or if food is scarce, deer will devour almost anything.
If you want plants in your landscaping that deer love, the you have to find ways to protect them. Tree wraps, netting, fencing and chemical repellents are the most common methods, and can be used singly or in combination. Because deer avoid strong smells and bad tastes, spraying plants with repellents can be a very successful tactic.
Commercial products are available, from ones that smell like predator urine work well. Deer are scaredy-cats, so if they get even a whiff of a predator they will avoid the area. Another common one contains the sulfurous compounds that are in rotten eggs. However, there are home remedies that will work as well, made with fish fertilizer, hot sauce, eggs and soap. Any of these sprays will have to be reapplied in about 10 days, or after rain.
Another tactic to use is to scare deer. As I’ve said, deer are scaredy-cats, so any unusual or new situations will get them to bound away — at least until they get used to it! Some people suggest putting a loud radio in the garden or a motion-detecting device that triggers either a high-pitched warning, a floodlight or a jet of water. These will generally work, unless the deer are very hungry.
If you have favorite plants that you know deer love, you can protect them by surrounding them with chicken wire or deer netting. The latter is a fine but strong black plastic net, with 1 inch openings. It can be draped over plants or supported by upright posts.
Because it is black, it is almost invisible unless you are close. You can also intersperse strongly scented herbs throughout the garden. The strong scents will confuse their sense of smell and discourage them from browsing. Try artemisia, lemon thyme, rosemary, mints, or lavender.
Another choice, of course is to surround one section of your property with a strong 8 foot fence, and keep all those tender and choice plants inside it. Leave the rest wild, with existing shrubs and grasses for the deer to browse on. After all, the deer were there first, and if you can learn to co-exist with them by planting appropriate plants and protecting others, then it’s a win-win situation.
Look for more landscaping and gardening tips, links and great articles from gardening expert, Nicki Goff, on her blog, Through Nana’s Garden Gate. She also offers a free e-mail starter course and a comprehensive e-book with everything you need to know about planting your own home herb garden.