Oh Deer! Deer Proofing Your Garden

Are deer nibbling away your garden? Their favorite dining time is early morning just before daybreak and nightfall. Weather and food scarcity have an impact on what gets eaten. An adult can put away six to ten pounds of food a day – that’s a lot of hostas, tulips, holly, day lilies, sedum, rhododendrons and azaleas, all of which grow in my garden

While nothing is foolproof, here are some ways of keeping your garden reasonably safe plus a list of plants they are likely to find less delectable.

  1. Polypropylene mesh fencing surrounding your property. It needs to be at least eight feet high unless you are enclosing a small space. It can rip so it needs constant checking.

  2. Machines that give off an electric impulse at a frequency not heard by humans. One is Deertech, an audio repellent system that uses modulating pitches to confuse deer (the sound doesn’t drive them away, but they don’t like to stop in areas with the noise because it makes it harder to detect possible predators). The only drawback is the ongoing maintenance contract that is required - a technician comes every couple of months to change the pitch so the deer don’t get used to the sounds.

  3. Deer repellent spray. It needs to be reapplied after a heavy rainfall and about once a month. You might try landscape gardener Judy Tomkin’s favorite, Deer Out; Havahart’s Away Big Game Repellent, which has a natural formulation; Deer Off; Liquid Fence and Hinder. Rob Whitstock reports he has had luck with Bobbex. It’s a good idea to change occasionally to prevent adaptation.

  4. Individual plants wrapped with plastic mesh netting (available in rolls at Lowe’s).

Deer tend to avoid some plants because they are poisonous or their taste or texture is not appealing. I have had success with snowdrops, daffodils, hellebores, lily of the valley, lavender, bleeding heart, daisies, alliums, iris, astilbes, and foxglove plus wildflowers like bloodroot, winter aconite, trillium, trout lily and May apple.

Some others listed in garden books and magazines include yarrow, coreopsis, false aster, bee balm, larkspur, iris, zinnia, columbine, blanket flower, salvia, Russian sage and heliotrope.

Gardener Kris Haberman suggests that when installing new plantings, spray them at this time since plants raised in a nursery are usually soft growth due to fertilizers and thus tasty to deer. And the squirrels around here are viciously good at digging up small plants, so the spray helps keep them at bay for a while too.