After a long winter, deer begin to run out of food and often get a lot gutsier about moving in on your landscape. Even if you didn’t see too many deer this winter, you may begin to see them creeping closer and closer—and ultimately doing damage to a lot of your plant material. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to deter pesky deer without actually harming them.
One of the simplest ways to deter deer is to plant things they don’t like. While there is no such thing as a completely “deer proof plant,” there are certainly things that are less likely to be eaten. Plants deer love include rhododendron, arborvitae, hostas, and English ivy. On the flip side, plants that are less likely to be eaten include Boxwood, juniper, and spruce. Deer also tend to avoid fragrant plants that give off a strong scent like lavender, ornamental salvias, and bearded irises. Create a natural border by planting their least favorites around the property and keeping the plants they like closest to the house. By simply giving a bit of forethought to your spring landscape, you can keep the deer away and still enjoy beautiful foliage.
In the days where people and deer didn’t coexist so closely, hanging a pair of human-hair-stuffed-pantyhose from the clothing line was enough to keep them away. Besides being unsightly—and likely to be considered a bit odd by your neighbors—that method is also ineffective since deer have become increasingly comfortable around us. Instead, try applying a liquid deer repellent around your plants. This can be very effective—just take into account that it takes time to spray and must be done under the right conditions. It should be above freezing with no rain forecasted in the next 48 hours. Scram, a granular product, is another option. This is sprinkled around the plants and works by emitting an odor that is offensive to both deer and rabbits.
If you live in an area that is heavily populated with deer and they’ve grown particularly pesky, you might need to think outside of the box. Some homeowners report that deer—which are naturally skittish—have been scared away by their scarecrows or sculptures. Anything with moving parts or that makes noise is likely to be more intimidating. Motion-activated sprayers that blast the deer with a shot of cold water will also send them running. Of course, the most stubborn of creatures will also get used to these additions. Netting on small trees and shrubs allows them to receive water and sun but protects them from being eaten. Of course the most effective method is also the most expensive—fencing. If you do invest in fencing make sure it is at least eight feet high, as deer are excellent jumpers.
Keep in mind:
Since all deer are different, these methods may work on some and not others so you’ll increase your odds of success by trying a combination of tactics. Also keep in mind that deer control is most effective when started at the onset of the season. If you deter them early on, they’ll be more likely to just move along and find food where it’s easier to get. Once deer create a habit—such as a regular visit to nibble on your plants—it becomes harder to break.