If you’re like me, you love driving down a country road and seeing deer grazing in a field. What I don’t love is when Bambi comes to snack in my yard. There are some things you can do that will help keep the deer, and other browsing critters away from your garden naturally, without chemicals.
Don’t plant this…
First, you can steer clear of planting some of the plants deer like to eat. As far as shrubs; azalea, rhododendron, dogwood, roses, lilac and burning bush are some of the favorites. Trees like yews, pines (especially white pine), and fruit trees are all eaten by deer. Garden plants, like most vegetables including beans, peas, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. Corn, blackberries, spring bulbs and hosta have all been known to disappear. My Aunt Val in Minnesota loves to watch the deer from her front porch – until they start eating her pansies, as they seem to do every year. In my yard in Western North Carolina, the apple and peach trees fall prey, but they won’t touch the blackberries. (I wish they would!)
So, in avoiding plants they love, you can go for plants they DON’T like. Among these are borage, ice plant, marigolds and zinnias. Some perennials include alliums, aloe, black-eyed susan, bleeding heart, any of the mints, fern, geranium, iris, and herbs like oregano, rosemary and yarrow. Among the trees and shrubs are bamboo, pampas grass, yucca, barberry, butterfly bush, currant and gooseberry, hawthorn (despite its apple-like berry), holly, mountain laurel, palms, oleander, boxwood and viburnum.
Need other options?
If you already have the plants they like and don’t want to change what you have or start from scratch, there are other natural alternatives to discourage Bambi from munching on your garden and landscaping.
One thing you can start with is a smell deterrent. Among the best ones are the sulphur compounds. They smell like rotten eggs and deer hate them. You might too, but the smell will die down in a day or so. You can also get predator urine. Around here we use coyote urine, which can be purchased at a local garden center or online here. Your area may have other urine preparations that are region specific. I have another one I use that’s a clay granule base with thyme, peppermint and piperine, which is black pepper oil. It also works well for other animals such as bunnies and groundhogs.
Soap also works as a natural deer deterrent. Simply hang a bar in the bushes. (learn to make your own soap here)
My uncle used to wear the same socks for a week, then tie them to a barbed wire fence. He never had a problem with deer when he did that. Neighbors either, come to think of it!
Other smell deterrents include blood meal, human hair, fabric softener sheets, creosote, processed sewage such as Milorganite, and along that same line, human urine. Yep, can you believe I said it? This one really does work.
You may need to use a taste deterrent as well. Among these are hot pepper wax and piperene-based sprays. Both are very unpleasant on the tongue. Another option is a throat numbing spray such as Cepacol. Remember what it does to your throat? It’ll do that to the deer too. Not harmful, just annoying.
Consider planting a border around your garden with plants they’ll avoid. Mints, sage, marigolds, and big ugly thorny things like locust, buckthorn and hawthorn work well. Fences usually don’t, because deer can jump very high. In order for a fence to be effective, it must be 10-12 feet tall.
Of course, guinea hens, llamas and donkeys will all raise the alarm when a deer is in the yard. My dog lets me know too, but I think he just wants to play with them.
Motion detector lights will sometimes work at night as will motion detector spray devices. There’s a product on the market called the “Scarecrow.” It’s a sprinkler that starts up when it detects something in its path, like a deer. It startles them with a shot of water. (Find it here.)
And if none of these work, just give in. I planted a seed plot with clover and grass seed not too far from the edge of the woods. I set it well away from the garden and not in sight (or smell) of what I wanted to keep. I planted a row of mint along the edge of the plot and the deer seem to stay within that area. My garden is safe and my yard is free of tracks…for now, until they get me figured out!
How do you deer proof your yard? Share below!