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The Best Deer Repellent Options Available for Your GardenDeer repellents, barriers, and plant selection can help protect your garden from deer damage. With their deep brown eyes and graceful movements deer are a pleasure to watch, but when they get into your garden they can do a great deal of damage in a short amount of time.

Deer damage plants in three ways: by browsing branches, leaves, and shoots; by rubbing their antlers against the bark; and by scraping the soil around trees and shrubs.

Protecting your garden requires a multi-pronged approach. Following are a variety of techniques to consider.

Sprays and Granulars

These products work best when the deer population is low, there are other sources of food for the deer, and your neighbors are not using repellents. Deer tend to do the most damage during the winter months when other food is scarce. If you apply these products before deer start to feed in your garden the deer may go elsewhere to feed. Once they start browsing in your garden it will be harder to get them away from your garden.

Chemicals keep deer away either by smell or by taste. Taste-based products are sprayed directly on the plants, while smell based ones are applied to an area rather than to individual plants. Because taste-based come into direct contact with plant parts and may be poisonous, you should not use them on food crops.

There are dozens of commercial products on the market, with new ones appearing all the time. What works in one geographic location may not work in another. A chemical that works in one season may not work all year round; a product that keeps deer away one year may not do so the next year. For these reasons, homeowners should not rely solely on one product.

Not all commercial products sold are equally effective. Plantskydd, Hinder, Ro-pel, Ani-spray, Deer Away, Enviro Pro, and Liquid Fence are just a few of the many products that have been used successfully in some locations and circumstances.

For safety reasons and to get the most from the repellents, it is important to read product labels and follow instructions. Apply on windless days when the temperature is above 40 degrees. Most repellents must be re-applied periodically.

Homemade Repellents

Gardeners, homeowners, nursery owners, and even researchers have experimented with repellents made from home ingredients. Eggs, hair, hot peppers, and soap are among the most popular ingredients.

As with all chemicals, homemade or not, there is no magic bullet, no universally successful homemade remedy. The recipes that follow are simple to make. Various users report success with each one of them—at some time, under certain circumstances. According to users’ reports, the whole egg repellent may be the most effective of the homemade recipes.

The only way to know if these homemade products will work for you is to try them. (By the way, coyote urine and blood meal, two popular homemade deterrents, rarely work for deer.)

Whole Egg Repellent

Mix two whole eggs and one or two cups water in a blender. To prevent your sprayer from clogging, remove and discard the white membrane around the yolks before blending.

Add this mixture to a gallon of water and spray on plants. Reapply two or three times a season.

Warning: Do not use the egg repellent near the house because it has an awful smell.

Hot Pepper Repellent

Put three fresh hot peppers (red cayenne, jalapeno, or habanera) through a food processor with enough water to liquefy the peppers. Strain the liquid through cheesecloth into a jar (one quart or larger). Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, one squirt of paper glue, and two drops of liquid dishwashing soap. To use, mix one part of this concentrate in five parts water. Shake the mixture well before applying with a sprayer. Reapply after rain or snow or when new growth appears.

Warning: Hot pepper recipes is can be dangerous! Wear gloves and goggles when mixing and spraying to keep it off your skin and out of your eyes.

Tabasco Repellent

Mix equal parts Tabasco sauce and water and spray on plants. This is a variation on the hot pepper repellent.

Soap Repellent

Put bars of fragrant soap in a nylon stockings or similar mesh holders. Tie the holders to small trees or shrubs. This is an area repellent; one bag protects about one square yard.

Hair Bags

Like soap repellent, hair are area repellents that you hang from trees. Human hair is most commonly used, but some people report success with dog hair as well. Hang hair bags three feet apart.

Barriers

Fences

Fences are the only sure way to keep deer out of a garden—and even they are not 100 percent foolproof.

Non-electric fences

Deer don’t like to be caged in, so a four-foot high fence may be enough to keep deer out of a small garden. For larger areas the fence needs to be eight feet high. Slanting the fence outward seems to make it more effective.

Typical fences are made of wire or plastic mesh. Streamers placed four feet off the ground every twelve feet warn the deer of the fence.

Electric fences

A single strand electric fence may work for a home garden, but five-, seven-, and nine-wire electric fences are not uncommon. Baiting the fence with peanut butter attracts the deer to the fence, where they get a corrective shock that may train them to stay away.

Protectors

Protectors placed around the trunks of small trees or shrubs may help prevent browsing. Protectors can be made from woven wire, plastic tree wrap, or polypropylene, and should reach four-to-five feet up the trunks.

Electronic Devices

Electronic devices use high frequency sound waves, motion sensors, and other humane technologies to keep deer out of gardens. With Yard Sentinel and similar electronic repellents you can choose from a variety of methods to repel deer without disturbing your family and your neighbors.

Water sprinklers operate with timers or motion sensors to spray water on unsuspecting deer, making your garden an inhospitable place for browsing. Guardener A201 Animal Repellent and Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler are two popular high velocity water devices.

Scare Devices

Strobe lights, fireworks, sirens, loud music, and gas exploders may keep deer away, but only for a week or two until the deer get used to them. In urban and suburban settings scare devices will bother the humans more than the deer.

Gardening with Deer in Mind

A smart gardener can have a successful garden even where deer are in the neighborhood. By choosing certain plants over others and placing them carefully, you can limit deer damage in your home landscape.

Placement of Plants

Place plants deer favor close to the house or in fenced in areas.

Plant Care

Deer prefer tender, young shoots and buds. Too much fertilizer in the fall encourages new growth at a time when other food is scarce.

Deer Resistant Plants

While no plant is 100 percent deer proof, some are less likely to be damaged by deer than others. Deer will eat almost any plant, but they have definite preferences. You can reduce the risk of damage to your garden by growing flowers, trees, and shrubs that deer don’t favor.

In general deer stay away from plants that have thorns or prickly stems or leaves, plants with hairy leaves, plants that are poisonous, and plants with milky sap. They also tend to steer clear of plants with strong tastes or smells.

Following are two lists: plants deer rarely damage and plants deer commonly damage. Be aware that these lists vary greatly from one geographic area to another. And, if food is scarce deer may browse plants they passed over in the past. If they are hungry enough they will eat anything!

Plants Deer Rarely Damage

Daffodils

Ferns

Pachysandra

Rosemary

Honeysuckle

Lilac

Potentilla

Colorado Spruce

Barberry

Russian olive

Common buckthorn

 

Plants Deer Commonly Damage

Impatiens

Tulips

Daylily

Fruit trees: Apple, crabapples, cherries, plums

Birch

Dogwood

Hydrangea

Linden

Atlantic white cedar

Redbud

What We Recommend

Given the scientific research and the experience of gardeners around the country, we recommend an integrated approach to protecting your plants from deer.

Deterrence starts with your garden plan. As much as possible select plants that deer typically do not damage. For example, plant Norway spruce instead of Atlantic white cedar; daffodils instead of tulips. If you do plant “deer-friendly” plants, keep them close to the house where deer are less likely to come.

Use contact repellents to protect vulnerable plants. Use area repellents to deter deer from sections of your garden. Experiment with different options and keep a record of what works and what does not work. Supplement your efforts with electronic devices for added control.

Consider a fence. Fences are expensive and may not fit in with every landscape, but they are often the only way to keep deer out.

Ask your neighbors and the local cooperative extension service for their suggestions about the best plants and effective deterrents for your location. Remember, when it comes to deer repellent there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to protecting your plants from deer.

 

 

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