Dealing with deer in your garden
Dealing with deer can, at times, be trying. Here are some ideas and products to help you keep them off balance and, hopefully, out of your garden.
Check out our deer-resistant garden bed plan
Deer-Control Products — Taste and Scent Repellents
Taste and scent repellents are liquid concentrates that are either broadcast in small devices attached to the plants or mixed with water and sprayed on the foliage. They carry the scents of predators, dead animals or other smells and tastes deer find unappealing.
Tips for applying deer repellant
- Whichever product you use, follow label directions carefully — not all of them can be used on edibles.
- Apply repellent liberally even if there’s been damage, then again after new growth emerges.
- Most repellant products have to be reapplied frequently, especially after rain or snow.
- While it’s a good idea to spray year round, repellents aren’t as effective when temperatures are above 85 and below 32 degrees F.
- In summer, spray early in the morning, and in winter switch to a granular form of repellent.
See our list of deer- and rabbit-resistant plants for your garden
Liquid fence® deer and rabbit repellant
Trials of deer repellents by the USDA National Wildlife Research Center found that those with the sulfurous odor of rotten eggs like Liquid Fence® are most effective.
This is a two-part system for making plants taste bitter to deer. Start with Repellex Systemic Deer Repellent Tablets. Place tablets into the container, into the soil at planting time or into root contact on more mature plants. In about a month, the plant tastes bitter to pests. Tablets are also a 14-2-2 fertilizer. For annuals, perennials and deciduous plants, the tablets will last one full growing season. For evergreens and slower growing ornamentals they will last two full growing seasons.
While the tablets are taking effect, spray Repellex Liquid Concentrate Deer Repellent for immediate protection. One quart of Repellex Liquid makes one gallon of ready-to-use product. One application makes the plants smell and taste bad. Lasts about 3 months.
Plant Pro-Tec is a garlic oil barrier that deters deer and other animal pests, as well as whiteflies, spidermites, leafrollers, ants, aphids, thrips, grasshoppers and spiders. Mix with water and spray on your plants. Helps to deter pests for up to 10 days. Or try these clips for a weather-proof, season-long option.
Deer Off™ Repellent
This biodegradable, all-natural food product gives plants a bad taste and smell, but will not harm humans, pets or animals. For use on agricultural, as well as horticultural crops, it’s EPA-registered for use on edible plants. One spray application can last up to 3 months, even through rain or snow, without leaving a residue on your plants.
Plantskydd® Animal Repellent
Plantskydd dried bone meal spray works by emitting an odor that deer associate with predators, repelling the animal before it nibbles on plants. Provides up to 6 months of protection over winter on ornamental shrubs and 3 months on most other broadleaf plants. The odor is not unpleasant to the applicator.
Bobbex is a foliar spray that feeds plants with a beef and fish byproduct 14-1-1 fertilizer while repelling deer. To protect evergreens in winter, apply monthly from November through March. When all plants are actively growing in spring and summer, spray foliage every two to three weeks and after a rain.
Hinder is a combination of totally organic fatty acid soaps. Safe to spray around fruits and vegetables, as well as ornamental plants, it coats foliage and makes it bitter and unappealing to deer.
This dry granular repellent duplicates the scent of dead deer on plants. Lasts about 45 days. Also feeds plants with a 12-1-1 fertilizer.
Deer-Control Products — Mechanical Barriers
Mesh and netting fences
Netting creates a physical barrier to deer. 4- to 6-foot-tall netting is usually enough to protect foundation plants, hedges and shrubs. If the garden is larger than about 20 feet wide, the fence should be at least 8 feet tall. Deer can jump shorter fences if they have enough room to land on the other side.
Mechanical tree guards come as plastic spiral wraps, plastic mesh and metal cages that keep deer from stripping the bark of ornamental and production trees.
Motion-activated startle machines
This motion-activated sprinkler attaches to the garden hose. Place it in the area to be protected and it sprays the deer with a stream of water.
These devices, such as this solar-powered one by Hoont, emit an ultrasonic pulse that startles deer. The timing, duration and frequency of the sound changes randomly so deer don’t get used to any particular sound.
Wireless Deer Fence
Each unit has a scent reservoir with a perfumed oil that is attractive to deer. When deer investigate, they receive a small electric shock. The deer learn to avoid them, so you’ll need to keep moving the units, but they’re easy to move. Powered by two AA batteries, the shock is humane but strong enough to startle the hungry deer.
You can also try growing these deer-resistant plants in your garden