Deer populations, once hunted to near extinction, are rebounding to their highest levels ever. The best way to stop deer is with a 16-ft.-tall fence, but short of turning your yard into a fortress, there are some strategies you can use to keep their damage in your garden to a minimum.
Young bucks may be using your ornamental trees to rub the velvet from their newly sprouted antlers. The damage to the bark invites infection and could kill a smaller tree. If too much bark is rubbed away, the tree could die. Should you start to notice bark damage, as in the top photo, wrap the bark with protective tape or use wire-frame tree guards.
In spring through summer, a full-grown deer can eat up to 10 pounds of food per day. They eat tender plants and cause the damage in the bottom photo until hard frosts shift the menu to woody shrubs. The animals return to browse over time, and the plant could finally die as pieces are taken bit by bit. Start spraying repellents, like egg spray or bobcat urine, and rotate them so deer don’t get accustomed to any one scent.
Finally, try to grow those plants that deer don’t usually find appealing. Now, a hungry deer will eat almost anything, but in general, they shun ornamental grasses and plants with fuzzy, tomentose foliage, such as lamb’s ears. The animals find this stuff hard to swallow. They also avoid plants with lemon, sage, mint or spicy tastes.