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How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden and Prevent Them From Eating Your Plants

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These large mammals will do anything to get their hands (or hooves) on your flowers and vegetables. I wish I read this article sooner, otherwise, my tulips would still be in tact! Following are some solutions on how to keep them away!

Deer in flower garden

By Andrea Beck, Better Homes & Gardens

Once deer discover your yard as a delectable deli, they'll hop fences, ignore scare tactics, and show up like clockwork to devour plant after plant. They'll trot right up on a porch to chomp off the roses or stretch high to nibble the clematis you thought were safe on an arbor. And hungry deer will eat almost anything, depending on what else is available (deer in different regions have different palates). There are plenty of methods to keep deer away that you can try, but it might take some experimenting to see what works best in your yard. One of the best ways to keep your garden safe is to fill it with deer-resistant plants that they'll avoid on their own.

Deer often go for tender greens such as lettucepansyivyhosta, and most young plants. Spring and early-summer plants, including tulipslilies, and roses, seem especially appealing to deer, even if they're planted in containers. They feast on fruits of all kinds, from strawberries to fruit trees and fallen fruit. Deer will eat bark, twigs, and leaves of most trees and shrubs. They can also damage woody plants, especially during winter when food is scarce.

How To Identify Deer Damage 

Clues of deer visiting your garden include nibbled produce, roughly clipped leaves, buds and blossoms vanished overnight, hoof prints in soil, and small piles of round black droppings. Scrapes on tree trunks and woody shrub branches in the winter are often from deer antlers. Deer can reach leaves as high as six feet, so scoring on trees that high eliminates smaller animals as the culprit.


Odor Deterrents 

There are many deer deterrents that rely on odor, and effectiveness varies on how quickly the deer visiting your yard adjust to them. It's typical for many techniques to only work for a few days. Some common deterrents to spread around your plants include:

Physical Deer Deterrents 

Certain obstacles and items will keep deer far away from your gardens. Fencing is the most obvious barrier, but reflective surfaces and thorny branches can be just as effective. More physical deterrent options include:

  • Thorny branches

  • Floodlights

  • Hidden fishing lines

  • Sprinklers

  • Reflective surfaces (aluminum pie pans, streamers)

  • Fences

  • Netting


Deterring Deer by Season 


Deterring Deer in Spring

After a winter of searching for accessible food, deer have huge appetites in the spring, and new shoots and buds are especially enticing. If you've had deer problems in the past years, they will probably return in the next spring. The folks at Bobbex, a natural deer repellent brand, recommend spraying repellent every two weeks or when one to two inches of new growth appears.

Buy It: Bobbex Deer Repellent Ready-to-Use Spray

Deterring Deer in Summer

Lower growing plants are in the most danger in the summer, while trees and shrubs are the concern in the cooler seasons. Natural food choices are easier to find. But, when the weather turns hot and dry, natural vegetation in forests and fields can get scorched and die off, forcing deer to look for well-groomed landscaping for green.

Deer (and their less common relatives, moose and elk) usually leave a path of destruction in the landscape and can destroy plants and trees in every season. It's not enough to apply a deer repellent spray once or twice a year. Deer learn from experience, so repetitive applications will give them the message that they are not welcome in your rose garden. Although you should keep using deterrents in every season, there are different methods to use in each that is appropriate for where the damage is worse and how the deer behave.

Deterring Deer in Fall

Mating season starts in the fall for the deer population, which means there will be larger groups of deer in one area (does and bucks are seeking each other out). Most flowers will be winding down from their blooming season, but it's the trees you need to worry most about. Fall is also when bucks start to scrape their antlers against trees to remove the velvety layer grown over the summer. The repetitive scraping can damage, and even kill, trees. Make sure to use deterrents to protect trees of any size.

Deterring Deer in Winter

It seems like winter should be your downtime when it comes to deer, but they can be just as destructive in the dead of winter as they are in other seasons. When the grass and plants are covered in snow, deer look upwards for a food source and start chewing off twigs and leaves. Their eating habits can leave your branchy plants looking misshapen, can kill limbs, or even kill the whole plant.

Deer-Resistant Plants for Your Yard 

Deer steer clear of plants that are poisonous, fuzzy, coarse, spiny, bitter, or very aromatic. But if deer are unclear about liking something, they'll try it, so even things they don't like aren't always safe to plant. Start the design of your garden with known deer-resistant plants.

Red Bush

Deer-Deterring Trees

Deer may not completely avoid these trees, but they're less likely to munch on them than other options. If you've had problems with pests in the past, consider planting some of these trees:

White Bush

Because deer are so adaptable and resourceful, there's no way to completely guarantee that they'll leave your garden alone. But by choosing plants that deer avoid, putting up a fence, and using deer repellent or other deterrents, you've got a much better chance of keeping them at bay.


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