Keep Those Pesky Deer At Bay!

Wildlife in the garden can be a pleasant sight for most of us. But when the garden is being eaten down to the bare stalks, the sight is far from pleasant.

Birds pecking away at the berries on your bushes aren’t the problem, of course. When we think of gardens ransacked by critters, the culprits who usually spring to mind are deer.

So let’s take a quick look at deer damage and what you can do about it, including some deer repellent home remedies.

The first step is to be sure that deer really are the vandals. If you actually catch them red handed (red hoofed?) that’s probably all the proof you need. But if damage occurs when you’re not around, learn to read the tell-tale signs.

According to the Web site www.deer-departed.com deer have no front incisor teeth so they strip bark by raking their incisors upward, making two-inch gouges. When they eat foliage, they tear it off, leaving ragged edges and surfaces on twigs, stems and leaves. Deer damage will look random and ragged. Rabbits, rodents and woodchucks leave a clean-cut edge, and usually closer to ground level.

Check nearby soil for tracks. Deer tracks are shaped like broken hearts and are about 2-3 inches long. They are similar to tracks left by other animals, such as cattle, elk and llamas. For most of us, there’s not much chance of being invaded by a herd of llamas, so once again the tracks will indicate deer.

So you’ve identified deer as the problem. Now you need to find a way to discourage them from feeding on your landscape.

When it comes to applying deer deterrent, the key is to start in early spring and reapply every couple of months through the fall. Naturally, tender young buds are particularly tasty to deer, so a deterrent needs to be sprayed when these buds begin to emerge (or even before) and throughout the growing season. The best results are obtained when deer have been deterred from even starting to graze on your landscape, rather than finding ways to get them to leave after they’ve established it as a regular feeding spot.

Some folks tell us that a deer repellent seems to work for a while, then becomes less effective. One reason might be that deer become accustomed to that particular repellent as the season progresses and decide it’s not so bad after all. In cases like that, some deer experts suggest changing to a different repellent. Identify the main active ingredient and switch to one with different active ingredients.

The experts at deer-departed.com suggest that you try to affect as many of deer’s sense as possible, because sight, sound, smell and taste are all vulnerable. “Targeting two of the senses at the same time will make it that much more intimidating to the deer,” they say. “Use a deer repellent spray or powder in combination with deer resistant plants and maybe even a temporary fence, a scarecrow, a radio, wireless deer fence, pans, water spray or even a dog.”

As for repellents, there are commercial products available such as Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent which we’ve found particularly effective. If you aren’t familiar with that product, let me know if you need shopping information.

But home remedies for deer repellents abound and you certainly have hundreds to choose from! Many seem to include eggs, probably because deer can smell the “œrotten egg” odor long after it is unnoticeable to humans.

Check out a collection of recipes at www.deer-departed.com or click on a direct link when you find this column at my Web site, www.landsteward.org Here’s a typical one, although I have not tested it myself:

3 raw eggs
3 tbls. red hot sauce
3 tbls. garlic juice or minced

Add enough water to a blender to process and mix well. Add this to a gallon of water and spray on plants.

In the next column, I’ll take a look at plants that are described as “deer resistant” .

The Plant Man, , is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping, for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org

LandSteward.org is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm.

Steve Jones

Steve Jones, The Plantman, is a professional gardener and landscaper. His advice is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm.
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