Deer are beautiful animals. But a deer devastating your landscape or garden moves from the “beautiful” category into one that may involve four letters. In many areas of the country deer can cause serious problems for the home garden, and this include highly populated areas like suburbs where deer have no where else to forage except your back yard.
How can we keep deer away? Here is an overview of common deer deterrent methods that I learned during my days as a professional gardener in Northern Illinois (one of the many professions I’ve had). Deterrents fall into three categories (which can be used in combination as needed): Fencing, repellents, and attractants:
Structural Fence: This is a very effective method to keep deer away. But deer can jump…high…so some things need to be taken into consideration. A standard, 6′ solid privacy fence prevents deer from seeing your garden, and this will likely work in most circumstances. However, if you have an area to fence that is less than, say, 8′ wide in any direction, even a 4′ tall fence will work; the deer won’t have enough room for a running start to get back out.
Deer Fence: Yep…there’s a reason why this special fence is called that. The fence itself is black plastic, and to the eye of the deer it looks nearly invisible. Because of this the deer can’t figure out the true height of the fence and don’t risk making a jump.
Electric Fence: Deer seem to be attracted to electric fencing and the resulting shock that results when they decide to stick their noses on it is a good deterrent. )To make sure the deer “meet” the fence, smear parts of the fence with a bit of peanut better.) Electric fencing is inexpensive compared to a structural fence, and it can be moved easily as desired.
Dogs: A roaming dog is the best repellent, hands down.Of course that dog must be outside at night, and must actually put forth some effort to deter the deer. If the dog just lays there pondering the deer while the deer go to work on your lettuce, it obviously is not much of a deterrent.
Stinky Stuff: This includes all manner of hand-made and store-bought items that stink to deer but humans can’t really detect. Examples include coyote urine (or your own urine if you are ultra dedicated to reduce, reuse, recycle!), dryer sheets strung about your yard, or strong-smelling soap grated and sprinkled on the ground. But these repellents are most effective when they are applied both a good distance away from your garden as well as around the areas you want to protect (you want to encourage the deer to turn away long before they spy your new shrubs). And many of these repellents need to be reapplied after a rain.
Salt Licks: A salt lick placed well away from your yard and garden is a sure-fire way to make the deer bypass whatever you’re offering and head for the salt! But make sure you’re not leading the deer to a neighbor’s garden. Utilizing a salt lick is a great method when neighbors can come together, though, and plan the best location for a salt lick so everyone benefits.
Sacrificial Offerings: Sometimes it’s a good idea to just plan sacrificial plantings that are free and open to the deer. These can include all manner of succulent shrubs, veggies, and flowers. These plants are not protected in any way, and the deer focus their attention on the easy forage instead of trying to break into whatever walls of defense you’ve installed around plantings you want to save.
If you have any deer deterrents you find work really well, please leave a comment!