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Oh Deer… Not My Garden!

How to keep Bambi away with barriers and natural deer repellents.

Deer in GardenNothing can be more picturesque than the sight of a deer loping through a field – unless it’s on its way to the garden and chews your plants to the ground. That’s when Bambi, the beautiful beast, turns into a destructive pest that you don’t want around.

It’s happening more and more as deer populations grow and humans build homes in what was once rural deer habitat.

What do deer eat? Anything vegetative, although they become less picky the hungrier they get (just like humans). They also eat a lot. The average adult male can consume more than five pounds of food each day.

At Planet Natural we offer a large selection of natural and organic pest control solutions that are guaranteed SAFE and effective. From barriers & repellents to botanical sprays, we only carry the best. Also, visit our Pest Problem Solver for pest pictures, descriptions and a complete list of earth-friendly remedies.

How do you keep deer out of the garden? No matter what method you choose, early intervention is best. It’s much easier to deter deer before the herd has decided that your backyard is the best dining spot in town. There are six broad categories of deer repellent. They include:

Motion Activated Sprayers – Even deer don’t like an unexpected cold blast of water. The sudden noise, movement and spray scares animals away, teaching them to avoid the area in the future.

Fencing – Generally considered the best remedy but can be unsightly and expensive. The conventional deer-proof fence is eight feet high and features woven wire. You may be able to get away with a shorter fence as deer are opportunistic nibblers and any barrier may be enough to dissuade them if there is alternative food in the area. Sometimes something as simple as a plastic snow fence is enough to keep them out of your yard.

Electric Fencing – A notch up from regular fencing since it adds an electrical shock, has the same general advantages and disadvantages. (Strange, but true fact about electric fencing: people smear peanut butter on aluminum foil attached to the fence. The peanut butter is a powerful lure and once the deer’s nose makes contact it won’t want to repeat the experience.) For another, less expensive electric alternative, check out our Havahart Electronic Deer Repellent that we carry.

Deer Repellents – Anything that is sprayed, dusted or left around plants to ward off deer. We’ll go into more detail about what’s available below.

Ultrasonic Devices – Which don’t play music for deers’ ears, but, instead emit noise that they can’t stand. Kind of like playing “Heavy Metal” for your grandmother who loves Lawrence Welk.

Netting – Great for small trees. Tree Netting allows them to get sun and rain, but keeps the deer away. Easy to use — safe and humane!

In addition to man-made deterrents, you can also plant flowers, bushes and trees, which deer are known to dislike. Colorado State University says that Black-Eyed Susans, California fuschia, daffodils, lavender, Virginia creeper and mountain mahogany are among the plants that deer steer clear of. (That said, desperate deer do desperate things. If it is a sparse food year, deer will tend to eat whatever they can find.)

A beautiful blend of wildflowers that foraging animals (deer, elk) prefer to avoid — especially if other food is nearby. Consisting of perennial plants, this mix will bloom the second year after it has firmly become established.

Other deer control methods include harvesting crops as early as possible, which gives deer less of an opportunity to dine on your vegetables and fruit. Grow “lure” crops a short distance from the plants you do want to protect (Be advised that a lure crop may backfire. While it may keep deer out of the corn for a season, providing food to deer will keep them coming back and in greater numbers, which may ultimately worsen the problem.)

The scent of humans or dogs used to be enough to drive away the hungriest of deer, but now deer are used to having us around, so hanging panty hose stuffed with human hair – an old-time remedy – no longer does the trick. More and more gardeners are turning to repellents. Deer repellents smell bad and taste worse, which is why they work. Their effectiveness depends on how much feeding pressure the deer face – how hungry they are – or how attractive your plants are to them.

It’s hard to sort out which repellent to buy. Some studies recommend one thing while another one says something completely different. The best thing to do is experiment yourself and find out what deer in your area dislike. Keep in mind that what works can vary from year to year. Deer can become used to repellents, which means what first was a powerful deterrent could becomes less so over time. That’s why it can be a good idea to rotate their use.

Repellents can range from a 99 cent bar of deodorant soap (Dial or Lifebuoy, which you hang near your plants by drilling a hole in the soap and attaching string.) to spray on applications that feature coyote urine. You can even make your own homemade repellent. Blend two eggs and a cup or two of cold water at high speed. Add this mixture to a gallon of water. Let stand for 24 hours. Re-apply as needed.

Don’t want a mess in your kitchen? Here at Planet Natural we stock Deer Off Spray, which Rutgers University ranked as the “most effective” of 35 different deer repellents tested, as well as Liquid Fence® Deer & Rabbit Repellent and Messinas® Deer Stopper.

How often you have to apply repellents depends on the time of year, the amount of rain you’re receiving (the more rain, the less effective the repellent is as it washes off), how anxious the deer are for food, as well as what type of deer are foraging on your property. Depending on the repellent used, you may have to apply it every couple of weeks or just every couple of months.

Ready-to-use formula repels by odor and taste! Havahart® Deer Off provides scent and taste barriers to keep deer, rabbits and tree squirrels from browsing and feeding upon plants. Available in Quart (32oz) and Gallon (128oz) size spray bottles.

Some repellents are inappropriate for food crops. Repellents won’t just repel the deer, but you too by making the plants and their fruits or vegetables taste bad. (If you can avoid the fruit or the vegetable, you can spray the rest of the plant and not damage the food.)

When applying deer repellents, always read the product label. Usually you’ll need to apply when it’s 40˚F or warmer and your plants are dry. Avoid spraying when it is windy as you’ll get more on you than on your plants. If treating young trees, apply the repellent on the entire tree. Older trees may only need treatment on new growth. Treat all trees up to six feet above the maximum expected snow depth. You may also need to reapply frequently especially after rain or irrigation.

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23 Responses to “Oh Deer… Not My Garden!”

  1. theresa stone on May 1st, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    Would like info on ultrasonic devise to ward off deer

    • Queenie on June 29th, 2015 at 9:54 am #

      I wish you a lot of luck, we have tried anything and everything possible but we still lose all our plants to the deer, especially the hostas, and any kind of lily. Nothing has worked. We’ve used sprays, and the ultrasonic units and they just seem to get used to it and everything is gone as soon as it turns green or starts to bloom. We have a large yard in a residential area so we are limited to the height of our fence and electric is out of the question. This year I have cheated with blooming annuals and used artificial plants in order to have some color in my gardens. If anyone out there has a better solution please let me know too.

      • Larrry on May 16th, 2016 at 10:41 am #

        Yeah, hostas…might as well put heads of lettuce out. I mix (in blender) 6 or 8 raw eggs with several tablespoons of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt), several Tablespoons of hot sauce and a tablespoon of any mint extract. Add water to top off blender container, mix and add to about a gallon of water that’s in garden sprayer (always put water in sprayer BEFORE adding mix, as adding water AFTER will make it too foamy.) Spray liberally on and around plants. Works well for me; reapply occasionally, and especially after rain…works great on hostas because of their large leaves that hold a lot of the repellent. Hanging bar soap helps, too…I cut a plastic 12 or 16 oz. water bottle in half to make a cup, punch a hole in bottom, thread string (free at H. Depot or Lowe’s) thru and tie around piece of soap so it’s protected by cup, hang from wherever…

      • Sybil on June 1st, 2016 at 10:12 am #

        Hi, Queenie. I am in the process of marketing a home made product that actually works against all deer. I’ve tried it for several months here in Virginia and watch in happy disbelief when a hungry doe sniffed the flowers in our garden, turned her nose up, and walked away.

        • Anne Owen on June 14th, 2016 at 5:08 am #

          Would love to try this spray!

        • Nilda on June 30th, 2016 at 6:39 am #

          What did you use to keep the deer away?

      • J on June 23rd, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

        This might sound stupid, but human piss in a 5 gallon bucket mixed with vinegar and laundry soap.

        • Joe on August 9th, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

          The vinegar kills plants.

  2. Nina on July 4th, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    A garden salesman told us to mix raw horseradish with water and spray. Make it very strong. Worth a try…

  3. Gavin on January 11th, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    I have been told that planting marigolds will deter deer. True?

    • Anonymous on February 27th, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

      Nope. Not true at all. They just walk right over the marigolds to get to the tasty stuff.

    • Anonymous on March 6th, 2016 at 9:26 am #

      No for me the deer just ran over the marigolds

  4. David Callesen on February 21st, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    I work on a tomato farm they use a hot pepper mix to spray on the plants. It works till a rain washes it off.

    • Mike F on March 8th, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

      I’ve used a mixture of Rosemary..(hottest) peppers…bee balm….Dawn soap…Egg….mixed and sprayed on (repeat after a rain!)……I’ve actually watched deer approach fruit etc. take a smell and walk away…..Note: a truly starving deer will however plunge into just about anything growing. So…………………….

  5. Jenny on April 4th, 2016 at 4:56 am #

    The deer bring fleas to my garden – I don’t even have pets! Only terrible aspect of the beautiful reserve I live in! I have fencing but they still nibble my bird of paradise that is not fenced in. I get flea bites most times in the garden – it’s awful.

  6. Becky on April 18th, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    I was reading to see if there was something here that I hadn’t heard of but there wasn’t. I think that I will stick with the tried and true woven wire and electric fence at our new place, there is some more decorative wire fencing that I am hoping to convince my husband to buy. My girlfriend down the road only has a four foot woven fence and she ran electric around the perimeter and zig zagged it across the garden, she doesn’t have problems any more.

  7. Laurie Davidson on June 18th, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    I use Irish spring I slice it and put it generously around the plants. So far I have had luck with this.

  8. John on June 21st, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    The egg, garlic and spicy combination was also recommended by NJ botanical garden. I have tried it and found it worked, though have to reapply every week and after rain. It smelled, guessing it is from the spoiled egg.

  9. D. J. on July 22nd, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

    I make a solution of peppermint oil and water and spray it on my plants and flowers. It will keep the deer from munching on them, but you will have to reapply every time you water or every couple of days. It’s a pain. Shotgun would be more permanent.

  10. Gerrie S. on July 23rd, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    I have been trying to grow grapes for 3 years and it seems each year the deer get to the new growth as soon as any foliage appears. I have been using “Deer Off” for 2 years. This year the same thing happened and I have been applying Deer Off and it seems to have stumped the growth of the vines, also it seems my blueberries have been stumped by using it. Has anyone ever figured out that Deer Off stumps the growth of their plants? It would be interesting to know. Next year we will be putting up a fence for sure!

  11. Steve on August 4th, 2016 at 5:54 am #

    Has anyone had success with a fake plastic snake placed conspicuously near the plant?

  12. Frank Eggleston on September 19th, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    I’ve heard that they don’t like walking over rocky ground, is this true?

  13. Daisey on October 2nd, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I have a theory that animals will not graze where they have deficated (pooped).
    So I am trying to collect elk and deer “droppings” in a bucket….either applying the dried nuggets or by soaking the manure with water, one can create a manure “tea”…..to apply as a liquid fertilizer.

    Now in Alaska, I tried this with MOOSE poop. My seedlings were healthy and it appeared to have the desired effect.

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