We moved to rural Northern Florida about eight months ago. My backyard (which has no fence) borders 90 acres of untouched forest. It is gorgeous. I acknowledge that. We had a bear circle the house checking things out (I haven’t stepped outside at sunrise since!). We have daddy long legs the size of my hand. Huge construction bees. Oh, and lest I forget, deer. Lots of deer. They’re so cute and furry, right? Destructive little buggers though. I want to know how to keep deer out of the garden naturally-and I know I am not the only one!
Doing it humanely and naturally is important to me though. They are just looking for something to eat too, right? I would just prefer it not be my vegetable seedlings and flowers!
Were you aware a mature deer will eat 6 to 10 pounds of food each day? Ugh! Oh, and in the Spring <like, um right now!> and summer, they eat more as we have pregnant does running around and growing young bucks who need extra energy. Due to this, I put up a greenhouse for my veggies but it’s not the largest thing so naturally, my edibles have spilled outside leaving them exposed to whomever decides they look tasty.
First, let’s confirm a deer really is the culprit behind your plants being eaten.
Do you see hoof prints around your plants? Their prints look somewhat like an upside down heart. Do you see droppings nearby? Were your plants trampled? And, the biggest sign…do your leaves look like they were torn off? Deer do not have upper front teeth so when they eat they have to tear the plant. This is unlike a rabbit or gopher who have upper and lower teeth thus making their victim plants look like they were trimmed with clippers.
Now that you have established deer are the problem, let’s talk about how to keep deer out of the garden naturally.
First, it is a good idea to be proactive with some of these tips. What is that quote? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? I am a big believer in this. If you know it is inevitable deer will try to raid your garden, then let’s prepare for the battle before it begins! Right?!?
Additionally, assume you will have to implement several techniques to ensure you’re covering all bases. Also, you will probably have to change out tactics regularly as deer are smart and highly adaptable. For example, if you have a dog that only barks but never tries to run them off, the deer will stop being intimidated by that dog and eat your plants anyway!
Natural Ways to Keep Deer Out of Garden
Plant or pot the deer’s favorite foods closer to your house. Not only can you keep better track of them but they will be hesitant to get too close to your house-given we are one of their predators.
Plant strong smelling perennials around the borders of your garden. Their sensitive noses smell out their fav dinner so if you have stronger smelling plants such as garlic, chives, mint or lavender that repel them surrounding the plants you are trying to protect then the deer may not smell their favorite meal coming from your garden. Some other herbs that repel deer are: rosemary, bee balm, oregano, sage and thyme.
Interestingly, there are some plants whose texture repels the deer. i.e. prickly, hairy or fuzzy plants So, along the same lines as the perennials previously mentioned, incorporate plants such as lamb’s ear, cactus or yarrow to the border of your garden.
They also do not like poisonous plants. So, daffodils, bleeding hearts, and ferns are good choices.
Depending what you’re trying to grow, consider making some deer resistant substitutions. For example, choose particularly thorny roses or grow daffodils instead of tulips. There are actually several gorgeous flowering plants that deer are not quite as fond of eating so be flexible when planning your garden.
Growing large hedges around your garden will also keep the deer out. Although they are jumpers, if they cannot see where they are going they are much less likely to take the risk. Two examples for hedges are boxwoods and short needle spruces.
Along the same lines, putting up a fence that is at least 8 feet high will deter them. In fact, this is widely considered the best way to keep deer out of the garden. Make sure though you do not have any gaps wider than 6 inches between the slats or the ground and fence.
Now, if you want or need shorter fences, double them up. For example, you can put up two fences within 3 to 5 feet apart. Those fences can each safely be about 5 to 6 feet high. Some gardeners recommend pounding stakes into the ground between the fences to further deter the most persistent deer. Deer cannot leap tall and wide at the same time. Additionally, they will not jump where they cannot see a clear landing spot.
A newer invention that seems to work really well are motion activated sprinklers. Similar to a motion activated light, when an animal walks within range of the sprinkler it goes off. Sends the animal scurrying away!
Build your garden in levels. i.e. Terrace it or create sunken beds. Deer are not climbers. Another particularly great idea I came across was to stack pallets around your garden. Not the prettiest but we gotta do what we gotta do to keep our edibles intact!
There are natural garden repellents out there you can use too. Those that smell like sulfur such as eggs are considered the most effective. Additionally, plant sprays are considered more effective than any of the other methods. i.e. versus the capsules that are supposed to create a barrier. Follow the instructions verrry closely so your plan doesn’t backfire and you render your plants inedible.
Recommended Natural Deer Repellent Sprays
It might be a good idea to spray those repellants on your younger crops as it may train the deer not to come back as the plants grow.
Garden ornaments with moving parts or bright reflections make deer skittish. This is great to add to the arsenal but do not ever assume this is all you will have to do. Once the deer realize your garden ornament is harmless, it will not think twice about eating the plants right underneath it!
String fishing line around specific plants about two to three feet above the ground. The deer do not like the clear tight barrier that they cannot see very well. It will spook them.
Do you have dogs? Train them to chase off the deer. This is a great deterrent!
As you can see, there are several methods for deterring deer. Not every idea works for every deer though so it is worth it to embrace several methods and be willing to swap ideas out if it looks like they have acclimated to your methods.
Deer Favorite Garden Plants List:
- Bulb Plants
- English ivy
- Fruit trees
* The Big Three!
- Indian Hawthorn
- Japanese pittosporum
- Redbud tree