How to Stop Deer from Eating Plants

Deer can cause significant damage to your plants, and are particularly fond of tender, flowering, and fruiting plants. The good thing is that by taking these measures, you can easily stop deer from eating plants.

deer eating plant in garden

No matter how much you adore deer, it’s hard to keep your temper in check when there are telltale signs that deer are causing damage to your beloved plants. It’s even more disheartening when deer munch on the young plants as there is a high probability they won’t recover from the damage. Apart from the foliage, deer also love to munch on the flower head and fruits, which lay waste to your hard-earned harvest. Lucky for you, there are ways to deter deer and stop them from eating plants which we’ll discuss in this post.

Plan the Garden

There are a few practices that’ll make your backyard deer-proof and ensure your plants’ safety. Planning your garden so that it becomes deer-proof increases the odds of keeping the garden deer-free.

1. Deer Repellent Plants at Borders

boxwood plant hedge stops deer from entering

It’s evident that plants at the border or outskirts of the garden will be the first target for deer. So it makes sense to have plants that deer find unappealing at the edge to deter deer. Plants with prickly, hairy, and thorny foliage are the best choice for borders as deer tend to avoid such plants. Also, highly fragrant plants, including herbs, disrupt deer’s olfactory system, which confuses them. Toxic plants or shrubs that also act as a hedge are also some good choices for border plant. University of new Hampshire lists some evergreen shrubs that are deer resistant and are favorite for hedges.

2. Appealing Plants at Center

ripe strawberries on plant

Some plants appeal more to deer than others, especially tender, flavorful plants that have smooth foliage. Now, if you want to have such plants in the garden instead of planting them at borders, plant them near your house. Also, plants that are more valuable to you, such as fruiting or flowering plants or even vegetables, should go at the center, so they aren’t easily accessible to deer.

3. Forming Sunken Beds or Terraces

pallets arranged around the yard for deer protection

Deer don’t prefer climbing and like to roam around relatively plain regions. You can construct sunken beds or terraces around the garden, which will discourage deer from climbing over them and coming into the garden. A simple way to level up is by arranging pallets vertically around the circumference of the yard.

4. Choose Plants Mindfully

garden with plants

As we already mentioned, there are plants that deer are more attracted to compared to some that deer find repellent. It makes sense to have more deer repellent plants in the garden, for which you can find some suitable alternates. For example, a good alternative for daffodils is tulips which deer hate. When choosing roses go for the thorny varieties such as Rugosa Roses, Othello, and Scotch. Similarly, you can make mindful choices when planting other plants as well.

Physical Barrier

Physically preventing the deer from entering your backyard or eating your beloved plants is the most effective way to stop deer from eating plants. Here are some ways to physically protect your plants from deer.

1. Fencing Around the Garden

wooden fence around the backyard

The simplest way to protect your plants is to install a fence around the yard. Out of sight, out of mind applies to the solid fence that isn’t see-through, which is most effective as deer won’t see what’s on the other side. A cheaper alternative is commercial heavy-weight deer netting which is suitable for moderate to low deer pressure. Check out this post by the University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science for more details! Investing in electric fences is another suitable option you can look into.

2. Protecting Individual Plant

deer beside a plant protected with wire mesh

Apart from fencing the yard, another inexpensive way to physically protect the plant is by covering individual plants. You can use plastic netting to cover up the fruits and bulbs of individual plants. Tree shelters and mesh tubes can be used to protect trees and plants from attack. It’s a no-brainer to choose plants that are most valuable to you, like fruiting and flowering plants.

3. Fishing Line Barrier

fishing line close up

Apart from catching fish, the fishing line can be used for protection from deer as well. You can either plant stakes around the backyard 4-5 yards apart and then use fishing lines to form a barrier or cover up the individual plant or shrubs with fishing lines. It’s an inexpensive solution, but as fishing lines break easily, you’ll have to do the maintenance regularly.

Remedies to Repel Deer

Various remedies are effective in repelling deer, which includes many home remedies as well. The more these remedies you use in combination, the more effective it’ll be against stopping deer from eating outdoor plants. Without further ado, here they are.

1. Placing Soap Bars

soap bars arranged on table

Deer have a sensitive olfactory system which makes them wary of foreign smells, including the smell of soaps. Go for heavily scented soaps, as they’ll be the most effective at deterring deer. You can hang them over the plant branches or attach them to the boundary hedges or fence.

2. Scatter Human Hair

human hair in backyard

Human hairs can also send deer scurrying around and stop them from eating your beloved plants. You can scatter hair clippings around the backyard or stuff them into pantyhose and tie it to stakes or branches. So next time you go to your hairdresser, don’t forget to ask for hair clippings.

3. Spray Deer Repellent

deer repellent spray on flower

Deer repellent spray solutions are highly effective against deer as they have a pungent smell. Spray them on the outdoor plants, especially at the border, to repel deer before they even enter your backyard. As rain can wash away the stench, make sure to wait till the end of the rainy season. You can make your own deer repellent solution by blending rotten eggs, hot sauce, garlic, and clove oil in a gallon of water and pouring the mix into the sprayer.

NOTE: Do not use repellents that are toxic as they can cause harm to wildlife as well as pets and children.

4. Common Household Repellents

Using coffee ground as deer repellent

Coffee grounds, dried vinegar, or Cayenne powder are unappealing to deer and can be sprinkled around the plants. There is a high probability that deer won’t dare to eat the plants due to these foreign smells. Although, if hungry enough, deer will ignore the smell and eat almost anything. These repellents are still worth a try, though!

Scare Tactics

Another effective way to deter deer is by using scare tactics which include both noise and imagery tactics. When sensing danger, deer are always on the flight mode, so scare tactics work like a charm. Some of the best scare tactics to deter deer are listed below.

1. Placing Foreign Objects

scarecrow in garden

Objects that are foreign to deer make them skittish and fearful. When planning your garden, leave space for scarecrows, sundials, and other such things that can scare deer away. Choosing objects that make noise will add to the effectiveness of scare tactics. Wind chimes can also deter deer, especially on windy days. Radio turned to a static sound is also effective at scaring deer but can bother the neighbors.

2. Install Motion Activated Sprinkler

motion activated sprinkler in garden

Nothing sends deer running like a sharp burst of water cannon directed at them. Motion sensors get activated by the disturbance in the garden and direct towards the source of the commotion, i.e., deer. They’ll get started by the commotion caused by pets as well, so do not allow pets to roam freely when the detectors are active.

3. Install Lights

motion sensor light in the garden

Motion-sensitive beam lights are highly effective at scaring away deer when they dare to venture into your backyard. The intense beam of light turns on when they detect any motion in your backyard. Apart from deer, they also provide an added layer of protection from burglars.

4. Placing Shiny Objects

streamers close up

Shiny objects such as aluminum pie pans and streamers placed strategically around the backyard are effective for protection against deer. You can hang the shiny streamers on border plants, hedges, and fences and also on other plants and shrubs. This scare tactic, combined with others, will become highly effective at scaring deer.

5. Own a Dog

dog in the garden

If you already don’t own a dog as a pet, maybe now is the right time! Dogs love to mark their territory by peeing around, and the smell acts as a deterrent for deer. Also, if you allow the dog to roam freely in the backyard, they’ll scare away the deer with the bark.

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