Deer-Resistant Garden Tips

Our customers have proven to us that there are many methods to keeping deer out of your garden, from shooting them to hanging Irish Spring Soap around the perimeter of your garden. Below are a few of the unique tips we received in a recent contest. And remember that the key is to keep changing your approach so the deer don't get used to whatever technique you're using at the time.

As a Master Gardener, speaker, and flower-a-holic, I routinely advise people to steer clear of ornamentals that are known to be 'deer irresistible" in their area. While this won't guarantee that your plants won't become deer fodder, it certainly is smart not to plant their favorite dishes. And mostly, I practice what I preach. When designing and installing the landscape around my new home a few years ago, I stuck by this philosophy and planted Achillea, Agastache, Lavender, Nepeta, Perovskia, and Salvias as the primary plants for my hardy Mediterranean border. The plants thrived, and the deer were disinterested and dined at the neighbors'.

But, being a consummate plant lover, it wasn't very long until I started to feel deprived. After all, shouldn't a Mediterranean border include roses? I felt I just had to have one called Rosa 'Tuscan Sun.' In the belief that locating roses smack in the center of thyme and lavender would protect them from deer browsing, I added three floribundas. Sadly, they were nibbled to the ground the very first spring. Turns out the aromatic plants weren't large enough, or smelly enough, to deter hungry deer in the early spring.

Still longing for roses and not yet ready to surrender, I bought more and replanted them. But this time, I planted scented geraniums in front of the roses. And (halleluiah!) the deer stayed away all summer. Come fall, as I was taking cuttings from the scented geraniums, I had a brainstorm. I decided to leave the plants in the ground over the winter instead of pulling them out. Since scented geraniums are tender perennials, we have to grow them as annuals, and take cuttings here in zone 5. But I discovered that, even frosted, withered, and blackened, the scented geraniums were still pungent enough to keep the deer away over the winter.

Now I follow the same routine each season; pull out the dead scented geraniums in the spring and replace them, leaving them in the ground through the winter to ward off the deer. They're cheap insurance against those hungry marauders, and the Pelargoniums are beautiful plants in their own right. Pelargonium hyb. 'Skeleton Rose', with lacy leaves and a strong lemony-rose scent, and orange scented P. 'Charity', with deeply lobed green leaves and gold variegation, are two favorites of mine. But there are many, many varieties and cultivars available with different leaf shapes, textures, bloom colors, and scents. All are trouble free to grow and super easy to start from cuttings.

Courtesy of Maralee Karwoski from Spokane, WA

We have a very nice size Vegetable garden, 18'x25', and a small Formal Rose garden, 9'x18'. Since they are our garden rooms in our back yard, we protect our garden with an 8-foot deer fence, which has 4" squares of a polyurethane wire and does not look obtrusive. This has kept the deer out successfully. We also have the bottom three feet covered with chicken wire, with one foot of this wire extended flat along the ground and secured with 8" spikes. This keeps the bunnies out as well as groundhogs, which tend to dig a lot.

For plants outside our fenced areas, here's how we take care of the problem:
We plant buried pots of fragrant plants like mint (rosemary or similar fragrant herbs will also work) surrounding the garden bed as well as interspersed in the bed if it is a larger area. We leave about an inch of the pots above ground so the mint will not spread and take over the flower bed. For early spring plants, Daffodils work very well in keeping deer out. Daffodils are like poison to deer so they stay away!

Courtesy of Sarah Kuno from Jobstown, NJ

Sure-fire deer retardant:
Go to your nearest zoo; request a large supply of the manure from the LION'S lair — the fresher the better! Scatter the manure about the garden — add some periodically — to keep the scent present! Deer will avoid it like the plague!

Courtesy of A. J. Schmuck from Florissant, MO

Deer do not like strong scents, so when planting new trees and shrubs I take strips from old t-shirts and tie them to the upper portion of the plant and spray them with cheap perfume. Reapply periodically throughout the season to keep the scent strong and annoying to deer. On top of that, you get to use all of the perfume you've been gifted.

Courtesy of Barb Smith from Kewaunee, WI

I use the CD-type disks that get sent with junk mail or from obsolete instructions and hang them with heavy fishing line around the perimeter of my yard and strawberry garden. The reflections from the spinning CDs seem to scare the deer, birds, and other critters from invading areas where they aren't wanted. The Cds are durable enough that I haven't had to replace any for the last 9 years!

Courtesy of Rhonda Duffy from Coatesville, PA

Well, I know it sounds kind of strange, but I use coffee to repel deer. I found, by accident, that if I take coffee grounds that have been stored in a plastic bag for at least a week and spread the grounds where I do not want the deer, it seems to repel them. However, I have yet to figure how long these grounds are good for as a repellant or how frequently I need to "refresh" the application. One would think if you apply the grounds too often that it may cause mold or fungus, and probably some plants are more susceptible. The storage of the coffee grounds for 7 to 10 days in a bag, wet, makes them pretty stinky. Perhaps that is what repels the deer and such.

Courtesy of Janice Forguson

I have found the best way to keep deer away from my plants and shrubbery is with a large jar of chopped garlic in oil! I take teaspoons of garlic and throw it on the ground around my plantings and the deer stay away. It is safe for the garden and inexpensive too. Try it!

Courtesy of Karin DeRosa from Northvale, N.J.

I "disguise" the plants the deer like by "hiding" them behind things they don't like (for example: onions, most herbs, and hot pepper plants). Plant their favorites way in the back (or middle). I also put a 5-foot fence up to enclose a small garden (25 ft by 30 ft) for the plants they dearly love, like black-eyed peas. The deer won't jump the fence because, according to my experienced neighbor farmer friend, they won't jump into a small enclosed area. These ideas have worked for me. And I have tried a lot of other suggestions. I live near the Uwharrie National Forest in Randolph County, N.C.

Courtesy of Mary Cagle from Asheboro, N.C.

To repel deer in areas of my garden susceptible to "deer-munching", I installed solar-powered night lights with a screw-in motion detector. When the deer approach, the motion sensor detects their movement and turns on the light. This scares the deer away. One may program the motion detector to shut off automatically after a pre-determined short period of time.

Courtesy of Michael Savich from Fredericksburg, VA

I make a mixture of very hot Tabasco sauce, eggs, and milk (even better if the eggs and milk are spoiled) and spray with a pump sprayer in my gardens. It is especially important to hit the perimeter plants — in a large bed, it isn't usually necessary to spray each and every plant. I have to say that this has NEVER failed me. I work on a large private golf course with very large ornamental shrub and flower beds. A few years ago, our fall plantings of mums and ornamental cabbage/kale were being eaten every night, and we were replanting every morning. Then we tried this mixture and IT TRULY WORKS! I might mention that the deer were even eating my narcissus, so please give this "recipe" a try.

Courtesy of Sue Bachman from Freeport, PA