For the self-declared gardener, your plants are your most prized possessions amongst many things. The same may apply to you if you’re the owner of a freshly landscaped lawn or garden and take much pride in the appearance of either of the two. Pests and wildlife are no strangers when it comes to invading your plants, and especially deer.
And while it may be adorably convenient for Bambi to take a bite or two out of your plants, it’s certainly not convenient for you or the life of your plants. Naturally, deer are classified herbivores and therefore only eat a diet consisting of plants.
This could be bad news to you if you expected the deer eating your plants to move on sooner rather than later, but don’t be deterred. There are many things you can do to keep deer away from your plants.
So, what are some brilliant ways to keep deer from eating your plants?
- Soap for the win!
- Build or buy fencing.
- Get even more plants.
- Use deer repellent.
- Use a sprinkler system.
- Set up decoys and scarecrows.
- Spray plants with a homemade solution.
- A pooch or two should do the trick!
- Plant less deer friendly plants.
- Consider planting in raised garden beds.
- Place a noisy wind chime outside.
- Place motion-activated lights in the yard.
- Protect your plants with a physical barrier.
- Use plants with a fuzzy or bristly texture.
- Plant foliage that comes with its own protection.
The ways listed above to keep deer from eating your plants may seem simple, but there’s a little more to it. Keep reading to learn more!
Putting These Ideas Into Action
Desperate times call for desperate measures and these brilliant ideas for keeping your plants out a deer’s mouth can certainly be the measure that does the trick.
These solutions range from fairly inexpensive to bid-budget and how you choose to utilize them can depend on a number of factors such as how much foliage is in your possession and the amount of deer you deal with.
It’s also important to note that despite what you may or may not think, deer are pretty smart. Use these solutions interchangeably for the best results, as Bambi may start to notice and learn just how often your sprinkler system comes on and eventually take another bite of your plants!
1. Soap For The Win!
This solution is definitely one of the less expensive and is also brilliant for its effectiveness. Soap, in general, is a simple way of protecting your plants from deer and other wildlife, but scented soap, in particular, is a great choice because deer don’t appreciate its smell.
Also, soap lasts for a little over a month and is safe to use on plants. Deer are said to have a very sensitive sense of smell and for this reason, get distracted by the other smells interfering with the plants.
“The tallow in the soap helps keep deer away, according to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, so you don’t have to go with Irish Spring. Many highly fragrant kind can help keep your flowers from becoming deer candy but steer clear of bars containing coconut oil, which may actually attract them.”
In addition to soap, you can also use scented dryer sheets. Depending on how much deer activity occurs in your yard or garden, 1 bar of soap is good for every 10 feet or so if you plan on hanging it from a nearby tree or lamp post. This isn’t as effective as evenly distributing it around your plants, but it does work in smaller areas.
For newer plants, it’s better to sprinkle chopped up or shredded soap around the perimeter of your garden or better yet around any separate groups of plants. You can also spray liquid soap onto your plants if you have a high volume of them and need to cover more area. This can be done either by spray bottle or through the use of a hose or garden sprayer.
2. Build Or Buy Fencing
Fencing is always a good alternative for harsh chemicals or other sprays that could damage your foliage. It’s also one of the most effective ways of guarding your yard or garden if it’s larger.
“Whitetails, which tend to plague most suburban gardens, are quite the jumpers. Make sure fences are at least 8-feet high with no more than 6-inch by 6-inch gaps. Electric fences, which can be put up during the peak feeding season of early spring and late fall, are another option.”
Invisible fencing is an even more brilliant method for preventing deer from eating your plants.
This is a great method because it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to assemble. All you simply need are some wooden or metal garden posts and fishing wire and the rest pretty much works itself out.
Once you wrap the fishing wires around the posts and line them up around your plants, you will have an invisible fence that not even Bambi will be suspenseful about!
3. Get Even More Plants
This may not sound like a practical solution, but it can be a lifesaver for your yard if you add the right plants of course. Consider adding plants that deer will dislike such as fragrant or prickly plants. These plants come with their own protection and most likely won’t need your help.
If you don’t mind having the deer come into your yard or garden, but dislike the way they ruin your plants, there’s a happy medium for that too. You can keep the deer-favorite plants and the ones you wish to protect far away from each other to lessen their chances of becoming ruined.
This can be done by keeping the deer-favorite plants or any others you don’t mind the deer eating closer to your home. These plants can include azaleas, bushes, berries, and other vegetables and fruit plants.
In addition to this solution, you can also just simply substitute your plant selections such as swapping tulips for daffodils if you don’t want to sacrifice your beautiful flowers for unattractive foliage.
4. Use Deer Repellent
If you’re interested in using a more stronger solution towards invasive deer, there actually exist several commercial repellents strictly for use against deer and other wildlife that eat plants. Deer repellent uses a mixture of smelly odors and nasty tasting solutions to keep deer away from your plants.
“The University of Illinois Extension School recommends Havahrt’s Deer Away Big Game Repellent, a powder that contains a high concentration of smelly egg solids to target sense of smell to keep deer out of your yard.”
All you simply need to do is spray your plants on a regular basis and the repellent should work like magic!
“Reapply repellent after rainfall, and use a different formula from time to time to protect plants and prevent deer adaptation. Coverage should start from the ground and extend upward six feet.”
Make sure when purchasing any repellents that they are certified for use against deer and don’t contain any harsh chemicals or poisons that could harm the deer or your plants. Remember, the objective is more about safely keeping the deer away from your plants, not causing physical harm or killing the deer.
They don’t know they’re doing any harm, they’re just hungry!
5. Use A Sprinkler System
Using a sprinkler system with sensors isn’t exactly a permanent method, but it’s worth a try if you’re looking for some temporary relief for your plants. Installing an automatic sprinkler system with sensors can help keep deer away by detecting them whenever they come into your yard or garden and setting off spray mist.
The water and the sound of the sprinkler system will scare away any deer and hopefully keep them from coming back in the meantime. Be careful with this method though. If it’s the same deer that keeps trespassing on your lawn, over time they will become used to the sprinkler system and eventually, they will no longer be as easily spooked.
If you do plan on using this as a long-term solution, try changing up the frequency of the sprinkler system and when it comes on.
6. Set Up Decoys And Scarecrows
The presence of that eerie looking scarecrow or intimidating owl is sure to give Bambi a run for his money. Decoys and scarecrows alone will not keep the deer off of your lawn, but you can increase their effectiveness by using them with other scare tactics such as the sprinkler system or loud noises.
Naturally, deer are afraid or skittish around unfamiliar objects and so this is more or less a hands-off solution for keeping the deer at bay if not completely away from eating your precious perennials and such. Much like the sprinkler system, the scare aspect of decoys and scarecrows wear off after a while.
7. Spray Plants With A Homemade Solution
Much like commercial deer repellents, homemade repellents can also be effective in keeping deer from eating your plants. Making your own repellent can save you money and the hassle of trying to find which commercial brand works best for you and your deer dilemma.
The best homemade repellents contain smelly components like garlic, hot pepper, and rotten eggs.
“You don’t have to purchase commercial deer repellents, you can make them at home. Here’s a recipe for making a garlic and cayenne pepper repellent. A drawback for homemade repellents is they wash off more quickly in rain compared to commercial repellents.”
Deer also despise the smell of human hair; yes they think we stink too! Homemade repellents should be sprayed on a regular basis and after there has been significant rainfall. If you don’t keep up this routine, the deer will quickly adapt and resume eating your plants.
8. A Pooch Or Two Should Do The Trick!
If you don’t already own a dog already, consider adopting or purchasing one as a lovely addition to your family and a natural deer repellent! Dogs make great deterrents of those annoying deer in your garden because of their bark and scent.
Of course, unless your dog is busy protecting your plants 24/7, it’s unlikely that the dog will be able to keep the deer away all the time. This solution will most likely be most effective during the day unless you place your dog outside at night to keep watch of any intruding deer.
If you have more than one dog, that’s even better because you can choose to keep one out at night over the other or switch up who’s on watch duty every other day. It also might not be a bad idea to record your dog’s bark and set up a motion-activated alarm that will echo his bark when it detects a deer nearby.
9. Plant Less Deer Friendly Plants
There are of course specific plants that are on the top of the deer friendly menu and unless you don’t mind having deer come into your garden space, you might want to get rid of them if you already have them. If you’re finding that there are some plants in your yard that the deer are preferring more so than others, it might be time to swap them out.
Try planting plants and shrubbery that aren’t as much of a favorite with the deer. If it’s not the most ideal task to swap out your plants, then it’s best to protect them with a fence or deer repellent. Another idea is to plant the more popular plants of the deer within the perimeter of a group of unfavorable plants.
Doing so will protect the plants from being eaten by the deer, especially if they give off an unfavorable smell, taste, or texture.
10. Consider Planting In Raised Garden Beds
Deer don’t exactly have the ability to climb and so having your plants at an elevated level will make it less likely for them to become accessible to any hungry deer. Raised garden beds are great for this problem because they provide you the same experience as in-ground gardening.
“Deer aren’t avid climbers so adding terraces or sunken eds can discourage them from coming into the yard. If your property is particularly woodsy and sprawling, consider stacking pallets around your property, which deer are afraid to walk or jump on.”
The only downside of using raised garden beds is that they can come with a hefty price tag. Some can range in price from $39.99 to as high as $300 or more depending on the size and make. Try checking out your local hardware store or an online retailer for the best options that fit your needs and budget.
You can also buy the material needed and construct a set of raised garden beds on your own. Recycled wooden crates and beds are also great materials for building your own raised garden.
11. Place A Noisy Wind Chime Outside
Deer are easily spooked by loud noises and bangs. Buying or making your own wind chime is a cheap alternative for scaring any deer in your yard away and back to where they came from. Other noise-making machinery or garden additions can be used in combination with wind chimes. Radios and alarms are also worth a try.
“‘By stimulating unexpected sights and sounds, you are triggering the deer’s main defense against prey,’ says Dr. Leonard Perry, a professor at the University of Vermont’s Department of Plant and Soil.’”
Anything made of metal, tin, aluminum or any other loud material creates both a visual and sound effect that will scare off the deer. These materials are both reflective of light and loud, capable of keeping deer off of your lawn for a good amount of time compared to other methods.
These methods also require a rotation to keep the deer surprised and afraid of coming onto your property.
12. Place Motion-Activated Lights In The Yard
Motion-activated lights work against deer for a number of reasons, one reason being that deer don’t light bright lights. This is why they are most active during the night and particularly why they wait until nightfall to go looking for food.
Garage floodlights are worth the investment because they are motion-activated and will display their bright lights whenever a deer or any other person or entity passes by. Over time, the deer will come to realize that the lights are harmless so they may only work at keeping them away for a small window of time.
13. Protect Your Plants With A Physical Barrier
Physically barricading your plants to keep the deer out can either be an effective solution or not so effective solution depending on the size of your yard or garden and what plants you want to protect. If you have a large garden or yard with plants all in the same area, you might have better luck with setting up a physical barrier.
It won’t exactly be ineffective if your plants are spread out, you will simply just have to barricade them separately in small groups. You can create barricades in the form of fencing or by wrapping protective materials around your plants.
If you’re looking into fence barricades, remember they should be at least 8 feet tall, as deer can jump pretty high, especially if they’re on elevated ground. Stockade fences are great for this reason because they are too high for deer to see over them.
Fairly new plants, whether fruit, vegetable, or flower bulbs, can be wrapped in protective plastic wrap to stay protected from deer. Garden nets can also fall into this category of protective plant materials. Vexar garden nets and plastic tree wrap help to protect delicate plants from deer consumption and other external forces.
14. Use Plants With A Fuzzy Or Bristly Texture
The fuzzier the plants, the less likely it is that deer will bother them. Deer don’t like plants with fuzzy or bristly textures because they interfere with their eating habits. Not only does the plant’s texture bother them, but the taste of their bristles gives them an unsettling experience as well.
“Before buying a plant to include in your garden, rub the foliage against your cheek. If you feel small hairs on the leaves – whether bristly or soft – it’s probably a good plant choice for deer proof garden. Deer don’t like fuzzy or hairy textures against their tongues.”
The best way of using this method is by planting fuzzy plants like barberries or tuberous begonias near the entrance of your property or your garden. This will put them at alarm from the first bite and possibly deter them from trying to come any further into your yard.
15. Plant Foliage That Comes With Its Own Protection
Additionally, there are plants like those with bristly textures that also deter deer from eating them. Plants that come with their own protective traits are smart solutions because, well . . . they keep the deer away all on their own!
Plants, flowers, and herbs that smell weird or taste even weirder are all easy simple solutions for keeping any deer away. The plants’ characteristics will simply do the trick and not require any further effort on your part!
Plant traits that deer don’t enjoy:
- Prickly plants—again, texture as a safe weapon is heavily emphasized in this case. You wouldn’t like it if your favorite food stuck you in the face every time you tried to eat and eventually you would stop eating it all together. The same concept applies to deer, they don’t enjoy plants with thorns such as roses or those that have spines on their leaves. Sea hollies and globe thistles are also great choices.
- Plants that are toxic—using toxic plants in your garden come with pros and cons. Just about all animals have at least one plant that causes them digestive upset when consumed, similar to how milkweed is toxic to birds and poison ivy consumption in humans would cause a lot of trouble. Some plants with toxic compounds include ferns, daffodils, and poppies.
“Fawns learn which plants to avoid from their mothers – or from their upset tummies. All ferns contain compounds that deer can’t tolerate . . . . Use caution, though, because some of these plants are also toxic to humans and pets who might sample a bite.”
- Grassy plants—flowering plants and ornamental grasses are great because they provide deer limited food supply. Deer often do consume these grasses however they most likely do so as a last resort and only for a period of time. Using these grasses in addition to other deer-proof plants can help up your chances of avoiding them in the long run.
- Plants that have a thick, stringy texture—plants that are fibrous or have a smooth thick texture similar to leather are harder to digest for deer. Some plants that fall into this category are peonies, leatherleaf, and arrowhead to name a few.
- Plants with a heavy fragrance—similar to how bar soap and dryer sheets are used to keep deer away from plants, heavily fragranced plants are a natural deer deterrent as well. Because deer eat with their sense of smell, plants that give off a strong scent are more likely to keep them away.
Luckily, there are many varieties of plants and herbs that you can either plant or hang in your garden to keep the deer away. Some examples are sage, lavender, hyssop, and mint. They will keep the deer away and keep your garden smelling fresh too!
Things to Remember
Your best option for outsmarting the deer is to use several of these brilliant methods for keeping them away in combination. Lights and noise alone will not keep the deer away forever, so it’s best to use them both together if you can.
Also, it may take a few tries at each one before it’s really effective at protecting your plants. Before taking any action, try studying how often the deer come onto your property and how many of them there are.
“Each herd eats differently, so gardening with deer requires patience and experimentation. But most of all, it requires a willingness to be flexible in your plant choices and deer management techniques.”
Try to take time to identify what type of deer comes into your yard and that way you can narrow down exactly what solutions may or may not be so effective. A rotating routine always works as well. Keeping the deer on their toes, or hooves rather, will lessen their efforts in coming into your yard and eating your plants.