I love to see the wildlife in my yard, but sometimes they do too much damage.
I’d like to know what people have tried to keep deer from eating all of their
natural landscaping. I’ve tried hanging bars of soap and tin pie plates from
fishing line. I’ve tied fishing line around the perimeter of special plants.
I’ve put down carpet and installed fencing.
Does anyone else have any other ideas?
– Merry of Neenah, WI
A new product called Liquid Fence has been getting great reviews here in
northern Wisconsin where we have an abundance of deer. The product is billed
as an animal repellent. It is bio-degradable and will not harm plans or the
animals. A 32 oz. spray bottle cost me $11.99 at a local florist. It is
cheaper in larger quantities. It is applied to plants and their perimeter
during a dry period. Repeat process 1 week later and then approximately once
per month thereafter. There is a strong odor initially which disappears when
it dries but is still very noticeable to animals. You can read more on its
web site at www.liquidfence.com.
– Mary of St Germain, WI
A friend of mine uses hair, either from a barber shop or donated from my
hairbrush....she puts it in mesh or cloth bags and hangs it on the plants.
Looks goofy, but apparently it works to some degree; I believe the UW Arboretum
in Madison also uses this method. I'm suspecting moth balls might also work.
– Heather of Neenah, WI
Oh deer! (pun intended). We live next to a county park and herds of deer (20-30)
saunter through our acre that we are trying to restore back to oak savanna. The
oak woodland around the periphery of our house takes the biggest hit since the
deer love munching, at browse height, the woodland shrubs and trees. The rabbits
can be just as bad if not worse. Between the rabbits and the deer, its an
ongoing battle. We've been at it since 1994 and I have yet to find anything that
works outside of fencing and cage fencing. An invisible fence and a dog might
earn the dog his room and board. Anyway, I think the best remedy to deer damage
is to grin and bear it ... and hope the DNR deer eradication program eventually
makes it to your county (only kidding). Good luck.
-- Jack of Mt Horeb, WI
I have 2-1/2 acres of primarily woodland bordering marsh, ag field and oak forest
with a relatively stable population of 11-14 deer. I have managed the area with
regular broadcasting (1 X per month) of Milorganite over beds. In addition, I have
"protected" favorite Turks Cap and several hybrid lilies with a strategic placement
of dog manure. The Milorganite can be banded around the vegetable garden rather
than over the food crop to maintain organic fertilizer practices.
I do replant trillium every 2 or 3 years which is a deer favorite---- but
otherwise my method has been quite successful over the past 6 years. I can attest
that multiple varieties of soap in ANY form will not discourage deer browse.
-- Sharyn of Grayslake, IL
At least one of the wild flower catalogs has a list of plants that deer do not
like. Some seed catalogs sell deer repellant.
Someone who lived in the country told he would hang his sweaty cap out; I suppose
anything that smelled strongly of human would be the same. Someone else got hair
from a beauty parlor & hung it out in bags. I don't know if they work.
-- Dorothy of Oshkosh, WI
To discourage deer, lay down chicken wire. They seem to not want to walk on it.
Build a fence. If the fence slants outward and is wide, it doesn't need to be very
high. Also, there are books on this subject. Check with your library.
For small plants you can lay netting over them. You really can't see the netting,
but the deer can't bite through it to eat the plants. This works for trilliums
-- Pat of Naperville, IL
I've tried a commercial product called "Plantskydd", with a certain amount of
success. It's bloodmeal-based, I believe. You spray it on the target plants. Must
do this periodically (which is probably why my success was limited - didn't
always follow through!), as it will eventually wash off with rain. If you live
in an area of very high deer populations, this probably won't be effective. In
fact, not much will be, other than a very high fence.
-- Lauri of Skandia, MI
There is a repellent called Plantskydd that really does work- nasty stuff to mix
but once sprayed, lasts all season.
-- Brent of Madison, WI
Have you tried using transparent monofilament line around the garden set about
12" apart vertically?
-- Michael of Green Bay, WI
I have installed 5' high fencing around my gardens (6' would be better). As long
as you do this BEFORE the deer have discovered a tasty food source - it should
work. My fence went in five years ago and there was only one deer that jumped the
fence one time. Another method is to keep a mowed perimeter strip around the
gardens. The deer approach through dense vegetation and balk at crossing the
mowed area....especially if there is some kind of a fence present. I have seen
people with a 3' high electric fence keep deer out so long as they keep the
perimeter mower (about five feet wide). If you really have a problem, install the
6' wire mesh fence, but also put in some 4x4 posts (about every 16 to 20 feet apart
and then string three strands of smooth wire spaced equally above the mesh fence.
This doesn't cost that much more and is VERY effective at keeping out the deer.
We use 2x4" wire mesh because its readily accessible at any farm supply store -
relatively inexpensive - and has the added benefit of also keeping out rabbits.
-- Alan of Winona, MN
The deer love to eat my roses just as they are coming into their first blush.
I have used cat hair and human hair with good results. Most salons will give
you hair for free.
-- Wanda of Neenah, WI
For the past year I have been using a product called Liquid Fence. It is supposed
to be totally organic and the inventor even claims you can use it on vegetables.
I have found it effective for both deer and rabbits when used as directed. You can
order it on the web.
-- Julie of Green Bay, WI
The excerpt below is taken from material available through the Ohio State
University Extension . Telephone 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-1868.
"OH DEER – RESISTANT PLANTS. We received a request for a list of herbaceous
plants that are "resistant" to deer damage. Before resorting to the list,
one first must understand a few facts about deer. It is difficult to move
deer out of areas where they are not wanted. A hungry deer will find almost
any plant palatable, so no plant is "deer proof." Netting can reduce deer
damage to small trees, but adequate fencing to exclude deer is the only
sure way to control deer damage.
There are some lists available. However, remember, the "evidence" for the
deer resistant plant lists is generally anecdotal and not the result of
empirical research. Those lists include: Oklahoma State University
Publication F_6427, "Ornamental and Garden Plants: Controlling Deer Damage;"
Cornell Cooperative Extension "Reducing Deer Damage to Home Gardens and
Landscape Plantings;" and Department of Horticulture, Cornell University
"Mohonk Mountain House Plant Recommendations for Deer_Infested Gardens."
These can be found on the Plantfacts website at: plantfacts.osu.ed."
-- Chris of West Chester, OH
We've had a lot of success with our motion activated sprinkler. It's
called the Scarecrow and is available from Contech at www.scatmat.com for
$79. Here's their description: The Scarecrow is a battery powered, motion
sensing lawn sprinkler. It detects animals that come within range, and
briefly squirts water from it's pulsating impact sprinkler head. The
combination of sudden noise, motion and a jet of water startles the
animals - and they Scat! The Scarecrow has a range of 35 feet and, with
it's 110 degree spread will protect up to 1,000 square feet of garden.
-- Mary of Wayzata, MN
We had good luck last summer by letting radios play outside all night.
At one time, we had 3 different radios outside. Also, there is a product
out called the Scarecrow Sprinkler (Abt $50 at Steins Garden Centers).
You attach it to your garden hose, and it is motion activated - sends a
strong stream of water for a few seconds and startles deer and other critters.
-- Bonnie of Green Bay, WI
Visit a barber. The floor of the shop has your deer cure. Human hair will
keep deer out of your plantings. However, it needs to be refreshed
regularly. Noise also works. Put a radio in a five gallon pail on its side.
Plug it into a long extension cord, turn it on so that the sound it very load.
Then unplug it at the wall outlet. When Bambi shows up for a feed, a little
Hard Rock will scare them off.
-- Don of Green Bay, WI
First of all, I feel your pain. Having achieved a Bachelor's in Wildlife and
working in that field for my whole career, I still have deer eating me out
of house and home.
Deterrents, be they commercial or home-brew, are temporary solutions at
best. Their usefulness can be maximized if the plant in question needs
protection for a week. After that, the stuff washes off and/or the deer get
used to it. Nothing short of completely encapsulating the plant or plants
with woven wire will keep deer away indefinitely. Once you get over a few
plants, this gets cost-prohibitive (not to mention aesthetic implications).
And - if we want to throw ugly reality into the picture - every fenced field,
orchard, tree, and bush is pushing the problem to someone else's plants.
The broader picture is deer management which is "easy". To quote Sam Moore
(Wildlife Biologist, Retired) "feed deer grass in the summer and lead in
the fall". In other words, keeping deer at a healthy population level is
the best, long-term, financially feasible method of protecting flora. Just
imagine, if they are doing this kind of damage next to our houses, what are
they doing to the rest of the forests and prairies? Much of this is not
even noticed because you have to see what's not there and should be. The
not-so-easy part of deer management is getting an adequate harvest to
achieve population goals. There are a variety of social factors which
At the risk of opening a new can of worms let me just say the situation in
southwest WI is a great example of the potential of an unbalanced population.
I wish I could be of more help. Right now I'm going to Fleet Farm before all
the woven wire is gone.
– Rick of Neenah, WI
Deer do not seem to like pepper plants....I plant them around the perimeter
of my garden. Mechanical barriers are best, I feel. If not a tall fence,
then a complete metal fence around and over the plants you want to protect.
I have not had a big problem with deer eating native plants, but I have never
had many spring blooming native plants. The deer pretty much leave the
remaining plants alone. They are more of a problem for my "non-native" neighbors.
-- Bob of Milwaukee, WI
Begin with a Seed book sold by Riveredge Nursery lists several deer resistant
species. Also deer taste and smell before nibbling , so you might try planting
something they don’t eat or like next to or among the ones you want to protect.
The good news we’ve found is that most native plants come back the next year
Finally, it’s hard to beat venison in the freezer year round!
-- Portia of Shelbyville, KY
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Updated: Oct 19, 2006.