Did you know that an adult deer will eat six to 10 pounds of greenery daily? You probably do if your yard is their dining room! Deer love the vegetable garden, and there is nothing like a strawberry patch or fresh apple from the tree for dessert. Don’t grow food in your yard? The deer don’t mind. They also eat perennials and annuals, as well as shrubbery and trees. The deer will make do, and don’t forget, deer are social animals. They will probably invite their friends and family to join them in your yard, so multiply that 10 pounds by all the guests they invited!
Spring is the most destructive time of the year because the deer are hungry from their winter diet. In addition, does may be nursing one or two fawns. They need to gain weight quickly, so they have an especially voracious appetite. And there’s your yard. The grass is a green carpet, the trees and bushes are covered in tender green shoots and the sap is flowing. The tulips and spring flowers are the perfect garnish. Your yard is the heavenly buffet the deer have waited for all winter!
So, how do you protect your yard and gardens from these beautiful but hungry animals? There are steps you can take, and the best is a multipronged attack. Here are some ideas:
A fence is probably the surest way to keep the deer out of your yard. However, a good deer fence is not a cute, white picket fence. Most deer would barely need to hop to get over that type of fence because they can leap so well. Your fence will need to be a minimum of eight feet high. That, needless to say, is very expensive. You might want to consider only fencing the garden rather than the entire yard to save on costs.
2. Wraps and Barriers.
Protect your trees with physical barriers like tubes or plastic wrap. A cage of chicken wire is effective in preventing deer from stripping the bark from young trees, and netting will protect your shrubs and fruits. You may also need to protect your bulbs.
There are many types of repellents on the market. They work by either making the item taste or smell bad to the deer. There are also repellents that include dried blood or the urine of a known predator like the coyote, which scares deer away. Repellents can be very effective, but most will need to be reapplied after rain. Change up your garden pest control products every so often so the deer don’t become used to the smell.
You can also try making your own repellent. Some people have had success using a strong garlic mixture or hot pepper. Others have used fabric softener strips or ammonia-soaked fabric hung in their fruit trees.
4. Choose Deer-Resistant Plants.
Just like people, deer have foods that they like and dislike. Replace tulips, which deer love, with daffodils. The deer don’t care for daffodils and will generally leave them alone. Deer don’t like certain textures, like the fuzzy Lamb’s Ear. If you really want roses, which are a favorite of the deer, choose a variety that is heavily thorned.
When you are choosing plants for your landscape, pay particular attention to its deer resistance. Another option is surrounding your garden with highly scented plants that deer don’t like, such as, lavender seeds, mint chives or garlic. The scent of these plants will mask the smell of the annuals that they love to eat.
5. Scare the Deer.
Deer can be frightened out of your yard. They usually don’t want people too close and will avoid strange noises or objects. Some people have had success keeping the deer away by playing a radio or hanging wind chimes. A flag flapping in the wind or an unfamiliar object may be enough to make the deer nervous and avoid your yard. Others have motion detectors that will turn on lights or sprinklers when they detect movement.
These tactics will help, but deer are very intelligent. They will quickly figure out that these scare-tactics can’t hurt them. Alternate the objects and change the position frequently to keep deer on their toes.
Keeping deer out of your yard is a challenge that becomes even harder if your neighbors have different priorities than you. Some people encourage deer to come to their yards by intentionally feeding them and making the deer feel safe. If your neighbors like deer, you may have to devote more time and money to fencing and anti-deer tactics.