Posted by: Dennis Hinkamp on Sep 11, 2008

Deter Deer from Dining on Your Garden

Answer by: Jerry Goodspeed, Utah State University Extension horticulturist
        When deer are hungry, they eat. If they are determined to graze in your yard, they will usually find a way to do it. It seems there is always at least one plant they will find edible, but there are methods you can use as deterrents. Consider this information.
•  Plants most adversely affected by deer are shrubs and fruit trees. Since gardeners keep fruit trees low to the ground to be sprayed, pruned and harvested, this makes them a perfect target for deer looking for a snack. Shrubs are also at the right level for most deer. Other plants, such as trees and perennials, are either dormant or have died back to the ground during the winter, so they are usually safe from deer. 
          • Trees need to be protected most when they are small. A physical barrier on the tree will usually protect them. Once a tree reaches about 10 to 12 feet tall, it can normally withstand a little winter munching. Because of their height, shrubs are more difficult to protect from deer. 
• There are many unusual remedies for keeping deer out of the yard, including hanging hair from branches, placing bars of soap in the shrubs, playing a tape of dogs barking and soaking plants in cougar and bear waste. However, more conventional and easier to obtain repellants are available at local nurseries and garden centers. They must be re-applied on a regular basis, but they can be effective in reducing deer damage when applied according to label directions.  
• The best protection against deer damage is a tall fence or wall. Most deer can jump shorter fences 5 to 6 feet tall. With a little snow on the ground, they can almost walk over some fences.  An electric fence can work, but it can be an eye-sore for most landscapes. Fences generally work in deterring deer, but they are not always practical or aesthetically appealing. 
• The best way to deter deer is to select plants that are low on their list of favorite foods.  A hungry deer will eat almost anything, but these plants should make them move swiftly to your neighbor’s plants: Serviceberry, Spirea, Barberry, Cotoneaster, Elderberry, Laurel, Juniper, Lilac, Viburnum, Daphne, Firethorn, Forsythia, Heath, Kerria, Oregon grape Holly, Redtwig dogwood, Sweet mockorange and Weigela.
Keep in mind that deer will sample almost any plant, but using these varieties can keep grazing to a minimum and reduce landscape damage during the winter. 
Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension, Logan, UT 84322-4900, 435-797-0810;


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