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How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden (Top 5 Foolproof Methods)

Deer in Garden

Nothing can be more picturesque than the sight of a deer loping through a field – unless it’s on its way to the garden and chews your plants to the ground. That’s when Bambi, the beautiful beast, turns into a destructive pest that you don’t want around.

It’s happening more and more as deer populations grow and humans build homes in what was once rural deer habitat.

What do deer eat? Anything vegetative, although they become less picky the hungrier they get (just like humans). They also eat a lot. The average adult male can consume more than five pounds of food each day.

How do you keep deer out of the garden? No matter what method you choose, early intervention is best. It’s much easier to deter deer before the herd has decided that your backyard is the best dining spot in town.

There are five broad categories of ways you can keep deer out of your garden. Let’s look at each of them in more detail:

 

1. Use Plants to Keep Deer Out

The easiest way to keep deer out of your garden is to utilize the plants you have in your garden strategically! Smart garden plant management is going to make all the difference and keep them away.

Here’s what you can do:

Deer-Resistant Plants

The sense of smell is extremely important to deer. They will avoid anything that smells unpleasant to them. Deer, like humans, acquire preferences for plants and trees that taste good to them.

A deer will probably go for food elsewhere if you can make your trees unpleasant to the deer’s senses of smell and taste. Some people plant strong-smelling herbs and other plants around trees and shrubs they want to keep pests away from.

Lavender, rosemary, oregano, thyme, catmint, garlic, and chives are just a few of the aromatic plants that deer avoid because of their powerful smells.

Fuzzy Foliage

Deer dislike the feel of fuzzy or hairy materials against their tongues.

So before you buy a plant for your garden, consider rubbing its foliage against your cheek. If you notice little hairs on the leaves, whether bristly or soft, it’s a good plant for deer-proof gardening.

Some good deer-resistant garden plants include lambs ear (Stachys), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), tuberous begonias, heliotrope, yarrow (Achillea), Ageratum, poppies, and purple top vervain (Verbena bonariensis).

Prickly Foliage

Most deer also don’t like plants that have spines on their leaves. Deer normally avoid plants with spines on the leaves themselves, yet some deer learn to graze around the thorns of rose canes to nibble off the leaves.

This group includes plants like bear’s breeches (Acanthus), globe thistle (Echinops), Cardoon, and sea hollies (Eryngium).

Plant Deer-Attracting Plants Closer

This is especially crucial in the spring when mother deer are feeding their fawns. They enter yards in quest of tasty plants rich in protein and minerals.

During this time of year, deer enjoy eating English ivy and a range of vegetable plants such as peas and lettuce. Any trees or vines that have fruit on them will also be attacked.

Deer like the sweet taste of berries such as strawberries or other sweet fruits like peaches, and many flowers, like pansies and impatiens.

You should bring these plants closer to your house and place them where they can be seen from the windows. Even when they are starving, deer are wary of approaching a human dwelling at such a close distance.

2. Use Physical Barriers

The next category includes any physical barriers you can use to keep these beautiful, but annoying, deer away:

Fencing

Generally considered the best remedy but can be unsightly and expensive. The conventional deer-proof fence is eight feet high and features woven wire.

You may be able to get away with a shorter fence as deer are opportunistic nibblers and any barrier may be enough to dissuade them if there is alternative food in the area. Sometimes something as simple as a plastic fence is enough to keep them out of your yard.

Electric Fencing

A notch up from regular fencing since it adds an electrical shock has the same general advantages and disadvantages.

Strange, but true fact about electric fencing: people smear peanut butter on aluminum foil attached to the fence. The peanut butter is a powerful lure and once the deer’s nose makes contact it won’t want to repeat the experience.

For another, less expensive electric alternative, check out our Havahart Electronic Deer Repellent that we carry.

Hedges

Create a border and barrier with hedges. Keep deer out by using boxwoods and other dense hedges. These plants line the perimeter of the yard, acting as a border or a wall to keep deer out.

Since deer can’t see through the hedges into the yard, they may decide it’s too dangerous to go there and go somewhere else instead. It is important to maintain hedges in such a way that they remain full and continue to obscure the view into your yard.

Tree Netting

Tree wraps are also frequently used to keep deer from nibbling and rubbing their antlers against trees. Wraps, on the other hand, lack aesthetic appeal, and occasionally intelligent deer may knock them off the tree.

If you choose to use antler covers to stop rubbing, apply them in the fall when deer begin to mark their territory. You can also use netting to keep deer from eating your plants.

To protect plants, fruit trees, and bulbs from deer, drape the net over them. The nets allow your plants to receive water and light while also protecting them.

Young plants should especially be wrapped or covered because this is when they are most vulnerable.

3. Utilize Scare Tactics

Some harmless scare tactics here and there can make a bigger difference than you think! Here are some of our favorite methods to keep deer out:

Motion Activated Sprinklers

Even deer don’t like the unexpected. The sudden noise, movement, and spray scare the animals away, teaching them to avoid the area in the future.

Ultrasonic Devices

Ultrasonic devices are another great way to keep deer out of your garden. They don’t play music for deers’ ears but, instead, emit noise that they can’t stand. Kind of like playing “Heavy Metal” for your grandmother who loves Lawrence Welk!

Your Dog

Having a dog as a pet is a great way to deal with deer. Regardless of their size, their scent and bark are natural deer repellents.

So give your dog lots of time to play in the yard. If your dog sees a deer, it will most likely bark. The deer will likely run away and believe your yard isn’t a safe location to graze.

4. Use Deer Repellents

Deer repellents are anything that is sprayed, dusted, or left around plants to ward off deer.

The scent of humans or dogs used to be enough to drive away the hungriest of deer, but now deer are used to having us around, so hanging pantyhose stuffed with human hair – an old-time remedy – no longer does the trick.

More and more gardeners are turning to repellents. Deer repellents smell bad and taste worse, which is why they work. Their effectiveness depends on how much feeding pressure the deer face – how hungry they are – or how attractive your plants are to them.

It’s hard to sort out which repellent to buy. Some studies recommend one thing while another one says something completely different. The best thing to do is experiment yourself and find out what deer in your area dislike.

Keep in mind that what works can vary from year to year. Deer can become used to repellents, which means what first was a powerful deterrent could become less so over time. That’s why it can be a good idea to rotate their use.

Repellents can range from a 99-cent bar of soap (Dial or Lifebuoy, which you hang near your plants by drilling a hole in the soap and attaching string.) to spray on applications that feature coyote urine.

You can even make your own homemade repellent. Blend two eggs and a cup or two of cold water at high speed. Add this mixture to a gallon of water. Let stand for 24 hours. Re-apply as needed.

How Often to Use Deer Repellents

How often you have to apply repellents depends on the time of year, the amount of rain you’re receiving (the more rain, the less effective the repellent is as it washes off), how anxious the deer are for food, as well as what type of deer are foraging on your property.

Depending on the repellent used, you may have to apply it every couple of weeks or just every couple of months.

Some repellents are inappropriate for food crops. Repellents won’t just repel the deer, but you too by making the plants and their fruits or vegetables taste bad. (If you can avoid the fruit or the vegetable, you can spray the rest of the plant and not damage the food.)

How to Apply Deer Repellents

When applying deer repellents, always read the product label. Usually, you’ll need to apply when it’s 40˚F or warmer and your plants are dry. Avoid spraying when it is windy as you’ll get more on you than on your plants.

If treating young trees, apply the repellent to the entire tree. Older trees may only need treatment on new growth. Treat all trees up to six feet above the maximum expected snow depth. You may also need to reapply frequently, especially after rain or irrigation.

5. Maintain Your Landscape

And last, but not least, it’s important to maintain your yard!

Don’t make your yard a comfy spot for visiting deer. You do not want to entice them to spend the night or relax there throughout the day. Trim areas with a lot of plants to make them look less appealing as places to hide.

Deer favor locations that provide rapid cover from predators. Therefore, removing this cover will deter deer from visiting your yard

Other deer control methods include harvesting crops as early as possible, which gives deer less of an opportunity to dine on your vegetables and fruit.

At Planet Natural we offer a large selection of natural and organic pest control solutions. From barriers & repellents to botanical sprays, we only carry the best. Also, visit our Pest Problem Solver for pest pictures, descriptions and a complete list of earth-friendly remedies.

 

 

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38 Responses to “How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden (Top 5 Foolproof Methods)”

  1. theresa stone on May 1st, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    Would like info on ultrasonic devise to ward off deer

    • Queenie on June 29th, 2015 at 9:54 am #

      I wish you a lot of luck, we have tried anything and everything possible but we still lose all our plants to the deer, especially the hostas, and any kind of lily. Nothing has worked. We’ve used sprays, and the ultrasonic units and they just seem to get used to it and everything is gone as soon as it turns green or starts to bloom. We have a large yard in a residential area so we are limited to the height of our fence and electric is out of the question. This year I have cheated with blooming annuals and used artificial plants in order to have some color in my gardens. If anyone out there has a better solution please let me know too.

      • Larrry on May 16th, 2016 at 10:41 am #

        Yeah, hostas…might as well put heads of lettuce out. I mix (in blender) 6 or 8 raw eggs with several tablespoons of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt), several Tablespoons of hot sauce and a tablespoon of any mint extract. Add water to top off blender container, mix and add to about a gallon of water that’s in garden sprayer (always put water in sprayer BEFORE adding mix, as adding water AFTER will make it too foamy.) Spray liberally on and around plants. Works well for me; reapply occasionally, and especially after rain…works great on hostas because of their large leaves that hold a lot of the repellent. Hanging bar soap helps, too…I cut a plastic 12 or 16 oz. water bottle in half to make a cup, punch a hole in bottom, thread string (free at H. Depot or Lowe’s) thru and tie around piece of soap so it’s protected by cup, hang from wherever…

      • Sybil on June 1st, 2016 at 10:12 am #

        Hi, Queenie. I am in the process of marketing a home made product that actually works against all deer. I’ve tried it for several months here in Virginia and watch in happy disbelief when a hungry doe sniffed the flowers in our garden, turned her nose up, and walked away.

        • Anne Owen on June 14th, 2016 at 5:08 am #

          Would love to try this spray!

        • Nilda on June 30th, 2016 at 6:39 am #

          What did you use to keep the deer away?

        • Lynn Sandbank on May 20th, 2017 at 8:22 am #

          I have been using a garlic, red pepper solution to keep the deer away. It works but has to be made very often and it is difficult to keep making. Is there anything that is natural and can be purchased from a garden center.
          Thank you.

          • evadney on July 11th, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

            Deer repellent. Granular or spray, apply in circle around garden so no space left so deer have to pass barrier the smell will keep away from the garden.

      • J on June 23rd, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

        Q
        This might sound stupid, but human piss in a 5 gallon bucket mixed with vinegar and laundry soap.

        • Joe on August 9th, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

          The vinegar kills plants.

  2. Nina on July 4th, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    A garden salesman told us to mix raw horseradish with water and spray. Make it very strong. Worth a try…

  3. Gavin on January 11th, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    I have been told that planting marigolds will deter deer. True?

    • Anonymous on February 27th, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

      Nope. Not true at all. They just walk right over the marigolds to get to the tasty stuff.

    • Anonymous on March 6th, 2016 at 9:26 am #

      No for me the deer just ran over the marigolds

    • Tim Brown on March 17th, 2018 at 2:24 pm #

      We have deer in our yard every night. I have never built a fence and have only had deer issues at the end of the season when we have plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers canned and we are too tired to get in the garden! I am thinking about putting a video together – my uncle lives a block away and has a 9′ fence as his only protection, he gets hit every season. What are strengths of a deer? Great sense of hearing, great smell, powerful legs that can jump high. What are weaknesses? Poor eyesight, very timid and scare easily. The truth of the matter is, if you try to use just one thing the deer will eventually hit your garden. You must use a combination of things, switch things around a bit, and always stay one step ahead. Every season, the first thing I do is plant marigolds (usually every 12-15″) around the perimeter of the garden. This is just the first step of defense – and marigolds are probably the best beneficial for your garden, anyway. I build a scarecrow (sometimes two) – it’s fun and you can move them around the garden from time to time. Put scarfs and other things that can blow in the wind. Put a solar power night light on them at night. I have motion-activated sprinklers which are great! However, they will get used to them so change positions and don’t put them on 7-days per week. Even though Deer have better hearing than we do, they hear the same range as humans so anything that says ultrasonic is bogus. I have a motion activated mountain lion sound which I like and also a motion activated strobe light which I use sometimes. Liquid Fence concentrate is my favorite. I mix in a 5 gal sprayer and go around the perimeter of the garden 3 times per week. Yes, human urine I use from time to time to mix it up. Other ideas, if deer are getting a little too curious, tie fishing line about 3′ foot high to bamboo poles and put around the perimeter (this is the only “fence” I have but I did not use it last year at all). Tie cat food cans on to fishing line or poles to scare them more. On the other side of my house, I have my bird feeders which the deer like to get into. If you can keep them occupied with a few cents worth of bird seed and yet they know your garden is too “dangerous” an attempt it seems worth it! Best of luck to you! Hope this helps!

  4. David Callesen on February 21st, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    I work on a tomato farm they use a hot pepper mix to spray on the plants. It works till a rain washes it off.

    • Mike F on March 8th, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

      I’ve used a mixture of Rosemary..(hottest) peppers…bee balm….Dawn soap…Egg….mixed and sprayed on (repeat after a rain!)……I’ve actually watched deer approach fruit etc. take a smell and walk away…..Note: a truly starving deer will however plunge into just about anything growing. So…………………….

  5. Jenny on April 4th, 2016 at 4:56 am #

    The deer bring fleas to my garden – I don’t even have pets! Only terrible aspect of the beautiful reserve I live in! I have fencing but they still nibble my bird of paradise that is not fenced in. I get flea bites most times in the garden – it’s awful.

  6. Becky on April 18th, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    I was reading to see if there was something here that I hadn’t heard of but there wasn’t. I think that I will stick with the tried and true woven wire and electric fence at our new place, there is some more decorative wire fencing that I am hoping to convince my husband to buy. My girlfriend down the road only has a four foot woven fence and she ran electric around the perimeter and zig zagged it across the garden, she doesn’t have problems any more.

  7. Laurie Davidson on June 18th, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    I use Irish spring I slice it and put it generously around the plants. So far I have had luck with this.

  8. John on June 21st, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    The egg, garlic and spicy combination was also recommended by NJ botanical garden. I have tried it and found it worked, though have to reapply every week and after rain. It smelled, guessing it is from the spoiled egg.

  9. D. J. on July 22nd, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

    I make a solution of peppermint oil and water and spray it on my plants and flowers. It will keep the deer from munching on them, but you will have to reapply every time you water or every couple of days. It’s a pain. Shotgun would be more permanent.

  10. Gerrie S. on July 23rd, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    I have been trying to grow grapes for 3 years and it seems each year the deer get to the new growth as soon as any foliage appears. I have been using “Deer Off” for 2 years. This year the same thing happened and I have been applying Deer Off and it seems to have stumped the growth of the vines, also it seems my blueberries have been stumped by using it. Has anyone ever figured out that Deer Off stumps the growth of their plants? It would be interesting to know. Next year we will be putting up a fence for sure!

  11. Steve on August 4th, 2016 at 5:54 am #

    Has anyone had success with a fake plastic snake placed conspicuously near the plant?

  12. Frank Eggleston on September 19th, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    I’ve heard that they don’t like walking over rocky ground, is this true?

    • cindy on October 10th, 2018 at 10:33 pm #

      NO,
      We have very rocky ground…they walk right thru them!

  13. Daisey on October 2nd, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I have a theory that animals will not graze where they have deficated (pooped).
    So I am trying to collect elk and deer “droppings” in a bucket….either applying the dried nuggets or by soaking the manure with water, one can create a manure “tea”…..to apply as a liquid fertilizer.

    Now in Alaska, I tried this with MOOSE poop. My seedlings were healthy and it appeared to have the desired effect.

  14. Anonymous on June 16th, 2017 at 5:35 am #

    I literally sprinkle garlic powder and/or ground cumin on my hostas and other plants. It’s a pain because I have to do it every few days or after it rains. So far the deer have only nibbled on the hostas but have not eaten them down to the ground as they usually do. This is the first year I have seen my hostas grow and thrive. Of course, the deer may not be starving yet, so we will see if the hostas survive the summer! Just note that your landscape will smell like a mixture of pizzeria and thai restaurant.

  15. Chris on June 28th, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    5 parts blood meal (NOT bone meal!) mixed with 1 part triple hot (XXX) cayenne pepper powder makes a granular application that has worked successfully for me. I live adjacent to a national park and have herds of whitetail. Now my hostas grow large and even bloom! The blood meal works as both a deterrent and fertilizer. The pepper gives deer and rabbits an unpleasant burn if they try a taste. I mix up a large batch and shake it well before applying. I keep each batch inside an old canister that has a perforated top so it sprinkles out easily over the whole plant. Deer repellent is so expensive at garden centers, so I stocked up and bought a 40 lb. bag of blood meal and a 10 lb. bag of really hot cayenne pepper. It all cost about $100.00 and was delivered by FedEx. It has already lasted four years and I still have enough for two more years, so I’m under $20/year for a solution that actually works! The pepper and blood meal stay fresh because the ingredients are dry and I keep them well sealed during the winter. I apply heavily at the beginning of the spring growing season as the hostas are just emerging and then again once a month or so. I use it on berries, lilies, and veggies, too, but you have to wash carefully if the blood meal gets on the fruit or vegetable.

    • Christie Faumuina on August 5th, 2018 at 4:23 am #

      Chris – How often do you apply it during the summer?

  16. winter on July 25th, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    I live here in sheridan wyoming and marigolds planted around the perimeter are very effective and keep the deer away.

  17. Maggie on September 2nd, 2017 at 4:23 am #

    Piss will not work!! I had a buck piss all over my purple smoke bush and then lay down on it!
    Now there was a final solution come this Summer when coyotes took him out for lunch in my neighbour’s yard!
    I’ve bought another purple smoke bush and am gonna try again.

  18. Lisa Leggett on October 30th, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    I have been told that human hair is a great deer deterrent. Any truth to this?

  19. G. M. on March 29th, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

    I have a tulip patch in the front yard. Deer, or anything else never bothered them. This year, around the beginning of March, the tulips started popping up due to the warm weather. They grew to about 3 inches tall. That’s when the deer noticed them. They trimmed them all to ground level. So I hung a 4 foot plastic human skeleton there. The tulips are starting to grow again. I just checked my trail cam for any recent evidence of deer activity. Ummmmm, deer are not afraid of 4 foot plastic human skeltons! ? I’ll now try moth balls or garlic or hot sauce.

  20. Winsome Young-Fye on May 25th, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

    Last year I planted thyme, rosemary and basil around perimeter of my lamppost garden and that was a success.

  21. Cherie J DuFault on May 18th, 2019 at 6:37 pm #

    It’s kind of funny all the things we try! Wasn’t too funny when they ate all my tulips though! I read somewhere that deer don’t like obstacles they have maneuver around. So I put some sections of wire fence and laid tomato cages here and there. The cages were tall and rusty. They sort of blended in. The deer might not have been able to see them very well and bumped into them. (Their vision isn’t too keen.) That was the plan. I didn’t have any more damage, but that also could have been because they didn’t like the other flowers that were left. I have also read that you can keep deer out by putting another fence inside the first one, because they don’t want to jump into a small space that they have to jump out of.

  22. Mike Czuhajewski on June 26th, 2019 at 8:21 am #

    Someone mentioned trying a fake plastic snake. Don’t know how well that would work but probably would not. We have a squirrel problem (they love our small pear trees) and someone suggested a fake plastic owl. Got one and it worked—for about two seconds! Squirrels can tell the difference between a real, living creature that can harm them and anything else, no matter what it looks like. I look at it and see a fake owl. The squirrels see an inanimate object that has no smell, never moves, never makes a sound, and doesn’t threaten them in any way. They just run right past it. I suspect a fake plastic anything will be just as effective with deer. (PS—our neighbor, much wiser than us, suggested just going to the store and buying pears. They would be bigger and taste better, and save us a lot of aggravation!)

    • Kim on July 9th, 2019 at 4:15 am #

      Hi Mike,
      We had trouble with chipmunks eating our pears. They would climb the tree, and take one bite out of the developing pear, thereby ruining it.

      We brushed on “Tangle Trap”, all around the base of the tree, which solved the problem – chipmunks don’t like sticky paws. The Tangle Trap is very sticky – wear disposable gloves when applying. We applied it before bud break, and once more, during the season. If squirrels are able to jump onto your trees, of course, this won’t work, but it you have a free standing tree (and not flying squirrels), the Tangle Trap might work.