Minimizing Deer Damage

Deer damage is one of the biggest concerns facing property owners in the local area today. To many, the threat of insect or disease problems pales in comparison to the agony of knowing that at any moment a passing deer may devour part of your landscape.

Individual deer vary in their plant tastes and the degree to which repellents thwart them.  Let’s not kid ourselves: deer are robust eating machines with cast-iron stomachs.  Many times, they will eat what they want. It is known that deer can’t eat what they can’t get at, and they are less likely to eat what smells or tastes unattractive.

The best way to protect your plants from deer is with a fence.  Tenax deer fence is easy to work with, tough, and visibly tolerable. It should be supported by metal T-stakes or 2×2″ wooden stakes and attached with twist ties or plastic zip-ties. A good height is 7-8′ and the fencing should be placed within a few feet of the plants it is protecting. Deer are unlikely to jump over a fence when they can’t perceive a clear landing on the other side. If the fence is being used as a property perimeter, it should be higher. Plastic trunk protectors can be placed on young shade and flowering trees to prevent ‘buck rub’ and rodent damage.

Other options include products with unsavory smells and/or tastes. The best deer deterrent sprays are extremely bitter and can adhere to surfaces for a month. The more popular and effective are Bobbex, Tree Guard and Liquid Fence.  Make sure to reapply the treatments after significant precipitation.

Some people get excellent results from methods that typically have a lower success rate, such as tallow based soaps, human hair clippings, or Milorganite. Milorganite is an organic fertilizer with deterrent properties. Soap and hair would be used at 4 or 5 portions per 3-4′ shrub. All of these work by scent and are very successful when feeding pressure is low.

Choosing plants that deer are less likely to prefer is always a prudent strategy, but remember that deer are fickle and vary in their tastes.