Deer have proven to be very adaptable to the changes occurring in their environment. As our built-up areas expand into their territory and their native food sources become less available, our garden and landscape plants become a major source of food. It is frustrating that this beautiful and graceful animal can be so destructive. In areas where deer are a problem, there are several options to help you cope with their presence and discourage their browsing inyour yard. Physical barriers, repellents and careful plant selection will help you control their damage.
Fencing is the most effective option, but it doesn’t always fit in with the aesthetics of our landscapes or our budgets. In larger areas, such as around your yard, a fence should be at least 8 feet high. This may be prohibited by some city ordinances. Deer do not like enclosed spaces, so for small areas, a four foot high fence may work. Individual or low growing plants can be covered with chicken wire, but this is an unsightly solution. Electric fencing is costly and effective, but the potential hazards make it an impractical choice for home garden and landscape use.
Deer damage is not restricted to just feeding damage. Male deer can damage young trees by rubbing their antlers against the trunk. As a result, the bark is stripped from the tree. The damage can be so extensive as to cause the death of the tree. In addition, low-hanging branches may be damaged or broken and will need to be removed. Small, smooth-barked trees such as apples are more attractive to bucks as rubbing sites that larger trees and trees with rough bark. Protect individual trees by placing tall vertical stakes into the ground around the tree about one foot from the trunk. Corrugated tubes like those used to protect tree trunks from sunscald in the winter will protect tree trunks from the deer also.
Repellents are the best and most affordable option for protecting plants in the home landscape. Two basic types of deer repellents are available: ontact repellents and area repellents. Contact repellents are sprayed on the plants, causing the plants to have a bad odor and bad taste. Some repellents available at Bachman’s are: Bonide Repels All, a combination of dried blood, putrescent egg solids and garlic oil and Liquid Fence which contains putrescent egg solids and garlic oil. Both repel by odor and taste. Deer Guard, which contains the bitterest substance known, denatonium benzoate, repels by taste. Area repellents are those placed or spread in the problem area and repel deer by their foul odor. One type is Deer cram, a granular repellent containing dried blood, garlic, white pepper cloves and meat meal. Bonide Repels All also comes in a granular form.
Deer become accustomed to the presence of repellents and may ignore them. Using a different product each time you apply a repellent may help keep the deer at bay. Also, the effectiveness of repellents will vary with the frequency of application, weather conditions, and deer population densities. Check the product labels for the methods of use and the recommended frequency of application.
Other methods to deter deer have had mixed success. Noise devices such as radios tuned to talk radio stations, motion detector lights or sprinklers, and reflective materials may be effective in the short term, but rarely
bring continued success.
Not all plants appeal equally to the deer. With careful plant selection and the use of barriers and repellents, you can reduce the feeding damage to your plants. Keep in mind that no plant is completely deer-proof. Animals will eat distasteful plants rather than starve to death. Feeding patterns and plant damage will vary as the deer population changes. Regional differences in feeding preferences exist also, making plant selection a hallenge. Our plant list is compiled from University of Minnesota Extension sources and from Minnesota master gardeners. Space limitations keep us from listing all the plants on the list.
Plants the Deer Generally Dislike
Joe Pye Weed
Trees and Shrubs
Plants the Deer Generally Prefer
Trees and Shrubs
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