Comparing Deer Deterrents

If there's one thing we have in common as gardeners, it's the need to ward off unwelcome wildlife. For many, that means deer. If the best defense is a good offense, then it makes sense to start by choosing deer resistant plants. Fencing often works but is no guarantee plus it can be unsightly too. The deer around here are pretty bold and exceptionally athletic as anyone has seen them hurdle over 6 to 8 foot wrought iron fences will attest. Thinking about all the available options, I'd like to address those with which we've personally experimented.

GOOD

Soap is low cost and very easy to use strategically around one's garden and it has a relatively long lifespan. Processed waste like Milorganite has been very effective at warding off deer and other mammals while also providing beneficial fertilizer. Shiny tape and aluminum pie pans are exceptional in protecting berries from birds, and the deer are typically unsure and steer clear of such shiny objects.

FAIR

Predator urine and blood meal are effective and provide a bonus boost of nitrogen - until it rains and one must repeat again each time. The same goes for hot sauces. Using interspersed flowering plants to deter pests can be effective but becomes costly as one's area and plantings grow.

SKIP

Garlic offers a Maginot line but little else - most predators simply avoid it. Plenty of vendors hawk mechanical gizmos from noisemakers to laser lights and ultrasound - all at a high cost with limited effect. Lastly, hair - dog, horse, human or any other - is just gross and ineffective.

WHAT TO DO

Start by selecting a site away from established deer trails. We plant native species while avoiding tulips and hosta choosing daffodils and echinacea instead in conjunction with giant marigolds. During the season we use a combination of soaps, waste, blood meal and a special organic biologic tea from our local friends at Solar C3ITIES to keep the mammal and insect pests at bay.

You're unlikely to prevent all incidents, but through careful planning and proactive trials, you will significantly limit your exposure to deer pressure. Take note of one prime exception, after the first frost of the autumn season, all bets are off. Desperate, hungry animals will stop at nothing to devour your tasty delights as winter approaches. Good luck and share your experiences with us too.