There are few things that can be as depressing and disappointing to a gardener than to have a wonderful and healthy crop of fruits or vegetables on one day, only to find them eaten to the ground by the deer on the next. Some people go to the effort and expense of putting in fences, but deer have the ability to jump even tall fences. Other, even more extreme methods of keeping deer out of the garden are sometimes used, with limited success. There are some ways to keep the deer from eating your plants, though, that are at least as successful as many of the more extreme (and expensive) methods.
Planting Stinky Plants
Deer have a very developed sense of smell. Many of the ways of deterring them from the garden focus on this fact. Some stores even sell wolf or mountain lion urine with the idea that this may repel the deer. There are other deer repellents that can be purchased, too. An easier and cheaper way is to plant plants that deer find repulsive. Often, these plants also happen to be pleasantly scented to humans. The deer just don’t like the scent. Two really good examples are lavender and marigolds. People tend to like the smell of lavender and the bright, cheery flowers of marigolds, but deer dislike their aroma. Planting these around and in the garden can help keep the deer out. Deer also don’t like the smell of garlic. These plants can also help deter many insect pests.
Some of the scented soaps on the market are disliked by deer, because of the smell. This is especially true of Irish Spring soap. People tend to like the scent, but deer don’t. This is something that has been known for quite a while to deer hunters, who’ve found out that it isn’t wise to shower with Irish Spring prior to going hunting. The deer can smell it from a long way away and they don’t like what they smell, so they leave before the hunter even has the chance to see them.
Using the soap is easy. Just take a potato peeler and peel off thin slices throughout the garden. The soap doesn’t harm the plants, but it can repel deer. A downside is that the soap will gradually dissolve when the garden is watered, so more soap will need to be added periodically.
Use Fish to Repel Deer
If you have access to fish, such as if you like to fish and catch some that are trash fish, boil up any fish you don’t want, let the liquid cool down and pour this around the base of your garden plants. The ‘fish soup’ is excellent fertilizer for the garden, but deer hate the smell of the dead fish long after you can no longer smell it.
Warn the Deer Off
This one sounds crazy, but it actually works. String garden twine around your garden and tie neon ribbon to the twine at intervals of about two or three feet apart. Each piece of the plastic tape should hang about a foot and a half to two feet down. The slightest breeze sets the ribbon in motion and the motion makes the deer uneasy. We’ve used this method to keep deer out of our beans and deer happen to love eating bean plants, so the fact that they left our beans alone says a great deal. Some neighbors weren’t so lucky until we told them about the tape. Orange tape seems to work best, but yellow is also good. Contrary to what many people might think, deer can see orange and yellow. They aren’t color blind.
Homemade Deer Repellent
You can also make a repellent spray to drench your garden plants with. To do this, in a deep pot, pour a gallon of water. To the water, add one bar of Irish Spring soap, peeled with a potato peeler. Add 1/2 cup of crushed or minced garlic and either 2 tablespoons of powdered cayenne pepper or diced hot peppers; the hottest you can find. Put this mixture over low heat and cook it, stirring occasionally, until the soap has dissolved. Put the mixture in a gallon jar or a bucket that has a tight fitting lid, cap it, then let it sit for about a week. Strain out the solids, add another gallon of water, stir and spray this on your garden plants. It doesn’t hurt the plants, but deer detest the aroma. If they are brave enough to take a nibble of one of the sprayed plants anyway, the hot peppers reinforce the notion that the plants aren’t edible.
The best part about the homemade deer repellent is that it also kills or repels many garden pests, such as aphids, earwigs and slugs.
All of these methods can help keep deer out of the garden and they can be helpful in other ways as well. A combination of them is usually the most efficient method of all. None of them is exceptionally expensive, especially in comparison with the store bought alternatives, yet they all work to varying degrees. None of them even actually harm the deer. The deer merely go elsewhere to get their nibbles.
The only disclaimer is that there are few ways to prevent a hungry and determined deer from eating what you are growing in your garden. However, you can certainly persuade them that they may want to go elsewhere for their garden veggies. The above definitely beats doing nothing and going out to find your garden decimated by the deer.