Protecting Your Garden from Deer

April 8, 2010 by  

By Doug Leier

I’ll never be mistaken for a master gardener, and it really doesn’t bother me. Beyond borrowing the neighbor’s tiller and breaking up the ground each spring, I lose interest in the garden even before the first spuds are planted.

Deer proof fence

Deer proof fence

So it comes as no surprise that when a stray rabbit is clipping the greens, I wonder more about whether my son’s trapping will produce another grilled cottontail dinner than if we’ll have any lettuce or peas left. But I also fully understand the pride many gardeners take in their summer produce, as time is measured in weeks and months rather than hours.

While gardeners toil in the soil in anticipation of garden fresh fare, from the first radish to the last tomato and everything in between, I hear grumblings of the damage caused by deer and other wild garden thieves.

There are ways to minimize these problems. I won’t say cure, or end, however, as dealing with wildlife involves few guarantees. In early spring as you plan your garden, take several factors into account.
First, if your goal is to protect your garden at all costs, an 8-foot-high, completely enclosed, mesh or chicken wire fence is the best deterrent. A less costly alternative is dividing your garden into smaller subplots with four-strand smooth-wire fence. Deer can easily jump over such a barrier, but they’re less likely to take the leap if they’ll wind up in a small enclosure.

The list of homemade or commercial deer repellants is long and includes things like rotten eggs, human hair, soap-on-a-rope, blood meal and many others. Some even suggest planting desirable vegetables such as squash, beans and peas in with food deer dislike.

Keep in mind, deer have plenty of time to investigate your garden, and these methods are seldom completely effective.

Deer don’t just nibble on garden fodder. They eat young trees, flowers and fruit as well. One way to deter deer from eating things around your yard, besides putting up barriers, is to plant varieties that deer do not find desirable.

It’s much easier and more efficient to plan as your garden is established and before the first greens emerge, instead of after the deer and other animals set their sights on the fruits of your labor.

The following plant lists are divided into categories based on studies of deer preference to aide in reducing depredation on your trees, bushes and garden. But don’t forget, I’m not saying anything other than an exclusionary fence will be strongly effective.

TREES AND SHRUBS
Deer generally prefer to eat:
Deer sometimes eat:
Deer generally dislike:
Apple
Amur maple
Barberry
(Fruit trees in general)
Azalea
Buffaloberry
Basswood (Linden)
Black cherry
Currant (Gooseberry)
Birch
Boxelder
Honeysuckle
Bur oak
Bush honeysuckle
Juniper
Chokecherry
Cottonwood
Lilac
Cotoneaster
Elm
Mt. Laurel
Dogwood
Forsythia
Naking Cherry
English Ivy
Hazelnut
Nannyberry
Green Ash
Highbush Cranberry
Ponderosa Pine
Hackberry
Ironwood
Potentilla
Hydrangea
Mountain Ash
Raspberry
Larch
Oak
Russian Olive
Maple
Rose
St. John’s Wort
Rhodedendron
Scotch Pine
Spruce
Sandberry
Sumac
Wester Red Cedar
Siberian Crab
White Pine
Wormwood (Artemisia)
Viburnum
Wild Plum
Weigla
Fir
White Cedar (Arborvitae)
Willows
Yews

PERENNIALS
Deer generally prefer to eat:
Deer generally dislike
Crocus
Achillea (Yarrow)
Goldenrod
Daylily
Ajuga
Joe-Pye Weed
Hawkweed
Allium
Lamb’s Ear
Hosta
Anemone
Lavender
Hyacinth
Bittersweet
Lily-of-the-valley
Iris
Bleeding Heart
Lupine
Lily
Buttercup
Monkshood
Meadow Rue
Clematis
Pachysandra
Phlox
Columbine
Penstemon
Rose
Cinquefoil
Pennyroyal
Sedum
Coneflower
Peony
Strawberry
Coral Bell
Poppy
Tulip
Coreopsis
Primrose
Cransbill
Ribbongrass
Daffodil
Rosemary
Daisy
Sage
Ferns
Snow-on-the-Mountain
Feverfew
Speedwell
Flax
Tansy
Forget-me-not
Thistle
Gayfeather
Toadflax
Goatsbeard
Yucca

ANNUALS AND BIENNIALS
Deer generally prefer to eat:
Deer generally dislike:
Hollyhock
Alyssum
Geranium
Periwinkle
Impatiens
Begonia
Heliotrope
Polygonum
Pansy
Dahlia
Lobelia
Primula
Sunflower
Dusty Miller
Marigold
Salvia
Violet
Flax
Mint
Snapdragon
Forget-me-not
Morning Glory
Verbena
Four-o’clock
Mullein
Zinnia
Foxglove
Parsley

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