Gardening Tips – Keep Deer Off Your Buffet

February 18, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Deer proof fence

Deer proof fence

With the warmer spring sun greening the earth, that little bit of farmer residing in almost all of us starts to come out.

The real farmers are already preparing fields or putting seeds in the ground. Those of us who delight in budding cherry tomatoes at summer’s end are planning arrangements for our few square feet of earth where we’ll bury seeds or dig in started plants in a couple of weeks when the time is right.

Who doesn’t like a front row seat to watch the marvel of nature’s work?

Well, at least we all like to watch our carrots grow, but that same Mother Nature is also responsible for hailstorms than might pummel your peas, or the neighborhood rabbit chewing the tops off your tender lettuce sprouts.

We can’t do much about the weather, but it is possible to minimize raids by wildlife, no matter how big the garden. How much effort and expense you want to devote depends on your level of tolerance for nature’s critters.

Most of us like the thought of animals in our back yard. We don’t want to get rid of them, we just want them to go somewhere else to eat.

There is no shortage of potions, trinkets and gadgets which all “claim” to stave off any critter attempting to steal a morsel of your sweat and time. 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 that deer dislike. Keep in mind, deer have plenty of time to investigate your garden, and these methods are seldom completely effective.

If you ever see, hear or read of a product that claims to eliminate “all” deer, rabbits or other animals, think twice about buying it.

If the goal is to exclude all critters, the best bet is a fence that starts several inches below ground level, is several feet high, and completely encloses the garden. While a fence around a garden can be expensive, and is not necessarily fool-proof, it should reduce the frequency of consumption by rogue deer.

A wider look at a well layed fence

A wider look at a well layed fence

Only a few crops, corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes suffer little damage from rabbits. About the only garden produce deer will not seek out is rhubarb, my guess is not because deer will not eat rhubarb, but simply like myself would rather eat other available garden fare. In the even no other alternatives exist I’m wagering rhubarb too would be devoured by deer.

Another option is to know which plants are most desirable to garden raiders, and then protect those, or grow something else altogether. The following is a list of plant species and their preference by white-tailed deer.

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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