Most of us enjoy watching deer graze in fields, being free. However, it’s a different and far less amusing story when they are grazing in our gardens and landscape. Unfortunately, as neighborhoods continue to expand and deer populations grow, backyard deer sightings are becoming more prevalent. We’ll provide some easy tips to identify damage done by deer and offer some strategies to prevent them from ruining your landscape.
What’s Eating my Garden?
When it comes to pest management, the first step is to identify the critter. For example, deer lack upper incisors; therefore, they tear off plant matter. As a result, foliage and twigs will have ragged edges when eaten by deer. Contrarily, rabbits and rodents have upper and lower incisors that will leave clean cuts when munching in your garden.
An obvious indication is the height of the damage – deer can reach upwards of 6′ or more. Most landscape damage typically occurs from late fall through early spring when natural food sources are scarce. Deer are adaptable and learn quickly. However, they are also creatures of habit, and once they’ve established pathways or feeding areas, it is difficult to deter them. I suggest using a combination of the following five tips to effectively limit the damage deer can cause.
Tip #1: Fencing
A tall fence is the best way to prevent deer damage. This method is beneficial in smaller yards or sections of the yard (i.e., vegetable garden) that you wish to protect. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t alert you that deer have been known to leap 7′ fences. Therefore, I’d recommend an 8′ to 10′ fence – which has perks far beyond keeping pests out! Creating a private oasis for you and your family would be a win for this hardscape.
Tip #2: Repellents
For some, a fence may not be the most feasible option. So that’s why I’d recommend the use of repellents. Having worked with many gardeners around the St. Louis area, the consensus is that repelling deer with the help of deer repellents proves most successful!
Several commercially available products, such as Deer Off, are readily available at most garden centers and hardware stores. Some have an unpleasant odor to deer and an unpleasant taste. It is best to apply these liquid repellents early in the season. Why? Because when food sources are scarce, you need to ensure the deer don’t turn your landscape into their own salad bar!
Pro-Tip: Young plants in early spring are especially vulnerable – even those considered deer resistant.
Tip #3: Scare Tactics
Deer are easily startled, so a motion detector such as a sprinkler, floodlight, or radio will work to scare them off. Something as simple as a string with metal cans attached has proven effective. Remember, though, that deer learn extremely fast and will quickly become accustomed to these distractions. You may need to have a few methods of distraction up your sleeve!
Tip #4: Food Alternatives
I typically don’t condone feeding wildlife – that’s a blog post for another day! But suffice it to say feeding wildlife can contribute to a pest problem in general. So this tip may feel contradictory, but the goal is to place these feeding stations with a method in mind! Research has proven that simply offering access to alternative food resources can drastically reduce damage to your landscape. So the goal is to intentionally place feeding stations at the far corners of your property or landscape to draw wildlife away from the areas that need protecting.
Tip #5: Deer-Resistant Plants
There is great importance in choosing plants that deer find to be unpalatable. It can significantly reduce the amount of damage done to your landscape. Generally speaking, plants that taste bitter or spicy, those with bitter, milky sap, thorny plants, or fuzzy leaves are all less attractive to deer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no plant is fully deer-proof! A hungry deer will eat just about anything it can digest. But plants to consider are french marigolds, foxglove, rosemary, crepe myrtle, African lily, fountain grass, hens & chicks, and many more options here. The mint plant is also one that will deter animals; however, it can be an extremely invasive plant. So I recommend potting the mint plant OR installing a root barrier – like concrete – to halt any aggressive growth patterns.
The Greater St. Louis area is no stranger to deer and other pests. You can call our team at Elevate Outdoor deer experts when protecting landscapes against them. We would love to provide you with services that can protect your home from this infestation. From lighting systems, sprinklers, proper planting, and design, we can create an outdoor living space that works beautifully for you and adversely for deer. Contact our customer service department for a free consultation and quote, or submit a form, and we’ll be in touch soon!