Deer in the Garden
Updated: Sep 23, 2022
I hate deer*. They've ruined my life in so many ways. When we bought the house I thought I was protected, but I quickly found out I was wrong. The increasing development around Orchard Park has been destroying their habitat and pushing them into the village. Plus, the neighbor behind me feeds them during the winter. Now I get about fifteen deer in my backyard every night. I've watched them decimate plants that were labeled "deer proof", especially during the winter months. After years of trial and error here are my tips to minimize deer damage in your yard.
Understand deer- The most important thing to remember is that deer are creatures of habit. If they know they can find food in a certain location, they will return again and again until that source dries up. In order to discourage them from returning to your yard you could...
Buy a gun- hahahahaha. But if that's not an option,
Buy plants deer don't like- Over my years I've noticed the labels on plants have changed from "deer proof" to "deer resistant" to "deer tend to avoid". That's because if a deer is hungry enough, there's very little it wont eat. I used to buy plants that weren't deer proof, telling myself I'd be diligent about spraying and guess what; I'd miss one week of spraying and the deer would eat it to the ground. I absolutely hated the idea of being limited to certain plants, but it was better then throwing money away on plants that wouldn't last a season. Once I started looking around I discovered there are a range of beautiful options that deer will walk right past (re: peonies!). So pass on that David Austen rose and put the $40 into an envelope for a rainy day. You'll thank me later.
Deer spray- There are a few different brands, all work about the same, and all smell like burnt garbage. The good news is that it only smells really bad for a day, so try to spray in the evening when you're about to go in for the night or on a day you don't plan on being in your yard. Do this once a month (or every two weeks if you can remember/afford it) and the deer will eventually move on to your neighbor's yards. I spray my hydrangeas, hostas, and knock out roses every three weeks and the deer stay away until October.
Electric fence- I put one around my vegetable garden. It's garden-grade (a voltage level that's pet and child safe), and portable, so I can take it down for the winter. You have a choice between a battery operated or solar charging unit, so don't worry about needing an electric line run out to the site. I string one line at bunny height (six inches off the ground), and deer height (about three feet up). My veggies were safe during the spring and summer, but as with my other methods its only effective until fall. A hungry deer will stop at nothing.
Get rid of birdfeeders- Deer (and racoons and other vermin for that matter) love the free buffet that takes place at the birdfeeder. Instead of feeding the birds this way, consider planting perennials and shrubs that attract birds and butterflies.
*Disclaimer: If you love deer and want to set me straight, feel free to comment below. I will respectfully disagree as soon as possible.