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How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden

They look sweet and gentle from afar, but watch a pack of deer close in on your garden, and things turn ugly fast. When these docile creatures get a hankering for your peaches, pansies, or whatever else they’re eyeing in the flower bed, there’s no stopping them. Or maybe there is. If you’re tired of watching helplessly as your plants are left in tatters by hungry deer, it might be time to try some new tactics. You can prevent deer from showing up by employing a few strategies in the planning of your garden. Should the animals make an appearance in your yard despite your best efforts, make sure to be ready with a few tricks up your sleeve. Here’s what we recommend:

Prevention: Plan your garden with deer in mind. That means you may want to avoid plants that deer are drawn to. Some favorites include fruit trees, and protein- and moisture-rich plants like lettuce, beans, peas, English ivy, hostas and impatiens. Soft, smooth and flavorful flowers like clematis and roses are also attractive to deer. If you do choose to plant these varieties, put them strategically near the house, where you’ll be able to effortlessly keep a watch on them. Mix in rough, thorny plants like barberries and cleome as “guards” around the plants you most want to protect. Deer have a keen sense of smell, so you can also steer them away from your garden by planting strong scented herbs like lavender, garlic or mint, which may block out of the aroma coming from your nearby annuals.

Treatment: So your garden is already planted and you’re working on damage control! Give one of these tactics a try:

  • Fishing line: try wrapping it around plant beds, preferably two to three feet above the ground, recommends This Old House. Deer tend to get confused by the clear barrier and walk away without damaging the plants behind it.
  • Noise: deer are repelled by noise, so you could set up a tin can wind chime or even tune a radio to the static between stations.
  • Human hair clippings: it might sound absurd, but deer will back off if they catch a whiff of human scent, and hair clippings from your local beauty salon will do the trick.
  • Coyote urine: this tactic also appeals to a deer’s strong sense of smell. You can pick up this stuff at most garden supply centers.
  • Milorganite: Fill small drawstring baggies made of loosely woven material with a fertilizer like Milorganite, which repels deer. Then hang the bags on the bushes, trees and shrubs that deer tend to attack.
  • Homemade spray: Make your own repellant by mixing one quart of water with a slightly beaten egg. It’s super cheap and environmentally friendly! Spray the mixture on everything the deer might chomp on. Re-apply every 4-5 days, or after rain.
  • Fencing: a drastic but effective option involves building a fence that’s at least eight feet high, with no more than 6x6inch gaps. Electric fences are also a potential solution.

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