Deer... Sweet woodland creatures that remind us of the land’s past life. They are one of only a few larger fauna that we get in North America, making them exciting to spot, especially with kids.
That being said, deer are one of the biggest threats to our native landscapes. Now that we’ve sequestered deer to smaller and smaller patches of habitat, they often wander into our yards looking for snacks. We’ve driven out their predators, which actually suits deer who thrive at the edge of forests, roadways and newly planted lawns. It can be frustrating after spending time and funds on our space, only to wake up to chomped leaves. It can make you want to yell, “Deer, be GONE!”
So, on that note - here’s a few ideas on how to keep deer from eating our landscape:
How to Keep Deer From Eating Your Landscape
The soft approach~
DON’T use yummy plants in your landscape
It might be very simple: you planted literal deer candy. We all love our hostas and daylilies. But sometimes we have to accept that the deer will not resist the temptation of their favorite foods put out on a platter for them. A great resource is Rutgers’ guide to landscape plants rated by deer resistance.
Some of the most common offenders are wintercreeper, evergreen azaleas, hosta, rhododendron, and arborvitae. If that sounds like a long list of some of the most commonly used landscape plants, trust us, we know. But don’t worry. There are other preventative measures you can take to protect that gorgeous hot pink flowering azalea, and other species that can give a similar effect if you want to avoid it altogether.
DO incorporate deterrent plants
Here’s where we really get into the palette of deer. There are a few things to consider that might be off-putting to deer, and you can truly fill your lawn with them.
- Grasses: Deer will eat them young and green, but do not prefer ornamental grass.
- Leaves: Any fuzzy of prickly textured leaves (think lamb’s ear, yarrow, thistle).
- Fragrant herbaceous plants: Things like catmint, lavender, sage, and hyssop are not a deer’s first pick for a meal.
- Toxic plants: Go crazy with ferns! They are toxic to deer. As is baptisia, spurges, helleborus, and others. Be careful, as they may also be toxic to pets and children.
The giant **asterisk** associated with all of these plant suggestions is this: if deer are hungry enough, theywill eat anything. Through the year, the things that are blooming and leafing out fluctuate, meaning deer’s food sources do too. A little nibble of a tallgrass may seem pretty tasty after a while. If deer turn out to be a consistent issue in your yard that never seems to let up, it’s time for some other means of deterrent.
The hard approach~
Height – Much has been written about the various fencing strategies to keep deer out of a yard. The first rule of thumb for anyone newly thinking about how to manage local fauna is this: deer can jump much higher and are much smarter than you think. Believe it or not, deer can jump about 8 feet high (check out some videos on Youtube – it’s amazing), so if you really don’t want to ever have one in your yard, start there at an absolute minimum.
Depth – The eight-foot rule is really maxing out height-wise for the average deer. They can’t jump very far at that height. So if you’re getting serious, having a double fence will keep them from wanting to enter your space. Angling the top of a fence outward can also deter them from scaling something slightly lower.
There are a number of commercial and natural products on the market that you can spray around your lawn to turn off deer’s noses. Liquid fence is a great one if you’ve truly had enough! But keep in mind that sprays need to be reapplied regularly and after rain. If you are diligent, those hostas should stay protected.
Motion sensor technologies
Now for the high-tech portion: sprinklers, lights, and sounds! There are deer deterring products that will do their best to scare away any critters trying to see what’s on the menu in your garden. This sprinkler from Orbit is safe for animals and comes highly rated. Other products can emit a sound or bright light to try and startle the deer away. These may be worth trying out in some instances, but deer can get used to them, and they might just end up scaring you! So be wary.
In your quest to rid your property of deer, just remember to be kind. They likely lived there before you, and you may have planted a buffet of their favorite treats!
How to keep deer from eating your landscape? It's tricky, but start with the above. What has worked for your yard? Find out more about sustainable gardening and native plants in this recent blog post.