If you are gardener these days, besides challenges of keeping plants growing and watered, there are also the challenges of critters eating your plants, and most commonly deer. Fighting with the deer can be very stressful. We know. We've been doing it for years too. All of your hard earned money and time on gardening gone in one night!
If you want to know how to keep deer out of your garden, we have some answers in this article. The question is, is there a fullproof method for doing it? Read on to find out.
First, here's a few concepts you need to keep in mind.
If you want to control deer, you must understand why they act the way they do. Once those concepts have been grasped, you'll have a better understanding of why some things work better than others or don't work at all.
All of the information here has been tried and learned through the school of hard knocks - either our own trial and error, or... been learned from one of the best resources we've found about how to keep deer out of your gardens, the book "Deerproofing Your Yard And Garden" pictured below.
Click the image to see more of the book.
Understanding Deer Behavior
As mentioned previously, we want to talk about deer behavior. Why do deer eat your plants? Well, they're hungry! Duh!
There are certain plants that deer like and will eat them each and every time. They'll see or smell them and think... 'BUFFET!"
Of course like all creatures, they need food to survive and if given the choice between plants they like and ones they don't like, they will choose the former. However, life isn't so simple.
Also like most creatures (except humans), deer have to forage for food. Sometimes it's plentiful, such as when crops are growing at farms near you. At other times not much is available - say in the winter when the ground is covered in snow.
Think of this. You're stranded on a deserted island for a month with a week's supply of food. After a week and it's gone what do you do? Well, you'll start to look for other sources of food - starting with those coconuts hanging in the trees. Once those are gone, you may have to start rationing, eating things you wouldn't normally eat. If you get hungry enough, you just might eat things you would never have considered under normal circumstances.
Can you see that deer (or any animals for that matter) would be thinking and doing the same thing?
The bottom line is this. You can plant all the deer resistant plants you like but if they are hungry enough, they might eat them too.
This is why there have been many instances when we've seen the remnants of plants deer don't like laying on the ground still ravaged.
Does this mean your effort will be futile? Well no, doing anything helps better than doing nothing. Planting things they don't like is not a perfect solution but it can certainly help and be the first line of defense.
Deer Habits That Impact Your Gardens
Deer are creatures of habit. This means they often times take the same routes through the forest, crossing the same roads in the same spots and finding the same sources of food every time.
Of coure this isn't always the case. Animal behavior doesn't fit into a neat mold where you can predict every move every time. Sure, there are patterns but they aren't followed 100% of the time.
For instance, perhaps they've been scared at one time and won't go back to that spot for a while. Or perhaps maybe they are so hungry they will go back but hesitate, but finally will risk it. Then, once they know there is no risk, they'll continue the pattern.
If they've found your delicious hostas one time, you can bet they'll be back when they are hungry again - if they can they will.
What does all of this mean?
It means knowing how to keep deer out of your garden is all a matter of preventative measures put in place that will discourage them. These measures will never be 100% perfect. The most you can do is try them, see how they work, and adjust them as you see the results.
Here are some of those measures for controlling deer and keeping them out of your gardens.
Methods For Deer Control
The methods we describe below are only some of the ones outlined in the book "Deerproofing Your Yard And Garden," which we've found to work most of the time. There are others not mentioned here though that you can also try.
Deer Control Method #1: Build A Fence:
Here's the best way to keep deer out of your garden: build a fence. This is a pretty obvious solution.
Yes, deer can jump fences and pretty tall ones at that. Still, it's probably your best option.
However, we know everyone doesn't want to add a fence around their property. Perhaps you don't want the outlay of cash and you know fence installation isn't cheap. Maybe the development in which you live doesn't allow it. It could also be you just don't want a fence because you don't want to wall off your yard.
If this is the case, you'll have to turn to other methods.
#2 Deer Control Method - Deer Repellants
Currently our favorite method for keeping deer out of the garden is spray repellants and the one we like best is "Repels-All." This product is made from all natural ingredients and comes in a spray bottle. When you use it, you can smell the natural ingredients, which together don't smell all that pleasant. However, the odor goes away quickly - at least for humans.
Click the image below:
Repels-All works by giving deer an irriation when they touch or smell it, so the deer may try to nibble at the plant, not like it, and turn to something else.
Just spray it on plants and repel all keeps the deer away for at least a month. It even lasts through rain.
We've found that using this spray really works to keep deer out of our gardens for quite a while. Of course, you never know if they have actually not been around or if they've been visiting and have actually been repelled by this product.
The only thing we do know is that after we spray it, we don't have problems with deer.
The one downfall with Repels-All is that every plant you want to protect needs to be sprayed so if you have many plants to protect, you can go through many bottles per year.
In addition, you may decide to spray only the plants you know deer like, only to find them eating something else you didn't spray. This scenario has happened to us so now we just spray everything.
There are more deer repellants on the market and we have tried another that has been discontinued, then switched to Repels All and we're glad we did.
It's available on Amazon so get it now and start protecting your plants.
#3 Deer Control Method - Melorganite
In simple terms, Melorganite is an all natural, organic fertilizer.
If you've heard of it great. Most people haven't - and most people don't know it can be a good deer deterrant.
Since this article is about how to keep deer out of your garden, we won't go into its very specific details here because the article would run way too long but you can find out more about it here: https://www.milorganite.com/
What we want to mention though is that if you're using this product to keep deer away, you'll also be fertilizing your plants with mainly nitrogen, which is the main element that keeps plants green. You'll also be fertilizing your soil as Melorganite contains organic matter that is good for soil.
There have been at least 2 studies that confirm Melorganite to be an effective defense against deer. If you tend to like science want to read them, here ya' go.
It's recommended that you apply Melorganite every 2 weeks around the plants you want to protect, or just after initial deer damage has been discovered.
For us, we sprinkle the product around the perimeter of our property and use Repel All to spray individual plants. This one two punch seems to work for us.
The downside to this fertilizer is that it will put a dent in your wallet, so depending on how much you need, you may have to buy it often which means a significant expense.
We recommend you try it and if you do, you'll be killing two birds with one stone - figuratively. You'll be keeping deer out of your garden and fertilizing your plants at the same time.
Amazon sells it so check it out now:
#4 Deer Control Method - Fishing Line
Fishing line can be considered a fence - sort-of.
The theory behind fishing line is that if you stretch the line about knee or waist high and deer try to pass, they won't see it but will feel it but not know what it is. Then, they'll be spooked by something they can't see and turn away.
This is a good theory that works in part. The thing is, deer can break through the line easily, so you'll want to use the thickest fishing line you can buy and even then, they'll still break through it if they are really hungry or get scared.
Any deterant that's worth trying in our opinions although we've had mixed results with using fishing line.
In addition to the two pronged approach we mentioned above, we've added fishing line as a 3rd line of defense even though we find the line broken quite often. That's not to say it doesn't deter them. It probably does. We still find deer damage occassionally but we feel it would be much worse without these methods in place.
In addition, what we've found is that most of the time when we evidence of a problem, we notice we've fogotten to spray, or the plants they've eaten are the ones we didn't spray because they've never eaten them before.
#5 Deer Control Method - Use Deer Resistant Plants
One of the obvious solutions for controlling deer is choosing deer resistant plants. Plants such as japanese peirres, barberries and others would be good choices but not a fullproof solution. Why?
As we mentioned previously, deer will sometimes eat plants that are considered "deer resistant." If they are hungry, they'll eat more than they would normally - so using plants considered deer resistant is no guarantee they won't be eaten too.
If you're deciding on plants and you have deer problems, always think "deer resistant" first. Then move on if that list is too small or has nothing you like.
Generally, choosing plants with thorns is certainly a good option. It's a fact, we've never seen deer eat barberry or roses. In addition, holly plants with prickly leaves are another plant that, theorically, deer won't eat, which holds true in our observation as well.
For more info on deer resistant plants, go here.
How To Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden - The Final Plan
Rest assured that the methods we have mentioned above work. We know it for a fact because we've used every one of them except building a fence. We are an example of people that don't want their property walled off from the outside world by a fence.
As we've said previously, nothing is a perfect solution that will stop deer entirely. They are very persistent animals, especially when it comes to food and their survival.
Our advice to you is start somewhere - so start with one or more of the methods we outline above. The more methods you try at the same time, the better your odds, so try more than one if you can. Then evaluate the results and adjust accordingly.
Finally, get yourself the book we recommended or get one-on-one advice and garden coaching directly from us by going here: