How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden

These creatures may be charming—but they can wreak havoc on your fruits and veggies.

<p>Jordan Feeg/Getty Images</p>

Jordan Feeg/Getty Images

There are 36 million white-tailed deer in the U.S., according to data from World Population Review. Texas alone is home to over 5.5 million white-tailed deer and Michigan is home to over 2 million. There are, also, of course, other types of deer (like mule deer) but their numbers are significantly less. While deer are generally harmless herbivores—and you may find it charming to spot them in a field—most people don't want to see them in their gardens. These forest animals are known to feast on gardens, wreaking havoc on the veggies, fruits, and ornamentals you've planted.

So, here are some ways to keep deer out of your garden, and preserve all that you're growing.

Related: How to Keep Animals Out of Your Garden Without Losing Your Mind

Use Deer Deterrents

There are plenty of deer deterrents available in lawn, hardware, and big box stores. However, Meg Pearson, training manager at Critter Control, recommends trying natural deterrents. “Store-bought chemical pellets and sprays may ward off deer for some time, but are extremely toxic to the environment, pets, and children,” she warns. And since they’ll need to be reapplied consistently to be effective, if you miss any applications, Pearson says deer may continue to come to your garden, anyway.

However, she admits that, while safer, natural repellents may not always be as effective as store bought choices.

Deer-Resistant Plants

“Try planting inedible, thorny plants throughout your garden, which will lightly prick the invading deer, potentially deterring them from coming back to your garden, after they’ve flagged it as a hazardous place to eat,” Pearson says. But be advised that determined deer may find a way around those thorny plants, and she says they will continue to eat whatever they can reach without getting pricked.

Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, a lawn care service in Nashville, TN, recommends planting deer-resistant plants. Some examples include certain perennials (Yucca, Wild Ginger, Tarragon, and Thyme), annuals (Ageratum, Angel’s Trumpet, and Anise), and perennials (Bigleaf Goldenray, Catmint, and Basket of Gold).

Also, Caballero says deer tend to avoid aromatic herbs, like lavender, sage, and rosemary, so try adding some of these to your garden. Plants with fuzzy leaves, such as lamb's ear, are also a deterrent. “These plants not only deter deer, but also add variety and fragrance to your garden,” Caballero says.

Deer-Resistant Spray

Taylor Olberding, co-owner of Heroes Lawn Care, tells me that spraying wolf urine around any entry points or in areas that you want to deter deer from accessing, also works. “You can usually find this in outdoor or hunting supply stores for around $10-$30—just make sure to reapply after any rainfall,” Olberding says.

Build a Protective Fence

A physical barrier is another way to keep deer out of your yard and garden. “However, since deer can often jump eight feet high, the fence would have to be quite tall to consistently keep them out in an effective manner,” Pearson says.

"A simpler and less expensive option is to install two parallel fences, each 4 feet tall and 4 feet apart; deer won’t jump it because they lack the space to land safely between the fences,” Caballero explains.

Both Pearson and Olberding also list electric fencing as another option. “An electric fence shocks the deer when touched, but this can be a pricey endeavor,” Pearson says.

Use Scare Tactics

Sometimes, you can use sights, sounds, and unexpected movements to keep deer out of your garden. For example, Olberding recommends using a motion activated sprinkler. “This might startle the deer and cause them not to return to the area.”

Another option is to use flashing lights. “Some homeowners find some success keeping deer away from their yard and garden by implementing scare tactics, like flashing lights,” Pearson says. “This can be alarming to the deer and may keep them away from your garden for a while, but, over time, they may grow accustomed to the tactic, once they realize it poses no real threat to them, and continue eating your garden anyway."

Enlist the Help of a Professional

If the tactics above don’t work, you might need to enlist the help of a trained wildlife removal and prevention specialist. “This type of professional will be able to properly assess your property, identify where the deer are coming from and devise the most effective preventative measures to keep them out of your garden,” Pearson says.

She acknowledges that homeowners may prefer to save money by trying to handle the problem themselves. “However, the longer you wait to properly handle the problem, the more comfortable the deer get eating from your garden, making the issue more difficult to solve long-term,” she says.

Related: 5 Gardening Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

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