Perhaps nothing is a greater challenge to home gardeners than creating a deer-resistant landscape. Deer will eat almost anything, especially in the spring when plants are producing lush and tender new growth, and in fall and winter when natural food sources dry up and disappear.
To make matters worse, what deer in one area won't touch, others will devour in a different area. How prolific and available local natural food sources are for deer also plays a role in how often they will venture into neighborhoods. That said, some plants are definitely less "desirable" than other plants.
The key is to "camouflage" your garden by using plants that contain natural chemicals or have characteristics that deter deer from wanting to eat them. You can create a scent barrier by using a variety of strongly aromatic plants, shrubs, and herbs throughout your garden. Deer rely on their sense of smell to determine what is safe or desirable to eat. By using plants with a wide variety of strong odors, you can confuse the deer and they will usually leave the area and go to a landscape where they can clearly identify what they are eating.
Deer are also lazy and will often pass on a garden if the first plants they encounter taste bitter, have tough, coarse, hairy, or prickly foliage--or if they exude a sticky, milky sap when broken. Deer rarely eat these types of plants unless they are desperate. Another natural solution is to use plants that grow fast and can recover quickly from nibble damage.
Young trees can be damaged by deer two different ways: They can eat the foliage up to the browse line (usually no higher than 6' from the ground), plus bucks will often try to polish their antlers on trunks under 3" in diameter. So, we suggest either planting more mature trees or protecting them with a wire cage or scent barrier until the trees mature.
Until you have a chance to get your deer-resistant garden in, there are also non-toxic chemical solutions to deterring deer from your landscape. Some deer repellents work by making plants smell bad. Others use deer predator scents to trick the deer into thinking your garden is unsafe. A third kind of repellent works by making the foliage of your plants taste bad. These repellents can be varied occasionally and should be used until deer associate your yard with bad tastes and smells. (Unfortunately, you may get new deer coming by after the old ones leave, so a better long-term solution is to plant things they don't like.)
Stop by and one of our nursery experts will help you plan the perfect deer-resistant garden, one with plants that you will love--and the deer will hate.
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