The infiltration of deer into home gardens and landscapes is a widespread problem. Deer cause damage to vegetables gardens, trees and ornamental shrubs. Once deer begin eating in your garden, it is more difficult to get rid of deer. This is because their eating patterns are habitual and they will return to the same spot repeatedly unless they encounter a deterrent that makes that spot less appealing. Managing deer problems is not a quick fix and persistence is key for long-term success.
Get Rid of Deer
Before trying to get rid of deer in your garden, first you must verify deer are causing the damage. Deer do not have upper incisors. Instead they tear vegetation. Plants damaged by deer will have a jagged edge. Male deer also can damage trees by rubbing antlers against the trunk, scraping off bark.
Home gardeners often notice deer damage in the spring on new, succulent growth. As a general best practice, do not provide winter feed or salt for deer. It’s also important to put your garden to bed each fall and remove all unharvested fruits and vegetables at the end of the season.
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While you may not be thinking about how to get rid of deer in March, while it’s still winter, deer damage control is most effective if implemented before the growing season begins. Right now, in February and March, deer are likely entering your yard, creating their feeding patterns and coming back on a routine basis. Personally, I have not seen any deer in my yard lately but I have noticed droppings.
Methods to Get Rid of Deer
1) Scare Tactics & Devices
- Loud noises or flashing lights can be used to scare deer. This includes strobe lights, radios, propane gas exploders, gunfire or fireworks. Another method to scare deer is to use a motion-activated sprinkler that is triggered when deer enter the garden.
- Scare tactics and devices work best when the problem first begins. However, a disadvantage to this tactic is deer may retreat and return later. Noises and lights may disturb neighbors and certain methods may not be legal, depending on where you live.
2) Use of Repellants
- Contact repellants are applied directly to plants to make them taste bad. These mixtures often include essential oils, hot-sauce or soap. Sprays are best suited for use in vegetable gardens because they are expensive and have limitations on use. Examples of contact repellants include Liquid Fence, Plantskydd, Deer Stopper and I Must Garden.
- Area repellants are placed near desirable plants to make the yard smell bad. Examples of area repellants include bags of human hair, Irish spring bar soap or predator urine granules such as Shake-Away. Toxicants and poisons may be illegal to use with deer. Check your state laws.
- Repellants are most effective on “less preferred plants,” however, success rates will vary. They often reduce damage, but do not get rid of deer completely. Sprays and liquids may need reapplication.
- Shooting deer provides quick relief to get rid of deer, however, shooting deer may not be legal in your area. Check hunting regulations in your state before trying this tactic.
4) Selecting Plants Strategically
- Keep in mind that if a deer is hungry enough, no plant is completely “deer proof.” Many species, however, are “less preferred” by deer (including herbs) and can be planted to reduce chances of damage. Plant more susceptible plants near the home, in a fenced area or inside a “protective ring” of less-preferred species. This will help to “hide” the tasty plant. I do this with my vegetable garden by planting a border of hardneck garlic around the beds. I order all of my garlic through Botanical Interests. Garlic starts at only $4 per bulb!
5) Use of Fencing
- This can include fencing of entire yard, a specific area of the yard or specific plants. For small areas burlap or netting can be used to create a protective barrier around plants. Tubes of vexar netting can be used around individual seedlings or on small trees. Fresh growth and newly established smaller trees are most at risk.
- For larger ares, or for an entire yard, a homeowner may wish to fence the entire area. Fencing should be seven to 10 feet tall because deer can easily jump over shorter fences. Fencing should also be low to the ground so deer cannot crawl under it.
- The use of fencing is only 100 percent proven way to get rid of deer. However, fencing is costly, can impact the aesthetics of your garden or yard; and height and size of fencing can be limited or local laws. For example, where I live fencing is limited to six feet in height.
How do you get rid of deer in your garden?
Sources: Controlling Deer Damage in Gardens, Prepared by Uma Ramakrishnan (2002), The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; The Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, W-5-2001; and Colorado State University Fact Sheet Preventing Deer Damage, Fact Sheet No. 520