Any gardener will understand the struggles of pest problems in your garden. Depending on where you live, deer damage can be a huge problem that could destroy your beautiful perennials in a few minutes. Turn your back for a second and a herd of hungry deer could descend on your garden for their daily buffet. Taking care of the deer problem is vital for caring for your perennial plants in the fall. Not even your flower beds are safe.
Unfortunately, the growth tips of most plants seem to be the tastiest, so even one or two bites could leave your plants stunted, or worse. So if your perennials don’t have a built-in deterrent (thorns, dark purple new growth), you’re going to have to come up with a plan to keep the deer at bay. There are many tactics and theories out there, but do they work? Some do, and some definitely don’t.
Keep reading to learn how to keep deer from eating your perennials.
What You Need
The thing about deer, or any wild animal really, is that they are highly adaptable. This means they learn quickly. So a deterrent that works today, might not work by the end of the week. Which I’m sure is just what you wanted to hear.
The approach below is going to follow a multi-layered strategy that hopefully keeps your yard deer resistant for the foreseeable future. Below is a list of things you’ll need to follow in this tutorial.
- Scented soap bars/mothballs/garlic
- Human hair
- A dog
Step One: Build A Fence
The best thing you can do to keep deer from eating your plants is to build a fence. But not just any fence, a deer fence.
Since deer can jump really high, a regular fence won’t cut it. You need to build a high fence surrounding the garden bed you’re trying to protect. How high the fence needs to depend on the breed of deer that you’re trying to keep out, but aim for at least 6 feet tall. A strip of chicken wire around the bottom half will keep the most determined deer away from your garden plants.
If you don’t want a high fence, you could try a double fence. A double fence is similar to what they use around prisons. It’s essentially 2 fences, with a strip of low vegetation between the 2.
The idea here is that deer won’t want to jump over the first fence and become trapped between the 2 fences. I’ve heard mixed results from this method, and there are some reports about deer panicking after jumping the first fence and injuring themselves.
It’s probably best to just put up a tall fence. Even an electric fence won’t cut it if it’s too short. Height is essential.
Pro Tip: In my experience, a tall fence is the only way to keep deer out of your garden, long-term, with little to no input from you. All the steps after this one are temporary solutions that you’ll have to keep up for them to be effective.
You could also use the steps below in conjunction with a tall deer fence for maximum efficacy.
Step Two: Plant Deer Resistant Plants
When used in conjunction with the deer fence mentioned above, planting deer-resistant plants around your garden will further deter the deer.
I find planting certain repellent plants around the outside of the fence makes the deer keep their distance and they don’t even investigate the fence.
Which plants deter deer will depend on your region and what kind of deer you’re dealing with. Some aromatic plants are despised by deer and will turn them away. Do some research for your local deer populations and which plants may act as a natural deer repellent.
In my area, I find a dense planting combination of Aloe Arborescens (Krantz Aloe) and Portulacaria Afra (spekboom) creates a dense natural fence over time that deer avoid.
The Portulacaria Afra creates an impenetrable barrier and the Aloes have formidable thorns. Not something you want to tangle with.
Step Three: Bring In The Smells
Deer have a strong sense of smell. That’s how they find the tasty treats you’re growing for them in your perennial beds. But you can use this strong sense of smell as a deer repellent.
A smell that deer don’t like, and will actually turn them away, is the smell from strongly scented bars of soap. Find the strongest smelling soap you can find and buy a few bars.
Make a hole through the bars, thread some twine through the hole, and hang soap bars in strategic locations around your garden.
This will deter the deer from your garden because they want to get away from the string smelling soap.
Since deers are adaptable and determined, they’ll get used to the smell of the soap over time and it will lose its efficacy. To combat this, switch the soap out with different scented soap over time. Or alternate with some other smelly deterrent (mothballs, garlic, fish heads, etc.) to keep the deer away.
Pro Tip: Don’t combine smells. Keep the smelly deterrents consistent at any one time. This will prevent the deer from getting used to all your tricks at the same time. If it’s time to change the smell, change it across the whole garden.
Step Four: Visit Your Local Hairdresser
Still exploiting the strong sense of smell that deer have, spreading human hair around your garden can be an effective way to deter deer. It’s the smell of humans that will keep the deer away.
Visit your local hairdresser or barbershop at the end of the day and collect all the hair clippings. Spreading this around your garden will spread the smell of humans and this should be enough to keep the deer away.
Just like Step Three, you’re going to have to use this as one method in a rotation of methods if you’re relying on olfactory deterrents to keep your garden deer-free.
Step Five: Get A Dog
As if you need another reason to get a dog. Deer views dogs as predators. For this reason, they will steer clear of any territory watched over by a dog.
As the dog goes about his day, he’s spreading his scent around his territory. This scent should be enough to keep deer away from the dog’s territory. The dog’s bark alone should scare deer enough to keep them away.
At the end of the day, any wild animal is adaptable and learns quickly. For this reason, a physical barrier is the best way to keep any animal out of your garden. With a proper fence, you can be confident that the best fall perennials won’t become a deer salad bar. Make sure the fence is high enough so the deer can’t jump over it and be grateful that you don’t have to contend with monkeys and baboons as I do.
While no garden is totally deer-proof, there are a few things you can do to keep them away. Besides the physical barrier, scent deterrents are another effective way to keep deer away, even if it only works for a short time. Make sure to switch out the scents regularly to keep them effective.
In my experience, visual deterrents don’t work. I’ve seen folks hanging pie tins and old CDs around their garden to keep the deer away. The deer are hesitant at first, but quickly realize there’s no threat and will move in for a feast.
Also, make sure you know how to care for your perennials in the fall!
What do you think? Are you confident that you can keep deer out of your garden? Comment below with your top tip for deterring deer or share this post with someone who needs to see it.