Keep deer from eating plants


This young fawn had its fill of edible eats from the garden and is waiting for its mom to finish eating.

(Rick Wetherbee)

There’s no denying the adorable factor that deer possess. However, the damage they can do to your garden or yard is anything but cute. In fact, an adult deer can “nibble” up to 10 pounds of vegetation a day, from seedlings to tender buds to entire plantings.
Deer damage is becoming more common in gardens than ever before as many deer have turned into suburban dwellers by necessity rather than by choice. But there’s no need to throw in the trowel just yet. There are many strategies you can use with varying degrees of effectiveness that will help keep deer at bay.
Sidetrack their interest
To outwit deer, you first need to understand a little about their nature. Deer are natural browsers, but they’ll often leave less desirable plantings alone when their favorites are right at hand. For example, an azalea bush in a garden of roses will most likely remain untouched. Then again, that azalea is likely to be the main course in a garden lacking their favorite foods. You can, however, use this to your advantage.
One way to deerproof a garden is to grow a perimeter of plants you’re willing to sacrifice in order to protect your favorites. Another deterrent is to surround favorite deer plantings with repellent plants. These are distasteful plants that most deer turn their nose up at, such as most hollies, barberry, spirea, yarrow, iris and Shasta daisies.

Deer fencing is a fool proof way to keep deer out of the garden and away from vulnerable plantings.

Install a physical barrier
The right fencing is a sure-fire way to keep deer out. A perimeter fence that is 8 feet tall is usually sufficient. But for fail-proof fencing, aim for a height of at least 10 feet tall.
Deer can jump high and they can jump wide, but they usually can’t do both at the same time. Which provides you with another option if tall fencing is restricted or not practical in your neighborhood; installing a double row of 4 foot high fencing spaced 3 feet apart can be quite effective.
Bet the odds with repellents
Quick and easy plant protecting solutions can be found in several remedies that have helped many gardeners keep deer damage under control. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeding, so the smell of other animals is often is enough to stop deer in their tracks. If you don’t have pets to guard the garden, you can use dog, cat or human hair (not dyed) as a mulch around susceptible plants. Blood meal and fish emulsion can slow snacking deer, as can fox urine, which can usually be found in hunting departments and in sporting good stores.
A hot pepper spray seems to be quite effective for some gardeners but not for others. You can make your own hot pepper spray by dissolving 2 tablespoons of ground hot pepper and six drops of liquid detergent together in a gallon of water. (Warm water will help the mixture dissolve better.) Be sure to wash your hands after making the spray and wash treated vegetables before eating your harvest.
Egg-based commercial deer repellents are environmentally safe and biodegradable so you can spray plants without worry. One of the best I’ve ever tested is a product called Bobbex Deer Repellent, a topical foliar spray that uses natural taste and smell-aversion ingredients to deter deer from browsing on foliage, shrubs and trees. (For food plants, I simply use it as a barrier spray around my beds.)

It is safe for use around sensitive plantings and harmless to humans, pets, wildlife and aquatic life. What’s more, it has been found to be 93 percent effective–second only to a physical barrier–in testing by the Connecticut Department of Forestry and Horticulture.
For long-term protection in the convenience of a capsule, Summit Deer Ban is my go-to repellent. Just set out the capsules on the ground every 10 to 20 feet around the plants you want to protect. Then water the capsules to release the scent for up to 90 days of protection. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s effective.
Use motion deterrents
If odor doesn’t repel problem deer, one solution that may scare them away is the use of motion-activated noise-makers or lights. For example, hang aluminum pie pans around the garden so they make noise when the wind blows, or install an outside motion-detector light. One gardener I know keeps her roses safe by wrapping them in miniature outdoor Christmas lights that blink on and off.
Water in the form of a motion-activated sprinkler like Scare Crow may also have them running. The motion-activated sprinkler works for up to six months on one, nine-volt battery and protects up to 1,200 square feet of space both day and night.
Grow unpalatable plants
Few plants are totally deer-proof, but there are many plants that deer may leave alone, depending on where you live. Different deer species tend to have different food favorites that they prefer. And as the deer population increases, there’s naturally less food to go around. As such, a less desirable plant may suddenly become gourmet fare.
For example, deer will usually avoid our taller sedums, but on years when deer are abundant and/or food is scarce they will eat them to the ground. Yet certain plantings in our garden–like santolina, germander, ceanothus, lavender and rosemary–always escape their enthusiastic nibbles.
You may notice deer devouring young plants while avoiding older and more established plantings of the same variety. And when dry conditions make native and naturalized plants even more scarce, deer may nibble garden plants they might otherwise leave alone.
The list of deer-resistant plants includes many trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs, perennials and annuals for the landscape and garden. Typically safe bets for the vegetable garden include artichokes, cardoon, rhubarb, onions and garlic. Conifers, ornamental grasses and many culinary herbs also don’t seem to appeal to hungry deer. Just remember that what might prove to be deer-resistant in one person’s garden might not hold true in your own.
–Kris Wetherbee


17 Solutions to Keep Deer Off Your Property

First-time homeowners and people who are new to gardening may be excited when they first see deer in their yards. However, after the deer work through their property, those homeowners might find their fruit trees chewed to nubs and their garden destroyed.

Deer can quickly decimate decorative trees, shrubs and fruit trees. These animals also make short work of vegetable gardens. Deer can also carry ticks that spread Lyme disease, a debilitating illness that affects both people and dogs.

For these reasons, many people prefer to keep deer completely off their property and Havahart® will show you how.

How to Protect Your Trees and Plants from Deer

Deer are smarter than we often give them credit. The most successful strategy to protect trees, plants, and gardens from deer is to keep them guessing and use a variety of methods to keep them away from your landscape. Havahart® offers these 17 ideas to add to your arsenal of options to stop deer from intruding in your yard:

1. Eliminate deer attractants. If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, harvest produce as soon as it is ready. This will prevent deer from seeing (or smelling) something tasty and deciding your yard is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

2. Keep deer-attracting plants closer to your home. This is especially important during spring when mother deer are providing food for their fawns. They enter yards in search of delicious plants that are high in protein and nutrients. During this time, deer love to feast on English Ivy and a variety of vegetable plants like peas and lettuce. Any fruit-bearing trees or vines will also be targeted. Deer enjoy the sweet taste of strawberries and peaches as well as many flowers, including pansies and impatiens. Grow these plants closer to your home and within eyesight of your windows. Even hungry deer are reluctant to come so close to a human dwelling.

3. Maintain your landscape. Don’t make your yard a cozy place for visiting deer. You don’t want to tempt them into bedding down for the night or resting there in the day. Trim densely planted areas to make them seem less appealing as hiding places. Deer prefer areas that offer quick cover in the case of predators, so eliminating that cover will discourage deer from hanging out in your yard.

4. Spray them with a motion-activated sprinkler. Underground sprinkler systems on timers as well as motion-activated water sprinklers are often used to keep deer away from certain garden beds and trees. For a more advanced solution, try the Critter Ridder® Motion Activated Animal Repellent Sprinkler. This sprinkler detects movement with infrared technology, day or night. This great tool startles animals with a blast of harmless water and emits a sound to scare them. As a bonus, the Critter Ridder® is effective for chasing other pesky critters away, too. It’s adjustable, easy to set up and environmentally friendly.

5. Add levels to your yard. Deer don’t enjoy climbing up or down steep or sheer slopes. A yard that seems difficult to navigate can deter deer immediately. Sunken beds, terraces, and stacked chopped wood can be added to the landscape to prevent deer from entering too far into your yard. When deer see these, they are afraid to jump or climb on them and will find somewhere else to graze. Keep potted plants up on the deck or porch, deer will likely not attempt to climb stairs to reach them.

6. Let your dog spend plenty of time in the yard. Chances are if your dog spots a deer, it will bark. The deer will run and may eventually decide your yard isn’t a safe place to graze.

7. Use plants and shrubs as taste-based repellents. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell. If something smells unappealing to them, they will avoid it. Deer develop preferences for plants and trees that taste good, just like humans do. If you can make your trees unappealing to a deer’s sense of smell and taste, it will likely go elsewhere for food. For these reasons, some homeowners plant pungent herbs and other plants around the trees and shrubs they want to protect. This may help to a degree, but you will find that deer, like people, have different preferences. You could accidentally plant something that your deer find absolutely delicious!

For these reasons, some homeowners plant pungent herbs and other plants around the trees and shrubs they want to protect. This may help to a degree, but you will find that deer, like people, have different preferences. You could accidentally plant something that your deer find absolutely delicious!

Some deer-repelling plants with strong aromas include lavender, catmint, garlic or chives. Because they are thorny, roses are sometimes a good choice as well, but some deer find roses to be a wonderful snack.

With any type of deer-resistant plants, you’ll learn by trial and error which plants are not favored by the deer where you live. Try asking other homeowners and gardeners to get an idea of the plants they use to repel deer.

8. Use plants and shrubs as texture-based repellents. Poisonous plants, such as daffodils, are avoided by deer. Mullein or lamb’s ear has a texture that deer don’t like. Shrubs like Russian olive, boxwood and oleander are also unappealing to deer because they are prickly and not pleasant to chew. Keep in mind, though, that while these are not plants that deer prefer, if a deer is hungry enough, it will eat whatever it can find. That’s why there are no deer-proof plants — only deer-resistant ones.

Keep in mind that some deer-repelling plants can quickly overwhelm your yard. For example, catmint and mullein are sometimes considered weeds because they spread quickly and grow well in less-than-ideal conditions. Be sure to research anything before you plant it so you understand its growing habits and how to keep it controlled.

9. Use hedges to create a border. Boxwoods and other thick hedges can be used to keep deer out. These plants line the yard’s perimeter and act as a border or a wall, deterring deer from crossing through. Because deer can’t see through the hedges into the yard, they may decide to skip your yard and head elsewhere because it’s too risky for them to proceed. Keep hedges well maintained so they stay full and continue to block the view into your yard.

10. Build a fence. Adding a strong, tall fence all the way around your property may keep most deer out. However, deer can jump quite high. A good rule of thumb is to build your fence at least eight feet tall and don’t leave any gaps wider or taller than six inches. Keep your fence well-maintained so that deer don’t find a way to squeeze in.

11. Apply proven deer repellents. Deer repellent products are effective in obstructing a deer’s sense of smell and taste. Deer Off® products are ideal repellents to apply to your trees because they affect both senses. These repellents emit a scent that reminds deer of a decaying animal. This signals deer and other animals to vacate the yard. Additionally, the repellent tastes like garlic which makes it unappealing to deer.

The Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University states that these repellents “can reduce browsing on individual shrubs or trees by 50-75%.” Deer Off® lasts up to 90 days with one application.

For best results, you should treat your trees with a repellent before the deer start nibbling on them. They typically feed on trees in the autumn through early spring (approximately October through February). During this time frame, female deer are most hungry. When you use deterrents early, before deer find grazing sites, they learn early in the season to avoid your plants and are less likely to investigate the area again.

12. Install plant nets or tree wraps. Tree wraps are also commonly used to prevent deer from nibbling and rubbing their antlers on trees. However, wraps are not attractive, and sometimes deer are smart enough to knock them off the tree. If you use wraps to prevent antler rubbing, be sure to install them in the fall when deer start marking their territories. Netting can also be used to prevent deer from getting at your plants. Place the net over bushes, across fruit trees and overtop bulbs to protect them from deer. The nets allow your plants to still get water and light but keep them protected. It’s especially important to wrap or cover young plants as they are in their most vulnerable stage.

13. Put up wind chimes. Repellent sprays are perfect when deer are eating your trees, but how do you keep deer away from trees when they want to use them as a rubbing post? One of the best ways is to startle them so they think the area is unsafe. Wind chimes, which make noise unexpectedly, are a good start. However, deer tend to adjust quickly, and they may ignore those chimes when they hear them often. It’s best to keep deer guessing by adding a variety of wind chimes in both metal and wood materials. While you shouldn’t rely solely on wind chimes to do the trick, it’s a simple solution to tackling your deer problem.

14. Incorporate “busy” décor into your landscape. Along the same line as wind chimes, you can add some moving decorations to your yard that spin, wiggle, whistle or rotate with the help of solar or wind power. Unusual movements and sounds will make deer wary to enter your yard.

15. String up fishing line. Create a border around a plant bed or other area that attracts deer using fishing line. String the fishing line two to three feet above ground and pull it taut. Deer become confused by this barrier and will eventually give up in frustration.

16. Install electronic posts. Another great tool to try in conjunction with the Critter Ridder® Motion Activated Animal Repellent Sprinkler is the Electronic Deer Repellent. It allows you to keep a natural-looking landscape without having to install an unattractive (and expensive) fence to keep deer away from trees and shrubs.

These unassuming posts smell like acorns to entice deer to investigate them. Once they touch the post, they get a mild shock. It’s not enough to hurt them. Instead, it startles them and discourages them from returning.

These posts can be moved to other areas of your yard as needed. You don’t have to worry about being close to a power source because they are operated by a long-life battery, making them ideal for remote parts of your property.

17. Rotate your deer-repellent tools. If you use a variety of these deer-repellent methods throughout your yard, you’ll really make deer work for a meal. In a few weeks, move your Critter Ridder® from one place to another or add Deer Off® to another plant that has suddenly piqued a hungry deer’s interest. An ever-changing environment will confuse deer and discourage them from making your yard a favorite stop.

Your Plan to Repel Deer

Deer are smart, much to the frustration of homeowners who value their trees and landscaping. However, by understanding deer and learning what they like and dislike, you can take action against their destructive habits. With our deer-repellent products from Havahart® and these other ideas, you can protect your trees and other valuable plants from these and other animals.

Are you having trouble with deer? Contact our customer service center at 1-855-5-HAVAHART or ask online for personalized advice on keeping deer out of your yard and garden. You can also show off your deer-repelling efforts when you visit Havahart® on Facebook.

For more advice and exclusive updates on Havahart® products, subscribe to our eNewsletter.

How to Get Rid of Deer

There are many techniques you can try to deter deer from munching on your plants. Try some of these methods for your garden:

  • Spray flowers and shrubs with a deer repellent that contains a mixture of dried bovine blood, sulfured eggs, and garlic. These repellents are available at most home and garden stores. They will not harm your plants and are usually effective in deterring deer.
  • For another natural deer repellent, combine 1 raw egg, ½ cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of dish detergent, and 1 gallon of water. Lightly spray the mixture over plants. Respray after rain. Or, mix two tablespoons of Tabasco sauce to a gallon of water and spray the foliage and fruit. If it rains, reapply.
  • Use scare tactics. Try putting several metal posts 4- to 5-feet-tall around the garden. Attach a metal pie tin to the top of each pole with twine. The least bit of wind makes the pine tins clack with a noise that the deer don’t like.
  • Put a transistor radio in your garden and keep it on all night. Switch the station when you think of it. The noise will keep deer away.
  • Set up an inexpensive motion detector in your garden. When a deer triggers it, the noise will scare the deer back into the woods.
  • Drape fabric netting over plants and (most) deer will stay clear.
  • For a natural deer deterrent, scatter dog or human hair around your garden, or hang human hair in pantyhose or mesh bags in trees. Find human hair clippings at a barber shop.
    • To keep deer away from apple trees, hang nylon stockings filled with human hair from the limbs so that the clumps of hair are suspended about four feet from the ground. The hair and hose should be changed often.
  • Scatter or hang bars of deodorant or cheap motel soap around the garden; if you leave the wrappers on, the soap will last longer. Irish Spring is particularly recommended.
  • Mix rotten eggs in water (a dozen or so per 5 gallons) and spray around the perimeter of the garden.
  • Spread kitty litter around the edge of the garden.
  • Soak old socks in Lysol, spread around garden’s perimeter, and hang from a tree limb or stake.
  • One reader, Rick, says, “Smelly old shoes can be used as a deterrent to deer. Just stick the shoes on top of tomato sticks, and watch the deer walk a wide circle around them. My shoes usually last from mid-May until about mid-August. That is, they keep the deer out of my garden for that long. This depends on the amount of rain and how much your shoes smell.”
  • You can also drape your unwashed laundry around a low fence, or make a very pungent scarecrow of your unlaundered clothes.
  • For a real odor offensive, use predator urine; wolf and coyote urine are sold commercially in most garden stores. (Note: Use a responsible source for predator urine, to make sure that the animals are treated humanely and the brand complies with state and federal regulations.)

Prevent Deer in Your Garden

  • Make it tough for deer to browse. Trim off lower branches of trees. No deer wants to waste time picking through your scare yard if there are lush bushes next door.
  • Clean up your yard. Don’t leave acorns, rotted fruit, or leaves on your lawn; they are an open invitation to hungry deer.
  • For your garden, choose flowers and shrubs that are unpalatable to deer, such as forsythia, lilac bush, marigolds, zinnias, daffodils, lavender and snapdragons. Contact your local cooperative extension for suggestions in your area. See our chart with a list of deer-resistant plants.
  • Put strong-smelling plants that deer don’t like on the outside of your garden and smaller plants that need more protection on the inside. Deer tend to stay away from poisonous plants, strongly flavored plants, and plants with hairy or furry leaves.
  • The most reliable method is to fence in your garden. Put up a strong, 8-foot-tall metal fence.

See more about critter-resistant plants.

Are your outdoor plants providing a steady supply of snacks for the local deer?

Deer are gorgeous, graceful creatures — a true joy to watch. But, these majestic animals can also pose an incredible nuisance for gardeners. Whether alone or in a small herd, they can wreak havoc on the landscape, munching their way through vegetables, flowers, shrubs and even trees.

Fortunately, experts recommend a few tricks to prevent deer from feasting in the garden.

No. 1: Choose Deer-Resistant Outdoor Plants

While hungry deer may eat just about anything, they tend to avoid prickly and fuzzy foliage. And, they don’t really like heavily fragranced plants, either.

Experiment with different textured and aromatic plants. Try using them as borders for your garden beds. Keep in mind that every herd eats differently, so varieties that deter deer in some areas may not work in others.

No. 2: Place Bar Soap Near Outdoor Plants

To keep deer away, many Utah gardeners turn to ordinary bar soap. The scent is said to interfere with their sensitive sense of smell.

Choose a brand with a powerful fragrance, and hang bars from strings in trees or large shrubs. Or, attach soap bars to stakes and place them around the edges of your garden beds to keep the deer at bay.

No. 3: Scatter Human Hair Around Outdoor Plants

The scent of human hair can also prevent deer from entering a garden.

Ask your barber or hairdresser for some clippings. You may need to sweep them up yourself, but they should be free of charge. Scatter the hair like mulch across your garden beds, or stuff it into pantyhose and hang the deer-deterrent stockings out of sight throughout the landscape.

No. 4: Apply a Deer-Repellant Spray to the Outdoor Plants

As long as you apply them on a routine basis, spray deterrents can help stop deer from eating your plants.

Dozens of commercially-made brands are available, most of which use a foul scent and terrible taste to deter deer. Or, try one of the many recipes for homemade spray repellants. Customers have reported having success with various blends of eggs, hot sauce, garlic and clove oil.

No. 5: Add a Motion Sensor Near the Outdoor Plants

Some gardeners use solar-powered motion sensor units to frighten deer away.

However, a deer herd may quickly come to understand that certain lights and repetitive sounds pose no real threat. Instead, install a motion-triggered device that squirts water or turns on a live radio broadcast.

No. 6: Physically Protect Your Garden Plants Against Deer

A physical barrier is considered to be the most effective method for keeping deer from eating up the landscape.

Plastic netting or floating row covers can protect your plants for a minimal cost. If you’re going to invest in property fencing, though, make sure it’s tall enough – deer can jump up to 8 feet on level ground, and even higher on sloped ground. And, a stockade fence is the best choice, as deer are reluctant to jump over fencing when they can’t see what’s on the other side.

For expert gardening tips and advice, Utah gardeners can trust the friendly staff at Millcreek Gardens. To learn more about growing and protecting outdoor plants, visit us in Salt Lake City today.

‘Deer’ can refer to any one of almost a hundred different species spanning the globe. The most common species in the U.S. are the white-tailed deer (in the east, southeast and Midwest) and the mule deer out west. Deer numbers have increased considerably since man has virtually eliminated their major predators. Suburbs encroaching on formerly natural open areas, woods and farm fields have compounded the problem as well.

Deer around the world thrive in habitats ranging from tundra to tropical rain forests, from forested mountains to open savannas and prairies. They will also thrive in your backyard if you’re not careful!

Deer problems usually consist of deer eating plants such as flowers, vegetables, fruits, and leaves from trees and bushes. Deer will also eat grasses, fallen nuts, and other nutrient-rich ground cover. When harmless foraging turns into the regular destruction of your landscaping and these deer problems start becoming a real financial burden, you might want to consider the following deer repellent solutions.

5 Tips for Solving Deer Problems

1) Choose plants carefully

In order to keep deer away from your yard and garden, it is important to choose plants that will not attract deer. Here is a short list of some of the best and worst plants for avoiding deer problems:

Attract deer problems:

  • Azaleas
  • Tulips
  • Pansies
  • Hybrid roses
  • Impatiens
  • Garden phlox
  • Daylilies
  • Fruit trees (apple, cherry, plum, peach, apricot)
  • Nuts (acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts)
  • Mushrooms
  • Vegetables (beans, potatoes, corn, peas, alfalfa)
  • Grasses, ferns, and clover

Avoid deer problems:

  • Daisies
  • Tiger lilies
  • Wisteria
  • Irises
  • Geraniums
  • Dahlias
  • Wormwood
  • Boxwood
  • Scented herbs (mint, lavender, oregano, thyme)
2) Apply scent aversions

Use scent aversions to repel deer from certain plants and areas of your yard or garden.

Also look for plant fertilizers that contain blood meal. Blood meal is an excellent source of nitrogen for nitrogen-needy plants, plus it is a scent that naturally repels deer (although blood meal may attract other pests such as raccoons and skunks so if you are repelling multiple pest animals, Nature’s Defense All-Purpose Animal Repellent Granules may be a better choice).

3) Use an ultrasonic repeller

Deer Gard is an ultrasonic (nearly silent-to-humans) deer repelling device. Ultrasonic pest control uses high-frequency sound waves that frighten, irritate and intimidate pest animals such as deer, motivating them to leave the area. Deer Gard is perfect for yards and gardens, covering up to 4,000 sq. ft. and working continuously and discreetly to keep deer away. Ultrasonic deer control is a humane and eco-friendly solution to deer problems.

4) Scare deer away

There are many things that can scare deer away from your property. Some people leave a radio on or let their dogs outside to keep deer away. Putting up foil repellent tape such as Irri-Tape can help to intimidate pest deer. Irri-tape is a holographic foil tape that uses sight and sound to repel pest birds and animals. The iridescent material shimmers and reflects the sunlight while also making metallic noises as it flaps in the wind.

5) Create physical barriers

If deer are hungry enough, they may ignore threatening scents and sounds and visuals in order to get to the food in your garden. It is helpful to make it physically challenging for them to access the plants. Fencing is an excellent choice, for obvious reasons. Plastic exclusion netting is a good way to protect more specific areas from scavenging deer without sealing off the entire property. You can also use large rocks, prickly plants, hardy bushes (like boxwood) and deep ponds to create a more treacherous environment that won’t be so appealing to deer.

For more information about deer repellents, solving deer problems and humane pest animal control in general,

The biggest garden ‘pest’ to a suburban and rural gardens is definitely deer.

Many homeowners can succeed or at least mitigate this challenge to their garden design by employing seasonally adjusted nonlethal measures such as deer-resistant plants, repellant substances, frighteners or barriers/fencing.

There are many different views about having these creatures in the garden, but one thing is for certain: there’s really not much you can do to keep them out completely. Even plants that are deer resistant become appealing if the animal is hungry enough. If you have an invasion on your hands your best bet is a double fence. Deer can jump pretty high, but they don’t like to jump across a double barrier. So a fence inside a fence is much more effective than one tall fence. The fence should be 6 ft. high minimum, preference is 7ft. The space between the fences should be too far apart for a deer to jump across. You can also install plant material that are” least likely to be browsed by deer.” Most states have horticultural extensions that offer recommendations. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut. Some links provided below.


Deer Candy

Taxes and Arborvitae are considered “deer” candy. They are perhaps one of the most likely plants that deer will browse on a suburban landscape. When designing beds consider the deer’s browsing methodology… put a plant that they don’t prefer (Pieris japonica) in front of one that they do (Taxus, Arborvitae). Deer will browse as high as they can comfortable reach.. so it make sense that in the photo below these large Arborvitae are devoured up to 7 feet.

Tips for Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden

Once deer discover your yard as a delectable deli, they will hop fences, ignore scare tactics, and show up like clockwork to devour plant after plant. They’ll trot right up on a porch to chomp off the roses or stretch high to nibble the clematis you thought were safe on an arbor.

Hungry deer will eat almost anything—including the foods listed on our “won’t eat” list. It partly depends on what else is available and how hungry the deer are. Deer in different regions have different palates. And the deer in your backyard might not be the only one in the neighborhood that enjoys gobbling morning glories.

Image zoom

What Deer Like

Deer often go for tender greens of lettuce, pansy, ivy, hosta, and most young plants. Spring and early-summer plants, including tulips, lilies, and roses, seem especially delectable to deer, even if they are planted in containers. They feast on fruits of all kinds, from strawberries to fruit trees and fallen fruit. Deer will eat bark, twigs, and leaves of most trees and shrubs. They damage woody plants, particularly during winter, when food is scarce.

Related: Organic Pest Control Solutions

How To Identify Deer Damage

Clues of deer visiting your garden include nibbled produce, roughly clipped leaves, buds and blossoms vanished overnight, hoof prints in soil, and small piles of round black droppings. Scrapes on tree trunks and woody shrub branches are often from deer antlers in the winter. Deer can reach leaves as high as six feet, so scoring on trees that high will eliminate smaller animals.

Odor Deterrents

There are many deer deterrents that rely on odor, and effectiveness varies on how quickly your particular deer adjust to them. It’s typical for many techniques to work for only a few days. Some common deterrents that are spread around the plants include:

  • Mothballs
  • Hair
  • Decaying fishheads
  • Blood meal
  • Garlic
  • Fabric softener
  • Processed sewage
  • Repellent plants

Image zoom

Physical Deterrents

Certain obstacles and items will keep deer far away from your gardens. Fencing is the most obvious barrier, but reflective surfaces and thorny branches can be just as effective. More physical deterrent options include:

  • Thorny branches
  • Floodlights
  • Hidden fishing lines
  • Sprinklers
  • Reflective surfaces (aluminum pie pans, streamers)
  • Fences
  • Netting

Image zoom

Garden-Protecting Fences

The most effective technique to deterring deer may be a fence around the garden. To keep deer out, a fence should extend partly underground and not have gaps bigger than 6×6 inches where deer can squeeze through or crawl under. Enclose the entire garden or deer will go around the fence. A fence should also be at least 8 feet high. Some deer can clear an 8-foot fence unless obstacles—such as angled netting, tree branches, or thorny shrubs—prevent a clear take-off or landing place. Or try two 4- or 5-foot-high fences placed 3 feet apart.

Image zoom

Netting For Plant Protection

Drape shrubs and small trees with garden netting—the same material used to keep birds off edible plants. You can also use netting and metal stakes to create a temporary fence around a small section of a garden. Black deer netting, also known as “invisible netting,” won’t block the visibility of your garden, but will keep deer out if it is 8 feet or taller. If you don’t want fencing that high but still want to keep deer out of an area, practice double fencing. Set up two lower net fences a few feet apart. Similar to hanging pie pans to trees and shrubs, you can attach shiny streamers to netting to scare deer away.

Noise Deterrents

Deer are easily spooked and can be kept away using noise deterrents like whistles and windchimes. They also avoid electric wires because of the humming sound they make. Some other noise deterrent options include:

  • Noisemakers
  • Flags
  • Radios
  • Whistles
  • Firecrackers
  • Electric wires

Image zoom

Deer Deterrent Sprays

There are DIY deer-defying sprays for plants, such as rotten-egg and water, soap spray, hot pepper spray, and there are also many types of commercial repellent sprays. Be sure to keep your deer repellant sprays as organic as possible. Some people even try to lure deer away by planting the animal’s favorite foods in a remote part of the property, far from gardens and flower beds.

Deterring Deer by Season

Deer—and their less common relatives, moose and elk—usually leave a path of destruction in the landscape and can destroy plants and trees in every season. It’s not enough to apply a deer repellant spray once or twice a year. Deer learn from experience, so repetitive applications will give them the message that they are not welcome in your rose garden. Although you should keep using deterrents in every season, there are different methods to use in each that is appropriate for where the damage is worst and how the deer behave.


Mating season starts in the fall for the deer population, which means there will be larger groups of deer in one area (does and bucks are seeking each other out). Most flowers will be winding down from their blooming season, but it’s the trees you need to worry most about. Fall is also when bucks start to scrape their antlers against trees to remove the velvety layer grown over the summer. The repetitive scraping can damage, and even kill, trees. Make sure to use deterrents to protect trees of any size.


It seems like winter should be your down time when it comes to deer, but they can be just as destructive in the dead of winter as they are in other seasons. When the grass and plants are covered in snow, deer look up for a food source and start chewing off twigs and leaves. Their eating habits can leave your branchy plants looking misshapen, can kill limbs, or even kill the whole plant.


After a winter of searching for accessible food, deer have huge appetites in the spring, and new shoots and buds are especially enticing. If you’ve had deer problems in the past years, they will probably return in the next spring. The folks at Bobbex, a natural deer repellent brand, recommend spraying repellent every two weeks or when one to two inches of new growth appears.

Buy it: Bobbex Deer Repellent Ready-to-Use Spray, $15


Lower growing plants are in the most danger in the summer, while trees and shrubs are the concern in the cooler seasons. Natural food choices are easier to find. But, when the weather turns hot and dry, natural vegetation in forests and fields can get scorched and die off, forcing deer to look to well-groomed landscaping for green.

Deer-Resistant Plant Options for Your Yard

Deer steer clear of plants that are poisonous, fuzzy, coarse, spiny, bitter, or very aromatic. But if deer are unclear about liking something, they’ll try it, so even things they don’t like aren’t always safe to plant. Start the design of your garden with known deer-resistant plants.

Image zoom ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple

Deer-Deterring Trees

  • Black locust
  • Cedar
  • False cypress
  • Ginkgo
  • Hackberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Japanese maple
  • Magnolia
  • Oak
  • Palm trees
  • Spruce (usually)

Image zoom

Shrubs That Deer Avoid

  • Abelia
  • Golden bamboo
  • Heavenly bamboo
  • Barberry (usually)
  • Boxwood
  • Butterfly bush
  • Cotoneaster
  • Currant
  • Daphne
  • Burning bush (some varieties)
  • Flowering quince
  • Heath
  • Holly
  • Lilac
  • Mahonia
  • Mountain laurel
  • Pieris
  • Potentilla
  • Smoke tree
  • Spirea
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Sumac
  • Tamarisk tree
  • Viburnum
  • Yucca

Image zoom

Perennials That Deter Deer

  • Ajuga
  • Agave
  • Aster
  • Astilbe
  • Bellflower
  • Catmint
  • Centaurea
  • Cyclamen
  • Fern
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Iris
  • Lamb’s ears
  • Lavender
  • Lupine
  • Mint
  • Phlox
  • Oleander
  • Ornamental onion
  • Penstemon
  • Fountaingrass
  • Rosemary
  • Salvia
  • Armeria
  • Thyme
  • Tuberous begonia
  • Verbena
  • Veronica
  • Viola
  • Yarrow
  • By BH&G Garden Editors

Dad’s Trick: How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden Or Yard

Tyrant Farms is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more 4.9Kshares

  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Yummly

Trying to figure out how to keep deer out of your garden? Thankfully, my clever dad figured out an incredibly simple trick that only costs a few dollars and has been 100% effective at keeping the deer out.

We’ve never quite figured out why, but deer do not come into our garden to graze despite the fact that:

  1. Our property backs up to the woods and we see deer walking through the woods frequently;
  2. Our yard is an edible landscape chock full of tasty greens and other goodies that deer love.

Maybe it’s because of the steep slope and terraced, rock walls. Maybe it’s because I, like any self-respecting man, regularly “scent” the area along the back of our property where the deer would enter.

More likely still is that there are other abundant food sources all around us that make an easier, safer target.

We’re the lucky ones.

So many people we know – even in urban areas – have “deer problems.” If you’ve spent a lot of time growing and tending a garden or landscape only to have it become another critter’s free salad bar, the resulting sentiments will likely be equal parts rage and heartbreak.

It’s enough to make a vegetarian crave venison.

Vegetable venison stew anyone? – Photo CC BY 2.0 license credit Heath A on flickr.

What to do?

Lucky for you, I’m going to tell you exactly how to keep deer out of your garden – inexpensive and permanently. But I can’t take any credit for the discovery…

Dad And Deer War I

It just so happens that my father lives on the edge of a forested golf course.

Deer, as you may not know, are “edge animals.” They’re specifically adapted to occupy the edges of forests and grasslands/meadows. From evening to morning, they’ll forage in the open, plant-rich boundary zones, then settle back into the forest or thickets to rest during the day.

This means two things:

  1. a lush suburban yard with a nearby patch of forest is PERFECT deer habitat; and
  2. if you live in such a place, you’d better learn how to keep deer out of your garden or yard if you don’t want your plants to be eaten.

My dad’s landscape beds have long been full of gorgeous rose bushes and lilies. Much to his dismay, these plants were frequently being mowed down by deer at night.

Determined not to yield to defeat, he went to Lowes and Home Depot to find a fix.

“Yes, I’d like to order more of the day lilies please.” Image by Iwctoys at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The salespeople were quite happy to sell him products that claimed to be the cure-all for deer… Scented sprays, motion-triggered ultrasonic noise and light devices, etc.

He also tried putting fur from his dog on his most prized plants, hoping the smell of a ferocious predator (a frequently-groomed 20 pound King Charles spaniel) would scare away the pestiferous ruminants.

All these remedies had one thing in common: none of them worked.

Victory: Deer War II – How to keep deer out of your garden using “dad’s trick”

Lesser men would have given in to despair, but dad invoked his inner-Winston Churchill and soldiered on.

He used the magic of the internet, he consulted farmers, golf course maintenance professionals, and anyone else who could possibly offer solutions to defeat the enemy.

It’s unclear who ultimately provided the idea for the secret weapon that would lead to victory (there was a lot of incoming intel to sort through), but whoever you are, you deserve a medal.

Whoever and wherever you are… thank you.

The secret weapon: fishing line… For $6 dollars. Yes, fishing line. 10-15 pound test, invisible fishing line to be exact.

How Does Fishing Line Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden?

No, you’re not trying to hook and reel in a deer with the fishing line. You simply string the fishing line about 3 feet above the ground attached to stakes.

You can use metal or plastic stakes that blend into your garden, making the whole setup virtually invisible to the human eye. Here’s a 24 pack for protecting a smaller area and a 48 pack for protecting a larger area.

How the heck does fishing line keep a deer out of your garden or yard? You have to know a bit about how deer “work.”

Deer have better night vision than we do, but their eyes don’t operate quite the same as a human eye.

You have “predator eyes” on the front of your head. Your eyes give you a 120-degree view of what’s in front of you. They zoom in on a specific point and everything else around that point blurs.

Deer have “prey eyes” on the side of their heads that give them a 300-degree view, but they can only relatively clearly see (at the equivalent of 20/40 vision) the 60-degree view that overlaps between the input from both eyes.

Image by Teaberryeagle – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Simply put, deer are really good at spotting movement from relatively far away and from a very wide field of vision. However, when it comes to having clear, focused vision on something right in front of them, their eyes don’t cut it.

A deer’s eyes works great if a wolf or mountain lion is after them.

Unlike their eyesight, a deer’s sense of smell and hearing is far better than yours.

Now, back to the fishing line trick…

Basically, deer can not see the fishing line that’s right in front of them. They can smell your delicious garden/landscape plants and see a blurry version of that lush, green goodness.

They start to approach the meal you grew for them. There’s no sound, smell, or sight of danger anywhere around. They move in for the feast.

Then suddenly, something right in front of them that they hadn’t detected brushes against their fur. What the heck – run Bambi, run!

And that’s it.

Your garden plants have been saved and the memory of the frightening encounter is etched into the deer’s memory. You emerge from your house in the morning to a clear and glorious view of victory.

Now you know how to keep deer out of your garden or yard.

Be sure to thank my dad, and those brave men and women that came before him. Without their service, you might never have learned how to keep deer out of your garden.

Now go forth and conquer.

If you found Dad’s trick for controlling deer in your yard or garden helpful, please pin this image on Pinterest!



  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Yummly

Please be sure to subscribe to Tyrant Farms to see what’s in-season out in nature, have fresh seasonal recipes delivered to your inbox and get helpful organic/permaculture gardening & duck keeping tips.

Deer Eating Fruit Trees: How To Protect Fruit Trees From Deer

A serious problem for fruit tree growers may be keeping deer away from the fruit trees. While they may not actually be eating the fruit, the real issue is the nibbling away at tender shoots, resulting in a compromised harvest. Deer eating fruit trees is especially serious when the trees are very young and the perfect height for some lazy munching. The question is then, how to protect your fruit trees from deer?

How to Protect Fruit Trees from Deer

Deer feed on the tender shoots of dwarf and young trees whose lowly stature makes them easy pickings. They will also rub their antlers on a tree, damaging it irreparably. The most reliable method for deer proofing fruit trees is fencing. There are a number of fencing methods with some more successful than others in keeping deer away from fruit trees.

When damage to trees is severe and there is a large deer population that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, fencing is the most reliable deterrent. Conventional 8-foot (2.5 m.) woven wire fences are proven barriers to deer marauders. This type of fence is composed of two widths of 4-foot (1.2 m.) woven wire and 12-foot (3.5 m.) posts. Deer will crawl under the fence to get at tasty morsels, so it is important to secure the wire at the ground. This type of fencing is pricey and unsightly to some, but it is extremely effective, requires little maintenance and will last quite a long time.

Alternatively, you can install an electric fence which encourages behavior modification amongst the deer. Although they can easily jump the fence, the deer eating your fruit trees may instead tend to crawl under the fence or just plain go through it. A “zap” from an electric fence will quickly change this habit and train the deer to stay 3-4 feet (1 m.) from the wires, hence the fruit tree. Think Pavlov.

The cost for an electric fence is lower than an 8-foot (2.5 m.) surrounding fence. Some use five lines of high tensile steel wire, in-line wire strainers and high voltage which are very effective. However, they require more maintenance and frequent inspections than a conventional 8 footer (2.5 m.) and you need to maintain a 6-8 foot (2 – 2.5 m.) mowed swath along the perimeter to discourage deer jumping.

You also encompass individual trees with a physical barrier of your own composition to deter the deer from eating the fruit trees. Beyond fencing, are there other deer proofing methods for fruit trees and are there any fruit trees deer won’t eat?

Additional Deer Proofing for Fruit Trees

If it isn’t illegal and there is a sizable population, a solution for some of you is hunting. If you live in an area where it is legal to open your land to hunting, consult a local wildlife conservation officer for pertinent information on the do’s and don’ts.

If you do not wish harm to come to the deer, there are other tactics that you can try to keep deer away so they don’t destroy your orchard. Soap hung form branches can temporarily deter feeding, as can many deer repellents. Apply repellents at the first sign of damage. These repellents can be composed of any number of noxious ingredients, as long as they either smell or taste so abhorrent that the deer decide to go elsewhere for breakfast.

Some repellents contain putrefied meat scraps (tankage), ammonium, bone tar oil, blood meal and even human hair. Hang bags of these items 20 feet (6 m.) apart and 30 inches (76 cm.) from the ground. Contact repellent, those that deter due to taste include rotten eggs, thiram and hot pepper sauce and should be applied on a dry day when the temp is above freezing. Some people decide to create their own repellents, combining some of these ingredients as well as others that strike their fancy with much dissension on whether there is any attributable success. The best results seem to be obtained when people consistently monitor and alternate repellent types.

Commercial repellents can be purchased that contain denatonium saccharide, which makes things taste bitter. These should be applied during the dormant phase of the trees. All repellents have variable results.

Lastly, you can try the use of guard dogs; my parents’ miniature schnauzer gets the job done. A free range dog works best, as the deer are smart enough to figure out that a chained hound has limitations. They will thumb their metaphorical noses and barge right in for a little nosh.

If you think it’s edible, chances are good the deer do too, so while there are trees, shrubs and plants that deer do not find palatable, there are no fruit trees deer won’t eat. The best deer proofing combines vigilance and a combination of deterrent methods, or build the 8 foot (2.5 m) fence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *