Deer are very abundant throughout the Rainy River District and also frequent visitors to many gardens. Deer are creatures of habit and will return to the same places for food over and over and a garden full of plants, flowers and/or vegetables can become a gourmet delight. Most often the damage is done in the early light of day or the evening hours and you are not aware that you have a deer problem until it is too late.
As a general rule of thumb, deer do not like most herb species and the more aromatic they are the more offensive they are to deer. Herbs like rosemary, sage, mint, chives and especially garlic and onions are extremely displeasing to deer. Not only are most of these herbs effective against deer but other pests and insects as well, so make these plants your border plantings around your garden and you will establish a natural “pest fence” that is also very useful to you as well.
Drought tolerant perennials and annuals plants tend to have tough and fibrous stems and leaves, so they tend to be passed over by deer. Often these plants have silvery or whitish hue to the foliage like silver mound, ornamental grasses, lamb’s ear, salvia. Consult a plant guide for other suggestions. Drought tolerant plants are low maintenance, can solve a low moisture problem while deterring deer at the same time.
Deer also do not like annuals and perennials with flowers that have an unpleasant odour. Zinnias and marigolds come to mind immediately, as well as other plants with coarse fuzzy, bristly or spiny textures, like black-eyed Susans, perennial phlox and poppies. Deer will eat the flowers off of roses but they will not walk though the bushes to gain access to other parts of the garden. Deer do love spring bulbs like tulips and crocus, but daffodils and narcissus are poisonous to deer, so I plant bulbs from this family.
Deer are have a keen senses but are easily spooked and sudden movements will send them scurrying. Human scent is a great deterrent but you must be consistent about keeping it fresh after a rain. Many gardeners swear by hanging bars of heavily scented soap, human or dog hair, or dryer sheets in netting or nylons around their yard to keep deer at bay. Hang these bags of scent at least one metre off of the ground, so they are in the deer’s line of scent and replenish often to keep the scent current.
There are many chemical deer repellents available on the market that can be effective but must be reapplied often. I swear by “Bobbex” which is a smelly mixture of natural ingredients that when applied, as per instructions, I have great success keeping deer from damaging most plants. The key is to apply it ahead of the deer and they will bypass your garden. I have not tested any other brand available on the market or any of the many recipes for natural non-commercial repellents on the internet because I have stuck with the “Bobbex” brand. I also use blood meal as a fertilizer as it smells like rotten meat and will deter most garden pests including deer.
Hanging “white tails” in their garden so when the wind moves these, the deer perceive these as real white tails signaling danger and flee. White tails can be made by ripping white rags into tail like shapes and hanging from trees, shrubs or stakes, at a height of about one metre or use foil pie plates, old CD’s or holographic reflective tape strips.
Persistence is the key and maintaining your deterrents will signal to the deer to move on to some place that is less of a challenge. I can attest that with diligence in maintaining your deterrents you can keep deer visits and damage to a minimum. My neighbours are amazed that my gardens are always tour ready with very minimal evidence of any deer damage while theirs have been eaten clean. With this in mind, I encourage you to try some or all of the suggestions to deter deer from your yard but remember the populations are growing and they are hungry so the best tips may still prove to be somewhat ineffective.