Keep Deer from Destroying a Garden
Garden writer Peter Loewer discusses ways to prevent deer from destroying a garden.
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Hot, dry, end-of-summer weather, especially in the West, has deer heading down the hills, out of the woods, and into backyards where the carefully tended garden becomes a delectable snack for hungry, thirsty animals.
This year, deer are moving out of the parched foothills in search of food and water in yards, gardens and decorative ponds, said Arlo Wing, landowner assistance coordinator for the Northern Utah Division of the state Department of Wildlife Resources.
"If they've found a shady spot with food, they'll keep coming back," Wing said.
There are two ways to keep deer from eating the garden, said Jim Karpowitz, the state's big-game coordinator. "In the short term, plant things they don't like. In the long run, protect the individual plants with temporary fencing or cages," he said.
Deer love tulips, laurel, forsythia, Japanese yew, crocus and pansies. They are less likely to eat English holly, yucca, daisies, tiger lilies, wisteria, bougainvillea, yarrow, iris, geraniums, narcissus and dahlias.
Keeping deer out of an established yard is a little more complicated. Repellents, both commercial and homemade, abound.
"We stopped using hot pepper spray when we found the deer eating the hot peppers in the herb garden," said Marita Tewes Tyrolt, a horticulture director in Salt Lake City. Vials of urine collected from predators worked a little bit better, she said.
Others deterrents include human hair, moth balls, human urine and blood meal. Which one works? "None of them," said Karpowitz. "Deer are going to eat anything if they are hungry enough."
In his book, Solving Deer Problems (Lyons Press, $14.95), garden writer Peter Loewer explores dozens of repellents, including one that involves having his male, meat-eating house guests relieve themselves around the perimeter of the garden to scare the deer away. "It doesn't work with vegetarians," Loewer writes.
Some gardeners swear by human hair — stuffed by the handful in nylon stockings and hung throughout the garden, to keep the deer away.
Loewer said most remedies work for a time, but only until the scent wears off or gets washed away with irrigation water or rain.
Rather than fight the deer, Tyrolt said gardeners have simply stopped planting some of the deer favorites, like tulips and delphiniums, because they simply disappear. Tomatoes, related to the toxic nightshade plant, should not appeal to deer, but Wing said gardeners all over northern Utah have reported their tomato plants clipped and picked clean.
Loewer's book lists various products designed to save the garden:
- Not Tonight Deer, is a powder that smells like eggs and tastes like pepper. It is sprayed around the perimeter of the garden and can be found at www.nottonight.com.
- Liquid Fence, available at www.liquidfence.com, is a nontoxic mix of egg and garlic that lasts a month before it has to be renewed.
- Carnivore urine is available at www.predatorpee.com and is a collection of urine from bobcats, coyotes, foxes and wolves. In theory, it sends a message to animals that a meat-eating animal is roaming the garden.
Earthworm-like, except for its hammerhead, this animal is no friend to earthworms.