Gardening with Deer Nearby

By Pat Naughton

There are two things to keep deer away from your prized plants, an 8 foot fence or a gun.  But these have restrictions in many of the Brunswick Co. communities.  A fishing line fence is an option that is very effective in keeping deer away from landscaping plants.  Use strong clear fishing line, 15 lb test or greater.  String the fishing line horizontally at heights of 15 inches, 36 inches, and 48 inches.  Deer are nocturnal and will not see the fishing line at night.  After bumping into it a few times they will get frustrated and move on.  Deer can also be deterred by irritating their sense of sound, smell, and taste.

Motion sensor lights and alarms are available to scare deer away.  Often it is the homeowner that awakens to see deer standing in the yard unaffected.  Motion sensing water hose sprayers have a better chance at annoying deer than lights and sirens.

Using fragrant smelling soap around plants helps to deter deer.  Irish Spring soap is commonly used but any fragrant soap will work.  The downside to using hanging soap bars is that they take away from the beauty of the landscape.  A better way to add fragrance to a landscape is to add plants that produce a sweet scent.  Plants like Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, or Thyme are good plants to put in front of your garden.

Deer also don’t care for pungent scents on the other end of the spectrum. Sprays like Liquid Fence and Bobbex have ingredients like garlic and putrescent eggs which give off a bad smell to deter deer.  It may also make you avoid going near your plants.  The other problem with spraying is the need to reapply after rain and for new growth.  This can be very costly and time consuming.  Products like deer repellent pouches and deer repellant stations are an alternative to spraying.  They contain dried blood that is design to scare deer away.  The deer just ate around my deer repellant capsule to dine on Hostas, Lilies, and Azaleas. 

Although there is no plant that deer don’t like, there are plants that deer are less interested in.  Plants with thorny stems or spiny leaves are more deer resistant.  Plants like Holly, Pyracantha, or Century Plant have these characteristics.  They also don’t care for plants with fuzzy leaves, like Lambs Ear, Rose Campion, and Dusty Miller.  Ornamental grasses are very deer resistant.