Living in a forested area we see a lot of wildlife. A lot. My garden is a buffet for deer and rabbits, while turkeys and grouse displace my evenly placed bark (not to mention plants!) to make nests; and squirrels plant unwanted trees for me. Pesky rodents are another topic entirely, so I won’t even go there! Coyotes, bobcats, cougars, bear, and lynx have trampled through, not paying any attention to what they were trampling.
I love seeing our surrounding wildlife, but do so hate sharing my garden with their destructive tendencies. Our first few years here, we had no problems because we had no garden. Loved seeing all creatures back then and even tried enticing them! The turkeys come through every year in droves, usually 5 or 6 hens with at least a dozen chicks each and a few males that my husband likes to ‘gobble’ at to raise their tail feathers. Now when I see them I start putting up barriers so they won’t dig up my plants in their hunt for bugs, slugs and ‘dirt bathing’.
The deer in my neighborhood come here for midnight forrays at the dessert cart...aka my roses & hostas. They’ve nibbled many a plant to the ground including but not limited to... heuchera, tiarella, mountain laurel, bay laurel, sedum, strawberries, bergenia and all the leaves off the lower branches of sumac, cedar, and elderberry.....AND plants they’re not supposed to like such as rhodies & iris! Holly & barberry! Don’t they know they’re not supposed to like prickly leaved plants? They’ve actually joined me in the garden midday, thumbing their noses while munching elderberries right in front of me! At least my deer will run away when I run towards them. My friend on Whidbey Island has deer that look her right in the eye and will not leave! We call them Psycho Deer! One actually chased her out of her own garden!
I’ve waged war ... Serious war... For many years now, trying every home remedy ever given me as well as spending big bucks on everything except a fence. Call me crazy, but don’t fence me in. Let me tell you about what works and what doesn’t to keep the deer at bay. At least in my garden, your mileage may vary. Over the last 20 or so years, these are some of the more memorable remedies I’ve tried ~ myths that are still being perpetuated ~ as well as those those that actually worked for me.
-Interspersing plants deer don’t eat between those they do. Get real! Deer always find the plants they like to eat AND start eating those they’re not supposed to! So much for that one! Next!
-Hair. Human hair, dog hair, cat hair, monkey hair (don’t ask!). None of these worked at all. Or maybe just slowed the deer a tiny bit as they had to manuever past the hair to get to the foliage. On to the next remedy...
-Blood meal. This works, but PLEASE only apply at night after the hornets have gone to sleep! Ask me how I know this!! If you don’t dig it into the soil, the hornets will find it in the morning and consume it before it can scare the deer away. Waste of money and time if you don’t dig it in unless you’re into feeding hornets. It IS a great soil amendment, but once dug in, the deer don’t seem to notice it after the first day or so. Next....
-Urine. Yes, I made my husband pee around the perimeter of my garden. I made my dog pee the perimeter of my garden. Neither worked! Thank God we don’t have any close neighbors. I picked up dog poo and placed it strategically around my garden. Didn’t deter deer, attracted flies and stank! I’ve heard Zoo Poo (some zoos allow you to come pick up their poo to use as compost in your garden) works because it’s a more powerful aroma and scares the deer on a deeper level but after dog poo permeating the air I don’t want something stronger if I have to smell it too. Anyway, so much for ‘marking territory’! On to the next.....
OK, I was finally ready to start spending some serious money to save my garden. By now I have invested thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and I cannot tell you how much sweat, blood, tears, not to mention my aching back and hands in my garden!
-What started me down the commercial path was an organic fertilizer that smelled like fish I tried about 10 years ago. Bio Mera? Made by an Oregon company, when I started using it I noticed my plants were not just growing, but were THRIVING. My garden always smelled like the ocean after I applied it, which I kind of liked! It occured to me my plants were looking so good not just because I was fertilizing with really good organic fertilizer, but because the deer weren't ravishing them! I deduced the deer must not like the smell of the ocean...or fish...a lightbulb moment! I used this with great success for 2 or 3 years until the formula seemed to change. One year it was no longer as ‘fragrant’, didn’t exactly look the same; and the deer began applauding my efforts to feed them juicier, tastier plants by coming by more often.
-Deer Away was a commercial product I tried, advertised as a deer repellent, but didn’t work for me. Same with Plantskydd.
-Another product on the market for awhile, I believe was called Repel. Basically it was blood meal in a can with a filter inserted. This worked for two seasons, but I had little cans on wire sticks or hung from wires in trees all over the place. After awhile they became part of the landscape and I didn’t notice them anymore, but everyone who visited my garden did & asked me about them. Eventually the cans ran out of blood meal & I haven’t seen them advertised lately.
-Finally I tried Liquid Fence. Very expensive, but this was my last resort and it works. Stinks up the place like nothing else & my husband leaves for the day when I announce it’s spray day! The smell dissapates after a day but deer continue to be repelled by it until plants sprout new growth. It also repels rabbits! I’ve used this with great success for the last 3 years. My hostas are thriving, I have roses again & everything else is growing as it should without molestation! Of course, in order for it to work, I have to spray once a week at the start of the season (when my plants start to grow), for 2 to 3 weeks, then I can get away with monthly applications until the deer are desperate, about mid to end of August. At that point I simply apply as frequently as I need to until it's time for the plants to go dormant anyway or we have our first freeze.
My friend Judy had her husband build a couple robots. With motion detectors. She said they worked beautifully. Her 'bots' spooked the deer by moving and making noise when motion (deer) was detected. The next season, she put in an electric fence. Guess the noise & all that nightly motion detracted from their sleep. My husband looked at me and asked ‘Do you reallly want me to build you a robot?’ as I excitedly told him what Bill had made for Judy’s garden. Knowing that look and that tone of voice, I laughed and said of course not! You know the phrase “pick your battles”...well at my house, it’s “pick your requests”!
Do you have a remedy that works? Or Doesn’t, but you’d like to share so the rest of us don’t have to try it? Please enlighten us by leaving a comment for everyone to read! And thanks for stopping by! Until next time.......