Imagine a garden brimming with vegetables and herbs nearly ready to be harvested. Imagine a family, nurturing the plants and counting the days until they can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Now, imagine a deer, or more probably several deer, destroying in just a few nights what has taken months of hard work to establish. Maybe, you don’t have to imagine. Maybe, for you, this is a reality.
So what can be done to protect the garden from those ever hungry deer? This was the exact question that my family asked after deer devoured all but one tomato and many of our other plants. Products on the market specifically designed for the purpose include netting to cover plants as well as spray repellents. However, we decided to take a more home grown approach. Here is what we tried, and what we discovered.
It is a well-known fact that deer generally keep their distance from humans. So we decided that surrounding our garden with scents that deer would associate with people might serve as a deterrent. Horticulture Magazine Suggests a bar of soap tied to a bush or tree in close proximity to the garden. We used Irish Spring because of its strong smell. This trick actually worked wonderfully for a while. The deer changed direction and began wandering down the other side of our house and munching on our neighbor’s garden instead. Of course, he wasn’t so happy about that. After a while, the deer meandered back into our vegetables, and we switched from soap to bounce dryer sheets. These also worked for a while. We continue to use them, changing them every four or five days and immediately after a rain. Another site, Gardenweb.com Suggests that the smell of human urine is a great deer repellent. I have to confess that we have not tried it, but there are many testimonials that say it really does the trick.
Like humans, deer have strong aversions to some smells. Gardenweb.com contributors also suggest mixing one egg slightly beaten and a quart of water, placing the mixture in a spray bottle, and lightly misting your plants. We did try this one, and although it did seem to keep the deer away, it kept us away as well. It is incredibly difficult to weed a garden permeated with the stench of rotten eggs. However, if you can stomach the smell, go for it.
Another successful tactic we use is to leave a radio playing near the garden. Since our garden is right outside our back door, we leave a window slightly cracked with a radio playing softly all night. We also have wind chimes hanging from a tree. Both of these noises seem to help steer our local deer in another direction.
A final suggestion given to me by a family member is to simply scare the deer off your property. If you know approximately when the deer come through you can lie in wait for them. When they approach your garden, you can create a diversion by making a noise or throwing a stone in their direction (not hitting them, of course). Both methods supposedly scare the deer off at least for the night. As these are fairly temporary solutions, I have not personally used them, but they might bring success.
So what’s the bottom line? We discovered that the best way to keep the deer out of the garden is to use a combination of the methods listed and to change things around every now and then. If you use soap one week, try the dryer sheets the next, or find another human reminder to hang near the garden. If you hang wind chimes, buy several with varying sounds and switch them out every now and then. Hopefully, some of these inexpensive, non-commercial methods will help your garden grow undisturbed, and the deer will find their meals elsewhere.