by Connie Oswald Stofko
I don’t get deer in my yard, so I haven’t tested whether horse manure might keep deer away. But I know how desperate Western New York gardeners get when it comes to deer, so I figured I should pass along any tip that might help.
I got this information from a blog post by Joyce Tomanek on Mother Earth News that was published in 1999. Tomanek lives in the Southeast, which may (or may not) make a difference.
Tomanek noticed that horses in her pastures won’t eat grass in an area contaminated by horse manure. When deer joined the horses in the pasture, it seemed that the deer also wouldn’t eat where there was horse manure, but Tomanek couldn’t get close enough to really know for sure.
When asparagus came up in her garden, the deer ate it as fast as it would grow. She put up an electric fence, which helped until the deer learned to jump the fence.
Then she sprinkled horse manure on part of the asparagus bed and left the other part of the bed alone. The next morning there was plenty of asparagus still sprouting from the manure-covered area, but every shoot was eaten where there was no manure.
To find out whether this was just a coincidence, she covered the rest of the asparagus bed with horse manure and had no more problems that whole spring. Since then, she said she routinely applies horse manure to her asparagus each spring and there hasn’t been a problem.
She used to use chicken manure and cow manure in other parts of her gardens, but the deer kept coming. Eventually she decided to switch to horse manure as her universal fertilizer and she said it protected everything, including favorite deer foods such as corn seedlings, early spring peas and blueberry bushes.
You might think that the horse manure would have to be fresh from the horse to keep deer away, but Tomanek said she uses aged manure. That’s good because fresh manure can burn plants.
There are places in Western New York where you can get horse manure for free if you shovel it yourself. One place is the S&L Ranch, 4447 Broadway, Cheektowaga. Hours are 3:30 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You’ll see the piles of manure to your right as go down the driveway. Wear boots. You need to take a shovel and your own containers, such as old storage totes or bushel baskets.
While many things that are suggested to keep deer from eating the plants in your garden are also suggested for rabbits, I doubt that horse manure is a defense against rabbits. We got some horse manure in early autumn and kept it outside in a bin made of old pallets. I think the rabbits were sheltering on the manure pile to keep warm during the cold weather.
If you try using horse manure to keep deer away, please leave a comment below to let us know whether or not it worked for you.