Four tips to keep deer from eating your plants

deer buck in Cheektowaga NY
This buck was in a backyard in Cheektowaga. Photo courtesy Sharon Moriarity

by Connie Oswald Stofko

We can never get enough tips on ways to keep deer from damaging plants. Some of these ideas may work for you and some may not. And even if the technique you’re using does work, it may stop working after a while, so you have to try something new.

Here are four new tips on dealing with deer in your garden.

Recipe for deer deterrent

Michael Sheehan of the Western New York Hosta Society says this recipe really works. The recipe makes a gallon at a time. He usually mixes four gallons at once, but the repellent has to be used immediately.

Mike Sheehan’s deer repellent

To 1 gallon of water add:

  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap
  • 2 cups of hot sauce
  • 2 beaten eggs mixed with 2 cups of milk (strained through a sieve)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • For good measure, add 1/2 cup lavender Fabuloso liquid soap (from a dollar store)

Mix well and spray on the plants you want to protect. It will smell for a few hours, but it won’t color or harm the plants.

Spray when no rain is expected for a day or so. This will last about three weeks without a heavy downpour of rain.

Important: After spraying, make sure you rinse the sprayer with water to keep it from clogging up from the egg.

Scary lawn ornament

metal scarecrow in garden
I’m not intimidated by this metal scarecrow, but deer are, said Karen Dwigun of Elma. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Karen Dwigun of Elma, who shared her landscape on Open Gardens, said the metal scarecrow in the photo is more than a lawn decoration. For some reason it keeps the deer away.

Place brush around new tree

Here’s another tip from Dwigun that she got from a friend. When you plant a new tree, set brush around the base of the tree. The deer won’t nibble on the tree, she said.

Slanted fence

If you’re thinking of fencing off all or part of your yard, consider building a slanted fence, found on the website of the National Gardening Association.

Instead of standing up at a 90-degree angle, the fence is slanted at a 45-degree angle. A deer’s instinct is to try to crawl under a fence before jumping it, according to the National Gardening Association, and deer are less likely to jump a fence that is wide (deep).

A slanted fence needs to be only four to five feet high, while a vertical fence must be at least eight feet high to keep deer from jumping over it. See a diagram here.

6 Comments on “Four tips to keep deer from eating your plants

  1. Connie,
    I got advice from several gardeners on using Milorganite to keep deer away. I bought a bag but it looks like its a fertilizer. What am I missing? Any thoughts/experience with it?

  2. Hi Linda, a lot of the repellents made for deer work for rabbits, too. You can try it on squirrels. Let us know if it works for you.

  3. Connie, would this formula for deer work on squirrels and rabbits? Don’t have deer but plenty of these ruiners.

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