One of the most beautiful creatures in the Western Pennsylvania area is certainly the deer. That does not necessarily mean you want them in your garden or on your property.
If you can’t tolerate deer in your garden, you can always try a good repellent. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider changing the plants in your garden or using deer-proof fencing.
Our recommended repellent is to take 2 large heads of garlic halved, 2 large and strong halved onions, and simmer in 4 quarts of water for 4 hours (outside if possible). Let cool and strain. Then, add ½ can hot Hungarian paprika with 1 teaspoon of dish soap.
Remember that a variety of repellents in combination will probably work best. You can look for repellents that contain sulphurous odor (you know, the stuff that smells like rotten eggs) and apply them before bud-break and as new growth appears. Liquid Fence and Bobbex are the most highly recommended.
You can reapply repellents after heavy rains, and often (every 2 – 3 weeks). You may want to alternate repellents so that deer don’t get used to one or the other.
For applying repellents, check out these tips from HSUS:
- All repellents work best if applied before the deer’s feeding pattern becomes established. Apply repellents before bud-break and as new growth appears, to prevent a browsing habit from forming.
- Reapply repellents after heavy rains and at least every two to three weeks.
- Deer may become accustomed to the same repellent, so alternate repellents to keep the deer confused and warier. At the height of growing season, use an odor repellent over a taste-based one. Taste-based repellents need to be constantly applied to any new growth to keep the whole plant tasting bad.
- Hang bars of soap that are high in fatty acid (e.g., Irish Spring brand) on trees or shrubs you want to protect. With any strategy, moving things around and switching types of products will help keep deer on their toes and make them wary.
- Predator urines make big promises but have scored poorly in studies. The source of predator urine products are fur farms, which raise wild animals for their pelts. The animals suffer from terrible, cramped conditions and die extremely inhumane deaths. For this reason alone, predator urine products should never be used.
Plants to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden
- Perennials: ajuga, barrenwort, bleeding heart, brunnera, columbine, daffodils, epimedium, ferns (Christmas, maiden hair, wood and ostrich), foxglove, hardy ginger, helleborus (Lenten rose), hyaccinths, iris, Japanese forestgrass, lady’s mantle, lamium, lavender, monkshood, peonies, pulmonaria (lungwort), pachysandra, sedges, Solomon’s seal, sweet woodruff, yarrow. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a bushy deer-resistant perennial with bright orange flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
- Annuals: ageratum, heliotrope, dusty Miller, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), licorice plant, tuberous begonias. Annual flowering herbs: dill, calendula, lantana, salvias.
- Shrubs: arrowwood viburnum, beautyberry, bottlebrush, boxwood, deutzia, elderberry, Hinoki cypress, Japanese kerria, Japanese plum yew, leucothoe, Oregon grapeholly, rugosa rose, Russian cypress, St. Johnswort, smooth hydrangea, sumac, sweetbox, Virginia sweetspire.
- Beebalm (Mondarda fistulosa) is a deer resistant plant that attracts birds and bees, the leaves have a minty smell and the flowers are edible.
If you still can’t keep deer out of your garden, try fencing. Remember that deer can jump fences up to 8 feet high, so the 8 foot high woven wire fence is the most effective deer barrier – and it can last more than 20 years! Local home and garden stores can help you decide what’s best for your yard.
Though deer may be able to jump over electric fences, they can provide a psychological barrier for them. Some electric fences even have a scented bait attachment to ensure that deer make contact with the fence. They will receive a mild jolt, but should not be caused any real harm. You can also take tin foil squares containing a bit of peanut butter to provide the same effect when folded over single or multi-strand electric fences.
Remember that electric fences must be maintained with regular voltage checks. If an electric fence is not for you, you may want to check out the Havahard 5250 Electeronic Deer Repellent that has 3 stake-like devices and a scent lure that will give deer a mild electric shock.
If deer are causing damage by rubbing against trees to remove the velvet from their antlers (a process called “back rubs”), place cylinders of hardware cloth or corrugated plastic sleeves around the tree trunks.
To protect low-growing plants or vegetables, drape mesh, chicken wire, or hardware cloth. Please don’t use netting or birds may get caught.
If you have specific trees or shrubs that you won’t to protect, hang a bar of Irish Spring on them.
Motion-activated sprinklers (like the Scarecrow or Havahart) may startle deer, and when used in conjunction with other tips found on this page can be very effective. The Deer Shield Electronic Deer Guard is another device you may want to try. It lets out digital recordings of alarmed and territorial deer that may incentivize the real deer to go elsewhere.
Are Deer Overpopulated?
As suburban sprawl has increased, humans have been taking over the deer’s habitat. One might think there are too many deer around, but most problems are completely unrelated to the greater population’s numbers. If a deer is eating your plants, it is not indicative of a population problem – it’s indicative of one, or a few, specific deer that enjoy eating plants.
Deer culling, or deer killing, is at best a short-term, inhumane, and ineffective approach. The root cause of the issue must be addressed before deer (or any wildlife) conflicts can be solved in the long-term. To learn more on why killing doesn’t work, check out the HSUS Wild Neighbors website.
Please note: Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.