How to Grow: Controlling Deer

Learn the best ways to control deer and care for your garden. With a combination of fencing and repellent sprays, you can grow your vegetables, flowers, and fruits safely and keep deer at bay.  For more garden videos, check out the National Gardening Association


Hi I’m Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association. Today I’d like to show you how to control deer in your yard. Deer browsing on your favorite trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables has become a big problem across the country. As their population increases and their habitats shrink due to development, deer become more bold in their efforts to get food. If you live near a wild area, a meadow or a woodland, you’re most likely to have deer in your yard. But even suburban areas have this problem.

The first thing you need to do is decide if deer in fact is what’s causing the problem look for the tell-tale signs of deer look for them early in the morning and late in the evening. Look for deer hoof prints and scat and check the damage if the branches have been cut at an angle and they’re jagged. Then you know you have deer activity in your yard.

There are two main ways to control deer in your yard. You can erect a barrier or use a repellent spray. The most foolproof way to control deer is erecting a barrier around an individual plant, your garden or your whole yard. There’s lots of different kinds of fences you can use. For individual plants you can construct a wire mesh fence all around the plant with a little top to it so the deer can’t stick their head in and browse on your plant. Tall solid stockade fences are great for controlling deer because they don’t like to jump over them. They can’t see what’s on the other side when they land. But they’re tall, they’re intrusive and they’re expensive. You can use wire or mesh fences that are shorter like these but you have to put them side-by-side about three to four feet apart. The reason being they don’t want to jump over such a broad area. Here’s a little tip that works really well. You can take a monofilament or a fishing line like this one and build a fence about three to four feet tall. Deer sense the fence, they come up to it, but they can’t see it so they won’t cross into that area.

One of the most effective fences to use is an electric fence. The key with constructing an electric fence is to do it early in the spring. Build it about three to four feet tall and bait it with peanut butter. Take some of the peanut butter put it on the fence and when Bambi comes over to nibble on it she gets a little bit of a shock. They’ll avoid that area in the future.

An another way to control deer in the yard is to use repellent sprays. These can be either taste or scent based. There are a whole host of different kinds of repellent sprays you can use like garlic clips, fragrant soap, coyote urine, putrescent or rotten eggs, hot pepper sprays, even dried blood. The key with using any of these repellent sprays is to choose three or four different ones and rotate their use so the deer don’t get used to any one of them. Reapply it after a heavy rain and every three weeks in the summer to protect new growth.

One deer control strategy gets lots of attention but has dubious positive effects is using deer resistant plants. Deer certainly have preferences for the kind of plants they like to eat, but that being said, if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat pretty much anything. You can choose some plants that they’re going to be less likely to munch on. Plants like these fuzzy leaf lambs ear or plants that have a strong fragrance like this mint or a very pungent taste like hot peppers. Also, ornamental grasses and ferns are not their favorites.

So whether it be using erecting fences, repellent sprays or resistant plants there’s lots of ways to minimize deer damage in your yard.


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