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Deer-oh dear!

Ways to protect your yard against deer.

 In a very short time, deer browsing on trees and shrubs can require costly replacements and reduce property values. In addition, deer in your yard usually mean more risk of spreading Lymes disease, a serious tick-borne disease and concern for epidemic areas of MN and WI. According to the National Center for Biological Information, a division of the National Institute of Health, (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) keeping deer out of your yard is important and without deer entering the area surrounding your home, new deer ticks become limited and eventually, existing deer ticks become scarce.

Despite all of that, deer are beautiful to watch, especially when fawns are among them. We have to remember that in most cases, we encroached into their habitat. Woodland edges are where deer like to feed and humans like to build. With expanding development their living space is shrinking and natural predators are reduced. Warmer winters have decreased natural deaths in the deer population. In food scarcity, deer become bolder and what better place to feed than our succulent salad bars carefully tended in our yards and gardens?

The more we know about deer habits the better our chances of protecting our gardens and keeping them out of our yards. Deer are notorious “taste testers”. “When visiting a property for the first time, deer like to taste everything. And their evening feeding patterns target the same plants the deer like during their taste test” says Brad Roeller of the Institute for Ecosystems Studies in Millbrook, New York.  Deer develop predictable travel patterns, and prior damage is often a good indicator of potential future problems. Any new plantings added to an existing landscape or garden already suffering from deer damage will likely experience problems in the future. In general, most damage occurs when winter snow cover or summer drought reduces the availability of natural foods. However, in suburban settings with high deer numbers, year–round damage may be evident.  Besides good tasting plants, deer favor moist plants- those that are well watered, well fertilized and especially new shoots and buds on plants.

Many homeowners succeed in protecting plants by employing these measures including:

Damage problems in suburban areas, particularly those having good quality deer habitat, are likely to intensify in the future

Resistant plants

Plants with a bitter or spicy taste, milky sap, or thorny, hairy, or tough leaves and stems are unpalatable to deer. However, the presence of undesirable plants does not deter deer from feeding on other nearby plants that they do find palatable. They tend to avoid fuzzy and prickly plants such as lamb’s ears, barberries and cleome. They also avoid toxic plants like daffodils and monkshood and aromatic plants-especially herbs. Deer hate strong tasting plants such as those in the allium (onion) family. Ferns, ornamental grasses and most native plants are a pretty safe bet. If these are planted in close proximity to other plants, deer will generally stay away-but not guaranteed. If food is limited from drought or snow or a high deer density, deer will browse even the most undesirable plants, and other methods will be necessary to control damage. (see plant list at end of article)

Repellent Substances

Many repellents work, initially at least- until the deer become accustomed to them. Repellents are most effective when applied on a regular 10 day -2 week schedule, before serious damage has begun. If deer are starting to browse in your yard, we suggest a three pronged approach: 1. Spray repellants on plants every ten days or so, 2. Use the predator urine around the perimeter (works best if you have an active dog). and 3. Sprinkle Milorganite or blood meal around plants-another deterrent that smells bad and will fertilize your plants at the same time. The deer's learning ability causes many repellents to fail over time. A good way to counter such acclimation is to alternate repellents periodically and change where you apply them near the plants.

Homemade deer repellent recipe proven to be as effective as store bought from Brad Roeller:

For every gallon of water, add:

  • 1 egg 

  • 1 c. whole milk

  • 1 T cooking oil 

  • 1 T lemon dishwashing liquid

  • 1 T hot sauce 

  •  6 drops rosemary oil

Mix together in blender and spray every 10 days or so.

Some of our clients swear by hanging strongly scented bars of soap and studies show they work but they usually only protect about 1 yard perimeter. Some also use cotton balls with peppermint oil distributed among plants with good results. Some of the odor based repellents are showing good test results for up to a month when a cotton rope is sprayed and then put around the perimeter of a bed. But remember that very hungry deer will ignore both taste and odor repellents.

Frighteners

Motion detectors that switch on floodlights at night, radios or water sprays are intended to surprise deer. If you go with a water spray make sure that the area needing to be protected is fully covered as deer will often move away just outside the sprayed area. On a personal note on our property we have benefited from having a dog around to chase deer and leave their scent around the property. Although not completely reliable the dog needs to be able to roam and be out in the evenings and nights which may not be practical. For some reason, deer just don’t seem to care about barking from inside windows.

Fencing and Barriers

For homeowners wanting to protect gardens and new plantings, fences are among the most effective options. Usually you need less fence than you think. First consider a deer’s jumping ability which is around 8 feet and their weakness for depth perception. Usually deer won’t bother with a 4 foot fence unless they’re really hungry. To keep the fence from looking unsightly and capitalize on their inability to judge depth, plant shrubby deer resistant plants around the fence or a spaced double fence which will deter deer. Young trees and shrubs are especially vulnerable to browsing deer until their lower branches are beyond the reach of starving deer- about 6 ft.  5 foot mesh wire reinforced with rebar (reinforcing bar) protects those woody plants until strong enough to go it alone. Vulnerable perennials can be protected with bamboo sticks and fishing string placed closely together. Plastic netting-of the tall fences, is about the easiest and least expensive to install. The main thing is to keep it from sagging by good support and monitoring. For serious situations, an electric fence may be the only alternative. A 4 foot fence can teach deer with an initial shock to stay away. In late summer bucks rub their antlers on trees to remove the velvet. You can protect trees by  using plastic corrugated protectors on the trunks.
 

Motion detectors work on fear so it's best to change them to avoid the deer from getting use to them.

 

 

TREES AND SHRUBS

Deer generally prefer to eat:

Deer sometimes eat:

Deer generally dislike:

Apple

Amur maple

Barberry

(Fruit trees in general)

Azalea

Buffaloberry

Basswood (Linden)

Black cherry

Currant (Gooseberry)

Birch

Boxelder

Honeysuckle

Bur oak

Bush honeysuckle

Juniper

Chokecherry

Cottonwood

Lilac

Cotoneaster

Elm

Mt. Laurel

Dogwood

Forsythia

Nan

king Cherry

 

Hazelnut

Nannyberry

Green Ash

Highbush Cranberry

Ponderosa Pine

Hackberry

Ironwood

Potentilla

Hydrangea

Mountain Ash

Raspberry

Larch

Oak

Russian Olive

Maple

Rose

St. John's Wort

Rhodedendron

Scotch Pine

Spruce

Sandberry

Sumac

Wester Red Cedar

Siberian Crab

White Pine

Wormwood (Artemisia)

Viburnum

Wild Plum

 

Weigla

Fir

 

White Cedar (Arborvitae)

 

 

Willows

 

 

Yews

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PERENNIALS

Deer generally prefer to eat:

Deer generally dislike

Crocus

Achillea (Yarrow)

Goldenrod

Daylily

Ajuga

Joe-Pye Weed

Hawkweed

Allium

Lamb's Ear

Hosta

Anemone

Lavender

Hyacinth

Bittersweet

Lily-of-the-valley

Iris

Bleeding Heart

Lupine

Lily

Buttercup

Monkshood

Meadow Rue

Clematis

Pachysandra

Phlox

Columbine

Penstemon

Rose

Cinquefoil

Pennyroyal

Sedum

Coneflower

Peony

Strawberry

Coral Bell

Poppy

Tulip

Coreopsis

Primrose

 

Cransbill

Ribbongrass

 

Daffodil

Rosemary

 

Daisy

Sage

 

Ferns

Snow-on-the-Mountain

 

Feverfew

Speedwell

 

Flax

Tansy

 

Forget-me-not

Thistle

 

Gayfeather

Toadflax

 

Goatsbeard

Yucca

 

 


 

ANNUALS AND BIENNIALS

Deer generally prefer to eat:

Deer generally dislike:

Hollyhock

Alyssum

Geranium

Periwinkle

Impatiens

Begonia

Heliotrope

Polygonum

Pansy

Dahlia

Lobelia

Primula

Sunflower

Dusty Miller

Marigold

Salvia

Violet

Flax

Mint

Snapdragon

 

Forget-me-not

Morning Glory

Verbena

 

Four-o'clock

Mullein

Zinnia

 

Foxglove

Parsley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

List adapted from Doug Leier,

NoDakOutdoors.com


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