deer in the garden

(Question)

What is an effective repellent for deer who come up from the ravine and nip off flower buds and the tops of budding plants?

(Answer)

There isn’t a lot that can be done to repel deer from our gardens; after all, we encroached on their habitat, and they take advantage of all browse available to them, no matter where those plants are growing.As deer don’t have top teeth, their browsing leaves behind ragged tips which would require pruning to keep pathogens from entering the wound.

There seems to be three things that can be done to possibly help the situation: repel and deter, exclusion, replace deer favoured plants with ones they don’t like.

There are many folk tales and non-scientific methods for repelling deer. From I’ve read, deer learn fast, and those repellants must be rotated and replaced. These include foul smelling concoctions, glittery things that wave in the wind, noise makers, and bad tasting pastes or sprays. I would think that’s a lot of work, and possibly costly.

Exclusion is probably the most expensive, but likely the most effective. That would be a fence. It must be at least 2.5 m high. Deer are very good at jumping over lower fences. And the fence should also be built that their slender heads can’t reach through the spaces.

Deer love the plants we love – anything with flowering buds, vegetables, fruit, and for them, juicy twigs. Deer aren’t fond of prickly, hairy, downy, succulent or leathery leaves. However, in a tough year, they might eat some of them anyway. They also do not eat highly aromatic plants, and are not fond of grasses, ornamental or otherwise.

Our BC Master Gardener’s friends have prepared a fairly extensive list of deer resistant plants: https://www.mgabc.org/sites/gardenfiles/Short%20list%20DRP.pdf Of course, a number of these plants are not cold hardy here, but there are many that would work in our climate.

Even the Old Farmer’s Almanac offers a list:

https://www.almanac.com/content/deer