Finding little deer tracks in the snow and seeing those gentle creatures around the trees in your backyard can be a pleasant and whimsical experience in the wintertime. However, the way deer chew through your your favorite plants and bushes can be anything but pleasant and whimsical. If you want the best of both worlds, use the tips and tricks found in this blog to learn how to invite deer to your garden without leaving it a mess.
What Do Deer Like?
To begin to deer-proof your yard, it is important to realize what is attracting the deer in the first place. Deer are attracted to yards that have a food source, and plenty of cover from potential predators. If your yard has lots of dense cover, twigs and branches, a vegetable garden, and fruit or nut trees, it's probably a deer haven! While deer will munch on your vegetables, berries, and nuts, they are also attracted to a variety of plants and flowers. The three main plants that deer love to nibble are hostas, roses, and daylilies. Remember: deer eat everything. Even the plants that are meant to deter deer will be nibbled and tested out, as deer must explore the environment before they realize what they do and do not like. Once the deer realize they do not care for a plant, they will leave it alone.
Now that we know what sort of plants that deer are attracted to, to continue to deer-proof your yard it is important to know the types of plants that deer avoid. Deer steer clear of two things when it comes to plants: aroma, and texture. Deer are hesitant to approach yards with certain aromatic flowers, as the smell prevents them from finding other food sources. Funnily enough, it's also a case of preference; deer just don't like the smell of some plants. Flowers that deter deer include lavender, peonies, marigolds, Russian sage, and heliotrope. Furry or prickly-textured plants are also deer-repellent, as the deer simply do not think they are pleasant to eat. We recommend plants such as lamb's ear, fountain grass, common thistle, and bear's breeches to deter deer.
Protecting Your Crops
If you are concerned about your vegetable garden being nibbled by those gentle deer, there are many simple solutions to your problem. A natural way to deter deer from eating your family's vegetables is to plant aromatic herbs around the garden. Create a wall of herbs to surround your garden, as the deer will likely move on to find a food source that is easier to reach. Consider planting aromatic herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and chives to keep deer from munching your garden. If you are looking for a way of deterring deer that does not involve planting herbs, consider lining your garden with fishing line. For this to be successful, the fishing line must be pulled taut, and you must have enough strands to ensure there is not room for the deer to climb in. The fishing line is not the prettiest of ways to deer-proof, but is effective if done correctly. If you are hesitant to create your own fishing line fence, consider placing netting around your favorite crops. This is an easy and effective way to keep the deer from munching on your plants, until they figure out how to move it! Remember that deer are smart creatures when it comes to finding food, and the easiest way to keep deer out is to deter them from coming in.
Inviting Deer In
If you wish to protect your plants and flowers, but still want to see those deer in your yard, you must be willing to sacrifice some plants. The first step is to put the plants and flowers that you want to protect close to your home. Surround these plants and flowers with others that deter deer, like the aromatic and textured ones previously mentioned. The second step is to create another, separate food source for the deer. You may choose to hang a salt lick or a deer feeder in your yard, but planting more flowers and plants specifically for deer to nibble will attract more deer than a deer feeder. If you decide to create a deer garden, plant it close to where the deer enter your yard, and fill it with their favorite plants. With a deer garden in place, deer will stay away from the plants near your home, as the deer garden will be easier for them to access, and will be full of their favorites! Remember that deer scare easily, and so another way to invite deer into your garden is to rid your home of wind chimes, keep your dog in a separate place in the yard, and put any lawn decor that moves or makes noise into storage. Creating a peaceful, quiet place for deer to eat and settle in will welcome deer in, and keep them coming back.
Keeping Deer Out
If you find yourself wishing away these hungry visitors from your yard altogether, there are simple solutions to keep deer out of your yard for good. The first step is to rid your yard of what may be attracting the deer. Remember that deer are attracted to places that have a food source and cover from predators. Trimming trees, bushes, and shrubs will take away the twigs and branches that they munch, as well any dense brush they would use to hide in. In addition to this, planting "poisonous" plants will keep prevent deer from entering your yard. Deer tend to avoid certain plants that upset their stomach, and so have learned to stay away from plants such as <em>poppies, bleeding hearts, daffodils, and boxwood shrubs</em>. If the deer are still attracted to your yard, consider lining your yard with a natural fence. Deer will steer clear of shrubs or hedges they cannot see or enter through, and thus will move on to the next yard. Consider lining your yard with boxwood or juniper, as these will grow tall enough to prevent deer from coming through.
Although deer are beautiful to watch during the winter, it is not so beautiful to watch them munch on your favorite plants and flowers! Use these tips and tricks to keep deer away from your precious perennials this winter, and show us your deer-proof gardens on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #PLGKC.