How To Stop The Deer From Eating Your Plants

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a suburban oasis. You look through the window and see a dreamlike landscape that could rival the Gardens of Versailles. Taking in the beauty of the morning sun with your coffee mug in hand, you decide to take a step outside and experience this spectacle for yourself. The land is surrounded by brilliant colors and luscious greenery that simply take your breath away. Its impenetrable borders shield you from your neighbors entirely and create a state of peaceful solitude. You find a chair and decide to kick back to breathe in the fresh cool air. As you fall into total relaxation, a big smile appears across your face. Why a smile you ask? Well, this paradise is your very own backyard! Proud of your green thumb you look at the true beauty of the yard once more, close your eyes and doze off. 

CHOMP, CRUNCH, CRACKLE, SNAP, STOMP!

You wake up in a panic and cannot believe what you're seeing. Just like that, your beautiful backyard is completely destroyed! Flowers have been plucked right from their stems, bushes stripped clean of their growth, and your border shrubs are practically see through! What a mess! You get up and investigate the damage, even though you have a pretty good idea as to who has committed such a crime. Sickened by your landscaping nightmare coming true, you realize you'll just have to start all over again.

Oh Deer... 

Unfortunately, the scenario just described is all too common for homeowners in Northern New Jersey. The Deer have become such an issue in the surrounding area that they're rarely considered those "cute little backyard animals" anymore. Instead, they're nothing more than unwanted pests. AKA: "over sized lawn rats." These four-legged, living, breathing and eating disasters have been causing massive headaches for garden centers and homeowners for a while now. Preventing plant damage is becoming too much of a burden to keep up with on an everyday basis. You spend good time, and most importantly money, to make your garden wishes come true. 

But now it's time to fight back! Let's show those lawn invaders that your yard isn't the one to be reckoned with; cost efficiently of course! 

We'll show you how to turn Lawn Uncertainty into Lawn Security

Here are some tips and tricks to try and keep the deer out and uninterested: 


Deer Spray & Granular Repellent

The deer may take away business, but they create it too. Deer repellents have been a must-have in many garden centers due to high demand and success rate. Now while these products are highly effective against the deer, they also come at a price. This option will be the most expensive among the bunch for two reasons:

  1. the bottles / containers are only so big.
  2. you'll need to keep reapplying the product over time.

Money aside, it's worth the price tag, but only if you follow the directions closely. The one thing we always stress the most to our customers is PLEASE follow the instructions listed on the product. If the directions on the packaging are not followed, then you can imagine what happens next. We don't want you wasting your time or money only to get more aggravated and distrust a useful product. Another word of advice is to be mindful of rainfall as well! The rain may be good for your plants but some deer repellent may only last a few rainfalls (depending on how often or how heavy the rain actually is).

Overall, deer sprays and granular repellents are trustworthy products when used correctly. It's worth the investment.

PRICE: $$-$$$

Effectiveness: Average - High (but must reapply and maintain as instructed).


Deer Resistant Plants

Technically, there is no true "deer resistant plant," but there are varieties that the deer would rather not eat. Whether it be that a given plant doesn't taste good to them or they just don't care for it, let's be thankful that such a plant actually exists!

The deer are tricky creatures though. More often than not, we have customers come in and tell us, "the deer ate all my flowers! How come they didn't eat my neighbors? We planted the same things!" Sadly, there isn't really any definitive reason as to why this happens, but the only reasonable explanation is that your house may just be in the deer's daily route while your neighbors property isn't. With that being said, the deer will eat anything if they're absolutely starving. Nothing can be 100% ruled out. To combat this, plant smart. Purchase plants that the deer are known not to touch; unless you just love something so much, say black-eyed susans for example, which are basically caesar salad for deer. You might have to bite the bullet on that one! 

If you need help with what to plant in your yard, take a look at our list of deer resistant plants! The list will provide you with great choices and suggestions but it does not include every option that you can choose from.

For more information, and a bigger list on deer resistant plants, check out the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) website. They know their stuff!

PRICE: $-$$$ (depending on the type & size of the plant.)

EFFECTIVENESS: High (unless the deer are absolutely desperate.)


Physical Borders

What's tall, sturdy, often made of wood or metal and keeps unwanted visitors out of a specific area? If you guessed a fence then you're absolutely right! Did I mention they keep the deer out too?

Fencing for your yard is a fantastic alternative if you want to plant whatever shrub or flower you want and avoid spending the money on deer repellents. Nothing quite says, "STAY OUT!" more than a nice boundary right in a deer's face! You still have to be careful though, because the deer will still try to salvage what they can.

As much as we'd like to think they are, the deer aren't stupid. If they really want something, they're definitely going to try and get it. There are three scenarios that you should be mindful of if setting up a border seems like the most fitting solution to your deer problem:

  1. Deer can jump 6ft with ease. Pretty impressive right? All kidding aside, you should be aware of their leaping talents. Having the fencing there may deter them simply because it's harder to jump into a yard than it is to simply waltz in.  A standing border that's in their way can be cleared if the deer are feeling particularly adventurous that day, or if they're really hungry. However, having the fence would serve as a one time payment opposed to continuously buying deer repellents.
  2. Don't leave the gate door open! It sounds silly and easily preventable, but trust me it happens. A customer came in last summer and looked so defeated when he told us this story. In short, it went like this: he was out in the yard, forgot to close the gate and the deer walked in and ate everything. A simple human error allows for animal terror.  
  3. Watch what you plant near the fence. If your someone who hates the look of a fence around your property and want to cover it with trees/shrubs for a border, be careful! The plants that you may choose to place around your fence may grow tall (as intended), but that also puts them within potential reach of the deer. Take the always popular Arborvitaes for example. This plant serves as a great border and can be easily maintained; except the deer love it. After the deer are through with them, we like to call them "lollipop trees" because they literally eat as much as can be physically eaten and they look like a lollipop!

If they can reach it, they'll eat it.

PRICE: $$$ (due to purchasing of material and installation fees).

EFFECTIVENESS: High (one time payment = permanent protection).


Homemade Sprays

Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. You'll feel like a witch cooking up a potion! Fortunately, you won't need an eye of newt, the toe of a frog or tongue of a dog for this concoction!

Homemade deer spray are cheap and easy to make. Finding the right mixture may take a few trial and error runs but most generally contain similar ingredients. A homemade spray has a lot of potential to work, but it washes off very fast.  Since your spray won't hold very long, you'll have to make new batches pretty often; which is probably more than you'd like to in the first place. At the end of the day what do you have to lose? Give it a shot! It's worth a try!

Try using any mixture of the following in your homemade spray:

-Mix with Water-

  • Hot sauce
  • Mint
  • Pepper
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Dish Soap
  • Chili Powder
  • Peppermint
  • Milk
  • Eggs

PRICE: $

EFFECTIVENESS: Low - Average (washes off quickly).


Irish Spring Soap

Now this one's easy! All you have to do is pick up some Irish Spring Soap, cut it up into little pieces, tie a piece to a stake and spread them around your yard or garden. The foreign smell will deter the deer, and other critters, from the yard. Your garden will not only smell great, but be deer free!

Many people have had success with the soap strategy, but that isn't to say it will definitely work all the time. Some deer may not care for the smell, or they may get used to it. If that's the case then try, try and try again!

PRICE: $

EFFECTIVENESS: Average


Dogs

Scenario: A dog sees a deer in the backyard. What do you think it'll do next? Bark and growl until the deer leave "their" territory. Instincts will kick in and it won't matter if it's deer, friends, or the mailman; the pup usually goes absolutely crazy!

Having a dog in the house is a great natural deer deterrent option. It's like having your own lawn protection service! Having a guard on duty at all times is great and all, but there are downsides that come with this approach:

  • Fearless deer. Some deer see dogs and humans on an everyday basis and simply don't mind it. They've become so used to living around us that we're barely even a threat to them anymore. Unless you chase the deer off the property, they'll probably give you a blank stare and continue to eat their dinner (your plants).
  • A very lazy dog. A deer could walk into your living room and the dog wouldn't care! What a good pooch right?

PRICE: $ (aside from the expenses of taking care of your dog).

EFFECTIVENESS: Low - High (depending on if your dog actually reacts to the deer).


Prayers and Plastic Plants

When all else fails there isn't much hope left to hang on. Now it's time to turn to prayers and plastic plants.

The deer have potential to defeat you physically, psychologically and financially; prayers and plastic plants will only prove them victorious. Hopefully you will ever have to turn to this option.

In the end, you can start all over again and pray the deer don't demolish the yard once more, or you can invest in some stunningly tacky plastic flowers to insure those won't be eaten!

They're not the prettiest but at least you have flowers right?

PRICE: $

EFFECTIVENESS: High (I don't think anything likes to eat plastic?)


So, what works best?

Ultimately, a positive attitude. The deer will come back and you just have to keep up with the maintenance without getting frustrated.

In order, here's what we recommend to be the most effective deer control options:

  1. Fencing in your yard.
  2. Deer resistant plants.
  3. Deer repellents.

Just remember nothing is guaranteed. Every plant is susceptible to a deer's interest (stomach). Products and solutions that are marketed as deer repellants do actually work as intended, but they are only useful when the directions are followed closely.

People are always going to find a deer solution that works best for them. For example, just because I use Irish Spring Soap in my garden doesn't mean it's going to definitely work for you. Run some tests to see what keeps your lawn invaders away. Use these tips with precaution and see what works best, we hope you find the perfect fit!

Remember...

Turn Lawn Uncertainty into Lawn Security!