Growing your own vegetables in your garden can be a labor of love. It is rewarding to watch as your hard-earned vegetables start to pop up and leaves grow bigger and bigger. That is why it is especially frustrating when deer (or other pests) start to choose your garden as their personal buffet.
It just happens that the vegetables we chose to plant this summer are at the top of a deer's ideal dinner plate. Our garlic, carrots, chard, collards, and peas all have gotten good bites out of them. It made me laugh that they avoided our bitter kale and lettuce (only the best for them, right?).
Signs of Deer
Deer usually stop by at dawn or dusk (ours stop by at about 6:20am and 8:30pm). They are totally silent, so they often go by unnoticed. Here are some ways you can tell that a deer has been by.
- Hoof print (similar to the shape of a heart).
- Droppings (small, rounded droppings).
- Trampled plants (I knew when I saw the grass and other plants had been trampled on).
- Torn leaves. Deer do not have incisors, so they usually rip off the leaves. The leaves look torn or ripped in half (picture on left). Ground hogs do have incisors, so they leave the plant looking like it was cut down (see below picture).
How to protect your garden
There are a few ways to keep the deer out.
You can do a physical barrier. I put up some chicken wire, held up with long poles around our silos. Of course, deer are persistent, so some were able to somehow manage to get a piece of chard through the chicken wire holes (how though?? ). You could also use plastic netting or floating row covers.
Another option is to use fencing, but it would need to be double fencing close together. Deer can actually jump as high as 8 to 12 feet, depending on the species, so super high fencing can keep them out. If your fence is shorter than 8 feet and your garden has some luscious green veggies, they will likely hop it, which is what happened in our case.
Bring in back up
We have a farm dog that loves barking at the deer when they even come close to our property (although she slacked off a few times...). Barking dogs are a great way to keep away deer. Be sure that the dog has free range of the yard though. If the deer sense that the dog is incessantly barking, this may not scare them off. Even knocking on the window does not phase deer. Another option if you have available is horses. Our farm horses keep the deer away.
Repellants that emit sulfur odors show to deer at bay the best. Also, repellant that makes vegetables taste bitter or provide a perimeter around vegetables (most cause no harm or taste difference to humans, read instructions and label). Here is an option from Lowe's. You can also make your own at home (this will be quite stinky, just as a warning).
At Home Deer Repellant
3 raw eggs
3 cloves of garlic (you can add more if you want)
3 cups of water
3 tablespoons of milk or yogurt (milk products contain a protein called casein that helps the mixture stick when dry)
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
Blend the eggs, garlic, milk, cayenne pepper, and water in a blender.
Pour into a container with a lid, and let it sit outside for several days to ferment.
Strain the mixture into a spray bottle, and spray on plants and on the perimeters of your yard or garden. Please save any remaining repellent in a jar, and wash out the bottle after each use because the nozzle will get clogged if not washed properly.
Change it up
Lastly, you can plant vegetables and herbs that will naturally repel the deer. Rhubarb, asparagus, rosemary, and oregano can be deterrents. Some work and some may not, but it does not hurt to try!
Last, but not least, you could wake up early and scare off the deer at 6:20am, like I have. Whatever it takes to protect those hard earned vegetables right?!