Deer Don’t Read Manuals

CMA statement: deer do not read brochures and do not listen to us, so these are suggestions and may require multiple strategies.

Step 1: Plan Strategically

If you have a fenced area and a non-fenced area, do not plant a deers favorite treat outside the fenced area.  Don’t have any fenced areas, you may want to  consider a small fenced area if you want to have peonies and topiary trees, for example.  Also don’t expect a 6’ fence to stop a determined deer.  Do you have dogs that may discourage deer?  Use your fur babies to your fullest advantage dissuade those deer.

Also partnering plants, as I will mention further in step 2, is a great way to maximize plant variety.  NOTE: deer are curious . . . if you have 20 deer and each one tries a new plant it can wipe out a plant.  But using plants that recover quickly can be very advantageous.

Step 2: Use Resistant Plants

No plant is 100% deer proof but there are some that are definitely more resistant than others.  These plants are also good partners to other non-resistant plantings.  Meaning, by planting a cluster of non-deer resistant plants very close to deer resistant plants it can help to discourage deer from nibbling.  There is always the option of shrubs with thorns or spines like roses to dissuade deer.

Here are some favorites that tend to be more deer resistant (remember deer do not read these lists and nothing is guaranteed except death and taxes):

  • May Night Salvia (recover quickly)
  • Munstead Lavender
  • Asters
  • Beebalms (recover quickly)
  • Coneflower
  • Hyssop
  • Foxglove (these only grow well in microclimates so be cautious when planting)
  • Barberry
  • Chokeberry
  • Holly – Oregon Grape Holly I think is under-utilized
  • Viburnums

Step 3: Chemical Help

I caution against the use of chemicals for the simple fact that deer like humans get used to the smell and taste if over used.  Example, I did not like the flavor of coffee as a kid or a teenager, but in college I started drinking coffee and now enjoy it every morning, I got used to it and now love it.  Not to say deer, or us, will ever love the smell of rotten eggs or diluted pee that is commonly used in deer sprays, but they will get used to it defeating the purposes of the spray.

Used sparsely and in moderation with the other techniques mentioned above chemical assistance can be helpful.  Sprays can be especially helpful when plants are first planted and those curious deer come around.  Remember that if 20 curious deer come along they will all try it and spit it out.