Let’s be clear: gardening with deer can be frustrating. You read all the books, plant all the right plants, and those hungry mowing machines just tear through your new deer-resistant plantings like they’re candy! And then leave poops on your lawn to further taunt you.
They’re cute; I’ll give deer that. But they’re creatures of habit, and they’re not that hard to anticipate. Today I’ll give you a few tips to reduce the likelihood that they’ll eat your garden to the ground, and then next week I’ll share a list of plants that grow easily, look great together, and that the deer won’t eat. In short; plantings for deer that you can’t f*** up. Allright, on to the tips!
Spray new plants with deer repellent
First, deer are curious. They’re like a lot of college students – they’ll try anything once. So anytime you plant something new that is not absolutely, totally, 100% deer-resistant (like, you know, rocks), spray it down with deer repellent for the first six weeks.
Bonus tip: every time you run out of repellent, get a new brand. They all work fairly well. You don’t want the deer deciding that maybe they do actually like a salad dressing of rotten eggs and cayenne, thankyouverymuch.
Get rid of the candy
Deer are creatures of habit. So they walk their same paths every week, they eat their favorite plants, and they nibble anything easy to reach along the way. You know what makes a favored path? Candy! Delicious, delicious deer candy.
So those few roses that you can’t bear to get rid of are actually drawing the deer into your garden. Deer might not show up just for the pansy flowers or the Japanese anemones, but since they’re there already for the roses, why yes, they will just have a nibble. Thanks!
You know what this means, right? You must be brutal. Do a quick evaluation of what is eaten every dadgum week, and get rid of it. Give it to your sister, compost it; it doesn’t matter what you do with it, but it can’t stay there.
Once you’ve put the deer on a no-candy diet, do a six-week course of repellents or use motion-sensing sprayers like the Scarecrow to further break their habit of using your garden as a grocery store. Once they’ve found that your neighbors have some delicious plants too, they may just stay away.
Stay ever vigilant
Deer have babies every year, who don’t yet know how gross your hellebore flowers are. And as for grownup deer, well, let’s just say having a brain the size of a baseball doesn’t make for a great memory. They’ll absentmindedly nibble stuff they’ve already deemed inedible. And when times get tough, they’ll eat a baseball mitt if it keeps them going.
So you’ve got to keep an eye on things, and as soon as you notice any nibbling or issues, pull out the motion-sensing sprayer to startle them, or dig out a repellent spray, and try to convince them as fast as possible that your garden is just a totally uncool place to hang out. Don’t let them get into a habit of visiting your garden, because if you do, they’ll be a lot harder to get rid of again.
Lastly, don’t take the deer personally. Really, aside from the fact that they spend their entire day eating roses and have the intelligence of a boot, they’re just like us. They want to get by, eat some good food, have kids, and enjoy a gentle and pleasant day hanging out by the stream with their families.
It’s nuthin’ personal when they eat your plants. They don’t have the option of heading down to Whole Foods and picking up some organic rosebuds as they’d surely prefer. So if you feel your blood start to boil at evidence of their grazing – chill out, have a beer, and do some zen-like deep breathing or something. They’re just plants; they’ll probably grow back, and when we die, we can’t take our nice gardens with us. We gotta be, like, philosophical about these things, or we’ll turn into grumps.
Stay tuned for the second installment, Deer-Resistant Plants You Can’t F*** Up, coming Friday.
Want to read more?
My review on Amazon of the new book, 50 Deer-Resistant Plants by Ruth Rogers Clausen
Every article about deer-resistant plants I’ve written here