Those cute little critters with their perky ears and innocent eyes can really wreck havoc in your garden. We’re talking about deer – adorable, charming, peaceful, and very, very hungry! Especially as winter closes in, deer are going to start looking for reliable sources of food, and if your landscape has a stray leaf or some tasty bark, you’re going to end up with some unintended dinner guests.
Deer can be a problem year round, munching on your vegetation, snacking on your vegetables, making your perennials disappear faster than you can say, “Abracadabra!” They’re smart and they’re agile in pursuit of a meal, but that doesn’t mean you need 20-foot barbed wire fences to protect your prized landscape.
There are lots of ways to outsmart deer – ways that are beautiful and completely natural, no harmful chemicals required. These are some key ways you can deer-proof your landscape, all of which are safe, effective, and aesthetic, too.
1. Plant To Avoid Temptation
Just like people, deer have their favorite snacks, and those include apples, berries, pansies and roses. They also enjoy anything that has a high water content, like hosta. If you plant those out in the open, you may as well be laying down a red carpet for deer dinner guests.
On the other hand, there are less-enticing things you could plant, like lavender, mint and peonies. For deer, roses are to peonies what cake is to kale. The level of temptation just isn’t quite the same.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a completely deer-proof plant, but many are quite deer-resistant. Deer prefer smooth textures, so anything rough or fuzzy is likely to avoid their attention. They don’t like bitter tastes, nor do they like anything that is strongly scented, like lavender, chives or garlic.
Most herbs fit the bill for deer-resistance, so if you’re a fan of anything from rosemary to thyme, sage, oregano or mint, then your herb garden will escape their interest.
Prefer blooms? Try beautybush, lilac, cone flower, bee balm or phlox. For height, texture and multi-season appeal, plant bluestar, false indigo, or Russian sage.
The list goes on – there are are plethora of shrubs, trees, flowers and herbs that will grace your garden with multi-season beauty and stay off a deer’s radar. So if there’s a chance that the neighborhood deer will be visiting your yard, plan wisely and choose plants that won’t encourage them to stay.
2. Protect Your Prizes
Understanding deer can go a long way to keeping them from chowing down on your landscape. For starters, they are creatures of habit, so if they find a tasty spot in your yard, they’re going to keep coming back. Avoiding deer-tempting plants is a great start, but what if you’re really in love with roses and can’t live without them?
That’s when you have to get smarter than the deer, and plant strategically. Plant tempting flowers and shrubs in a location that makes it much harder for deer to access. For instance, you can plant a border of undesirable plants with the more tempting ones behind. Strongly scented blooms around the edges of a garden can be overwhelming enough to a deer’s sense of smell that they will leave more tempting plants alone.
Favorite plants can be placed closer to the house, where deer are less likely to tread, especially if you’ve got a barking dog or motion-sensor lights.
There’s always the option to enclose a garden within a fenced area, but keep in mind that deer can jump both far and high – on average, they can clear an 8-foot fence, and if they leap, they can propel themselves a good 30 feet forward.
But don’t despair, because ugly prison-like fences are not your only option. One of the things it helps to know about deer is that they aren’t likely to make a jump they can’t be certain about. That means if you’re planning to build a fence, consider how you can use it to obscure a deer’s view to the other side.
Creating depth can help – tall grasses and other visually restrictive plantings in front of the fence can make it difficult to a deer to judge both height and distance. Take advantage of slope, too. Deer are less likely to jump a fence they have to approach from below.
They are also cautious creatures, so if they can’t see an open space on both sides of the fence, or if their path is obstructed, they are less likely to jump. Use this to your advantage by creating structures such as pergolas, or blocking a view with shrubbery.
It takes a little creative planning, but you can keep deer out and retain your favorite plants if you add structures and plantings to protect them.
3. Thwart Their Path
Sometimes keeping deer out of your yard is as simple as making it hard for them to get in. If you notice that they like to enter at a specific location, you can take measures to block their path. Fences, gazebos, trellises, or anything that blocks their view and keeps them from walking right in can go a long way to mitigating your problems.
You don’t even have to fence your entire yard to keep deer out, as long as you block their natural path in. There are plenty of aesthetic options for partial fences and garden gates, which can double as a trellis for growing vines and flowers during warm months.
Another helpful thing to know about deer is that they don’t have very good depth perception. Building in tiers, adding retaining walls in multiple levels, or adding a berm will also deter them from entering.
Another great path-blocking option is to plant a barrier of bamboo. This fast-growing, all-season plant offers both privacy and beauty, in addition to creating a physical barrier to deer. Plant it alone, or against a fence for additional depth-busting power.
Finally, deer are not as comfortable traveling across uneven surfaces, which makes an excellent case for a rock garden, whether it’s a focal point or a border. The jagged surface will make them feel unsteady, and coupled with a fence or other physical barrier, there’s a good chance those deer are going to move on to the neighbor’s yard!
Wildlife is a welcome addition to a landscape, and protecting that landscape from the wildlife it attracts is a challenge that can be overcome with good planning and design. If you have deer in your yard, or you’re thinking of redoing your landscape and want to keep it safe from hungry guests, contact us for a consultation. We’ll create an outdoor space where you can coexist peacefully – and beautifully -with whatever friends Mother Nature sends your way.