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Prevent Deer Damage in Your Garden | Gardening Advice

Prevent Deer Damage in Your Garden | Gardening Advice
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Deer in GardenDeer damage in my garden was excessive this fall. What can I do to prevent this? — S.R., Buckland, MA

I am asked this often. Here are some solutions from gardeners, with my responses.

After a haircut, keep the hair and scatter it all over the plants. See the deer run away.

Human hair can repel deer, but weather diminishes its effectiveness so frequent reapplications are needed. Also, once deer become used to humans and realize they are not a threat, the fear factor disappears.

I apply a commercial deer repellent to plants. My favorites so far are Bobbex and Deer Off.

Professionally formulated products to repel deer disrupt the browsing habits of deer with their odor or taste or by mimicking the scent of a predator. Note: When plants are actively growing, applications must be made more frequently to the new shoots, which deer prefer. Unfortunately, deer learn quickly. As population pressures increase, deer can overcome their dislike of these offensive products, learn that they are masking palatable plants, and return to graze. Using a combination of different repellents along with choosing plants less favored by deer would be more effective.

Immerse bulbs for a short time in a mixture of Tabasco sauce and finely minced garlic; remove the bulbs and allow them to dry, then plant them.

Garlic and other odiferous products are offensive to deer. The garlic “pencils” sold in garden centers can be effective in changing browsing habits. Mothballs, coyote urine, or bars of fragrant soap (specifically Lifebuoy and Irish Spring) hung from tree branches have also worked as deer repellents. Researchers at Cornell University claim that deer are repelled by the odor of Milorganite, a sludge-based fertilizer.

Each spring I unroll 4-foot-wide chicken wire on the ground around the perimeter of my garden. Deer apparently are uncomfortable with the feel of the uneven surface and will not walk on this. This method has worked for years!

Physically excluding these animals is the best way to prevent deer damage. But when deer become sufficiently desperate, they may learn to jump your barrier. Many types of fencing can work, including single- or multiple-wire strands at varying heights, electric fences, plastic or metal mesh attached to trees or posts, and solid structures made of wood or metal.

— R. Wayne Mezzitt, chairman, Weston Nurseries

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