If you’ve been following my column here at the Hot Mess Press for a while, you know that I love to garden. In fact, I have a tremendous passion for simplicity and natural living, which is why I often write about essential oils, healthy food choices and growing your own food as a means of improving your family’s health. It’s about that time of year when garden thoughts start entering my mind. Last year, I suffered a devastating loss — as in, MY ENTIRE GARDEN — when deer breeched our fencing and literally ate every single bud, flower, leaf and crop. I sat in the middle of the horrific scene and cried as I witnessed hours upon hours of a labor of love reduced to nubs and sticks. This year, my immediate priority will be to keep deer out of the garden!
Last season’s loss was so immense that I considered not gardening at all this year. I don’t want to do without a garden, though, because I love gardening. I also love the wonderful, delicious and healthy foods we harvest from our garden throughout the summer. So, instead of giving up, I’m going to try some of the five tips I’m about to share with you today to avoid deer damage in the garden!
Keep deer out with strategic planting schemes
Deer are grazers. They wander along, gobbling up whatever edible plant or fruit they happen to come upon. It might be easier to steer them away from your garden if you plant an abundance of plants they don’t like. Such plants might include those with pungent odors because deer have a tremendously heightened sense of smell.
Spread a variety of herbs and flowers, such as chives, garlic or rosemary throughout the garden to repel deer. Cosmos, as well, are lovely and vibrant, making them an attractive flower for a vegetable garden. They also happen to be on a deer’s do-not-like list, which makes them a great garden choice!
Avoid planting favorites for the deer
It makes sense to avoid planting things that deer love to eat if you’re having a particularly challenging problem with them in your garden. This is a good tip, but it irritates me because some of the things they love most are staples in my own garden, such as lettuce, sunflowers, beans and peas!
To deter deer, however, it’s best to minimize the presence of such crops. They also love berries, roses, azaleas, tulips and other popular types of flowers. Some people create a diversion by planting “deer favorites” in a separate garden. This is similar to planting “sacrifice crops” throughout your vegetable garden to allow pests to feed off of, so that they leave your other crops alone.
A word about fences and deer
When deer destroyed my garden last year, we were in the midst of a terrible drought. I really think they were thirsty and starving, which is why they were willing to jump clear OVER the fence that surrounds my garden. Granted, the fence was just under 5 ft. tall. It’s best to construct a fence that is 8 ft. tall when the goal is to prevent deer from entering.
Deer can jump high. They can also jump far, as in, across a great span of space. The thing is, however, they’re not so great at doing both things simultaneously. That’s why it’s a good idea to build a fence. Then, construct another barrier around the perimeter of the fence, even if it’s just some taught rope or string or chicken wire. This should be placed about 3 ft or so BEFORE your actual fence, so that, if deer were trying to get into your garden, they’d have to jump twice — first, over the outer construction, then over the actual fence. They to not like to double-jump like this!
Make use of fuzzy or prickly plants
Because they are grazers, deer often “root” with their noses as they rummage for food. They have super sensitive noses, which makes prickly and fuzzy things irritating to them. If you plant lots of lamb’s ear, barberries or thorny things around the crops you don’t want the deer to get, it might help keep them away.
Relocate your garden, if necessary
This is definitely something I’m considering doing this spring. While I love the current location of my garden. It’s out in a beautiful open field that provides a gorgeous view of our property and house. It’s about 80 to 100 meters away from our house, though, which might be part of the problem.
If you’re having trouble with deer in your garden, consider moving the garden closer to your house. Deer are likelier to steer clear of a well-populated area where there is frequent human activity. I’m hoping that moving my garden will help resolve our deer issue.
When deer are destroying crops, can you shoot them?
We hunt deer, and my family loves venison, so we often have it in our deep freezer. It’s logical to assume that, if you live in a rural area where deer are destroying your crops, you should be able to shoot them. The problem is that every state has its own hunting laws.
I happen to live in Pennsylvania, where there are ridiculously invasive laws of all sorts, including those pertaining to this topic. In order for it to be lawful to shoot a deer that is destroying your crops in PA, your crops must provide for half or more of your income. Ridiculous, but true. My crops are feeding my family. The fact that we don’t sell the food we grow should have nothing to do with it. The deer are taking food off our table. In my opinion, we should be able to shoot those deer and harvest them for food, even if it’s not the state-approved season for hunting. Be sure to check your state’s laws regarding classification of deer as vermin.
Share ideas to keep deer out of a garden
Check back often at The Hot Mess Press to read about gardening! If you’ve successfully overcome a deer problem in your garden, we want to know about it! Share the tips that have worked for you — it just might help a fellow gardener this year!