While it may be tough to believe, deer (and lots of other wildlife) can be a problem not only for rural farmers and gardeners, but also for many urban gardeners as well. They love to eat a variety of plants (over 500 different types), and are adaptable, learning to sneak around fences, estimating the length of a chained dog’s reach, and very good at detecting and avoiding predators.

In Toronto, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is our largest mammal and can be found through many of the city’s natural areas such as the along the Don River and Humber River systems. If you live in or near an area with an active deer population, here are a few tips you can use to keep deer out of your garden.

Deer can jump over 3 meters (10 feet) tall, so fencing them out is going to require a very tall fence. Because their first instinct is to avoid being eaten by other predators, we can think about using their natural defenses and abilities to put them on alert and avoid our garden.

Deer have a very sensitive sense of smell and exceptional vision with noses 8x larger than a human and eyes that can spy a tasty garden from 800 meters away, day or night. It is movement that gets a deer’s attention, with a roughly 310 degree field of vision. Their most active time of day is dawn and dusk and typically eat on the run with a nibble here and a bite there before moving on to another area.

Some of their preferred plants from the vegetable garden include:

  • Beans – tender seedlings get eaten first
  • Blackberries and raspberries – leaves and fruit
  • Broccoli and cauliflower – young leaves and shoots later in the season
  • Grapes – all parts of the plant
  • Lettuce – all parts
  • Peas – all parts
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet corn

Some plants that usually repel deer due to fragrance includes:

  • Catnip/catmint
  • Cchives/garlic/onions
  • Honeybush
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Sage
  • Thyme

These heavy scented plants jam the deer’s senses and makes them unseasy as well as providing a confusing array of scents that are difficult for deer to sort through

Some other tips to keep deer away from the garden include:

  • Interplanting susceptible plants with repellent plants
  • Blocking the view of the garden with plants or garden structures
  • Planting deterrent plants especially around the edges and fringes of the garden area
  • hang scented bars of soap around the garden (though for ideal effectiveness you will need to hang bars 3-4′ apart)
  • Hanging bags of human hair or bags of blood meal around the garden
  • Eliminating unnecessary cover like tall grasses or bushes
  • Creating an uninviting entryway or no visible landing site if the garden is fenced off

By using several of these tactics and rotating them throughout the season, you should be able to keep deer away from the garden by creating an unpleasant, malodorous, potentially dangerous environment that will put deer on high alert whenever they are nearby.

For more deer and pest deterrent tips, see our other tips or contact us for details on how we can help you get rid of other pest issues in the garden.

Cover Image by bagsgroove, used under its Creative Commons license.

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