Repellent for dear deer
Deer will tend to try anything, but this list of perennials will disappoint their tastebuds and decrease their interest in coming back for seconds:
• Black-eyed Susan
• Coral bells
• Creeping phlox
• Day lilies
by Michele Mangiantini
When deer are not so dear to the home garden there are a few control measures to consider. By using deer-resistant plants, well-built fences and other barriers, it is possible to reduce the occurrences of deer eating from your gardens.
A most successful anti-deer program likely will be a combination of controls and measures. Understanding the habits of deer will help to decide which controls to put into place to manage them.
Deer most actively feed at dusk and tend to gorge themselves after rutting season (November) in preparation for winter and over-winter pregnancies. They consume an average of seven pounds per day. They eat a required wide variety of plants from woody twigs and bark to leafy plant matter, grasses, vegetables and fruit. Deer are grazers, they munch and move along.
As the amount and variety of foods available decreases, deer behavior gets bolder and they tend to take more risks going into places they wouldn’t otherwise venture. If deer start eating on home landscaping and food gardens, extra controls may need to be considered.
Well-built fences are great but often expensive and not always practical. A sufficient fence needs to be strong enough to resist being knocked over for the sweet-smelling plants on the other side and tall enough to hinder a 12-foot jump. Deer will not jump unless they see a safe place to land, so if the fence is shorter than 8 feet, placing other barriers like shrubbery beyond the fence will deter them.
Scare and noise tactics can be used for a short time but deer soon learn they don’t pose a threat and will ignore them. Commercial repellants also will work for a short time but often fade or wash away from rain. Another temporary measure is to use substances that affect their senses of smell and taste, like blood meal, fragrances, peppers, soaps and urine from predators. Other control measures include the use of bird netting around desired plants and plant poles placed under and at the drip line of vulnerable trees.
The use of deer resistant plants is a good scheme to discourage them from your yard. Deer don’t like the strong sensations experienced in eating herbs and minty plants.
They don’t appreciate the scent that is left on their fur after brushing up against strong-smelling herbs and tend to refrain from eating in those areas. Planting herbs next to favorite plants might just be enough to convince deer to continue their quest for food somewhere else.
Consider landscaping with plants that are rarely eaten by deer or plants that can recover from a little damage if nibbled from. Woody trees and bushes that are avoided or resilient include blue spruce, boxwood, forsythia, holly, juniper, Oregon grape, red-flowering currant and Scotch pine.
Join us next week for a fascinating article about insect defoliators.
Michele Mangiantini is a Washington State University-certified Clallam County Master Gardener.