Deer Proofing Your Garden
As gardeners, a large part of the joy of gardening is sharing the experience with wildlife. We garden for birds, bees, butterflies & other beneficial creatures and we enjoy seeing them frequent our yards.
By Jennifer Schamber
[This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener May 2015 issue.]
As gardeners, a large part of the joy of gardening is sharing the experience with wildlife. We garden for birds, bees, butterflies & other beneficial creatures and we enjoy seeing them frequent our yards. But only those gardeners that live in areas with a high deer population know how frustrating it is to see a newly emerging bed of hostas get munched to the ground overnight. But really, how can we blame the deer? It’s like bringing a three-year old in a candy store and expecting to leave without at least a lollipop in hand. The native landscape in our highly developed community is over-ridden with exotic honeysuckle, a plant that deer tend to eat as a last resort. Our yards are like a candy store for deer, and there are certain plants they have acquired a taste for, and these tend to be some of the most popular plants for gardeners: hostas, daylilies & roses (just to name a few!)
So what is a gardener to do? The best line of defense is to plant things that the deer prefer the least. The good news is, the list of “deer resistant” plants is longer than one may think. Now I must bring up the fine print here: Unfortunately, no plant is 100% deer proof; the critters will eat almost any plant if they are hungry enough! But they will likely graze on less of it if they don’t prefer the flavor or they dislike the texture. Hairy leaves and plants with strong smells tend to be offensive, and they also steer clear of toxic plants, like Oleander and Castor Bean plants.
If desirable plants are already growing, the best defense is a barrier method, like fencing, netting or monofilament. It also helps to locate these types of plants far from the edge of woodlands. Usage of “scare” strategies are quite effective, like dogs and sprinklers set with motion detectors. Oftentimes usage of repellents is required, which should be rotated to maintain effectiveness. Spray-on scent and flavor deterrents, like Liquid Fence, can be used monthly to help control damage, as well as systemic repellents like Repellex. Encapsulated repellents, like Sweeney’s Deer Repellent, have also proven to be quite effective when used in conjunction with a spray.
Now that we are entering the summer growing season, it’s good to know what kind of tropical plants can thrive in a deer-impacted garden. Here’s a top ten list of deer resistant tropicals for St. Louis area gardens and containers:
Keep in mind that there is a wide range of annuals, perennials, herbs, native plants, vines, shrubs and trees that are known to be more resistant to deer grazing than other selections. Be mindful as you shop to not be choosing the favored snacks of the neighborhood herd of deer.