Rate this Article: 

Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

While deer may appear to be harmless, they are quite a nuisance in the garden. 

These super grazers leap over all but the tallest fences to devour the stems, leaves, and buds of many types of plants, including arborvitae, fir, alfalfa, and roses. They also eat fruits and vegetables.


How to Identify Deer in your Garden

If you notice jagged edges on your plant leaves and cloven hoof prints in your garden, then you probably have a deer problem. Watch out for their bean-shaped droppings as well.

How to Get Rid of Deer

There are many techniques you can try to deter deer from munching on your plants. Try some of these methods for your garden:

  • Spray flowers and shrubs with a deer repellant that contains a mixture of dried bovine blood, sulfured eggs and garlic. These repellants are available at most home and garden stores. They will not harm your plants and are usually effective in deterring deer.
  • Make it tough for deer to browse. Trim off lower branches of trees. No deer wants to waste time picking through your scare yard if there are lush bushes next door.
  • Use scare tactics. Try putting several metal posts 4- to 5-feet-tall around the garden. Attach a metal pie tin to the top of each pole with twine The least bit of wind makes the pine tins clack with a noise that the deer don’t like. 
  • Clean up your yard.  Don’t leave acorns, rotted fruit, or leaves on your lawn; they are an open invitation to hungry deer.
  • For your garden, choose flowers and shrubs that are unpalatable to deer, such as forsythia, lilac bush, marigolds, zinnias, daffodils, lavender and snapdragons. Contact your local cooperative extension for suggestions in your area.  See our chart with a list of deer-resistant plants.
  • Put strong-smelling plants that deer don’t like on the outside of your garden and smaller plants that need more protection on inside. Deer tend to stay away from poisonous plants, strongly flavored plants, and plants with hairy or furry leaves.
  • Put a transistor radio in your garden and keep it on all night. Switch the station when you think of it. The noise will keep deer away.
  • Set up an inexpensive motion detector in your garden. When a deer triggers it, the noise will scare the deer back into the woods.
  • Drape fabric netting over plants and (most) deer will stay clear.
  • For a natural deterrent, scatter dog or human hair around your garden, or hang human hair in pantyhose or mesh bags in trees. Find human hair clippings at a barber shop. 
  • Scatter or hang bars of deodorant or cheap motel soap around the garden; if you leave the wrappers on, the soap will last longer. Irish Spring is particularly recommended. 
  • Mix rotten eggs in water (a dozen or so per 5 gallons) and spray around the perimeter of the garden.
  • Spread kitty litter around the edge of the garden.
  • Soak old socks in Lysol and spread around garden’s perimeter and hang from a tree limb or stake.
  • One reader, Rick, says, “Smelly old shoes can be used as a deterrent to deer. Just stick the shoes on top of tomato sticks, and watch the deer walk a wide circle around them. My shoes usually last from mid-May until about mid-August. That is, they keep the deer out of my garden for that long. This depends on the amount of rain and how much your shoes smell.”
  • For a real odor offensive, use predator urine; wolf and coyote urine are sold commercially in most garden stores. (Note: Use responsible source for predator urine, to make sure that the animals are treated humanely and the brand complies with state and federal regulations.) 
  • The most reliable method is to fence in your garden. Put up a strong, 8-foot-tall metal fence. 

See more about critter-resistant plants.

More From The Almanac


Add new comment

Deer eat everything

The line "For your garden, choose flowers and shrubs that are unpalatable to deer, such as forsythia, lilac bush, marigolds" the deer here in central Ohio have eaten my lilac & forsythia bush & for 2 years they have eaten my marigolds.

Deer repellent

I know, it's gross. But shortly after moving to a deer infested area, an old timer told me that a sure proof method of keeping the deer from eating your flowers is to save your urine in a spray bottle and use it. It works!

I've had a huge problem with

I've had a huge problem with deer moving through my backyard this fall. I live just outside the city, and have a large garden, and a decorative pond in my yard. I'm not sure why this year, but the deer seem obsessed with drinking water from my pond. I'm losing up to 4 inches of water a night.

Im going to try the spray listed above to see if it works.

I'd consider another reason

I'd consider another reason for the water loss. 4" in even a small pond is a huge amount of water.

great way to deal with deer eating your garden

you could hunt them, after you take one or two the other deer will leave. If they are bothering you out of season, then talk to your conservation agent and they might give you a permit to hunt the pests out of season

Have tried many things and

Have tried many things and finally found the one and only thing that works: an eight foot high metal fence.

Well, I think I've almost got

Well, I think I've almost got the cure for deer. I purchased petticoat netting. Joann Fabric is the only place locally we can find it. Get on their mailing list and you will get sale notices and you can get 40% to 50% off the original price on one item. It runs around $1.50 when it's not on sale. Initial cost may seem pricey but so are the deer repellents. We saved last year's netting and is still in good condition and maybe for another year. It's time consuming but we cover everything every night and uncover as early as possible. We also had some orange fencing that's used at construction sites. (We were in construction before we retired.) It works also. Good luck to anyone who uses it.

You can also mix together one

You can also mix together one raw egg (beaten), 1/2 cup milk, 1 tbs cooking oil, 1 tbs dish detergent with a gallon of water. It smells horrible and will last for 3 months. Lightly spray the mixture over your greens and any other plants they are bothering. The deer will pass by, but not partake. Re-spray after a rain.

Free Almanac Newsletters

Almanac Weekly Companion 

The General Store

Almanac Recipe Box