Deer are such graceful creatures. They provide enjoyment for wildlife enthusiasts and sport for hunters. They are herbivores, meaning they feed on leaves and plants…including the most expensive plants in your garden! In rural parishes, vegetable and flower gardeners alike are constantly fighting deer. Whether it’s building a towering fence, spraying repellents, or scheming with sprinklers, a gardener’s fight is never over. If you are struggling with deer eating everything you plant, there are a few things you can do to try to reduce the damage.
A fence is the most effective way of deterring deer, especially for a vegetable garden. To keep deer out the fence should be eight feet tall and made of woven wire. Some folks opt for an electric fence because they are cheaper. Electric fences are helpful but will not be as effective as an eight foot tall woven wire fence. If you want to try an electric fence, string wires 24”-34” above the ground and add peanut butter tabs around the fence. Make peanut butter tabs by spreading peanut butter on a piece of aluminum foil and wrapping it around the wire. This will attract deer and shock them, hopefully scaring them away from the area. Test your fence daily to make sure it is working.
There are a number of deer repellent sprays on the market that will repel deer when you spray them on your plants. These sprays usually have a sulfurous odor that deer do not like. Consistently spraying deer repellent sprays is effective, but keep in mind that any odor that offends deer will probably offend you too.
Motion activated sprinklers and lights also work well but you must be move them around the yard regularly so deer do not get used to it. Yard dogs are also a good option to keep critters away from your plants.
One of the easiest preventative measures is to plant deer resistant plants. Deer prefer some plants over others and tend to stay away from fuzzy leaves, a bitter taste, or a plant that emits a strong odor. Keep in mind that no plant is “deer proof.” If a deer is hungry enough, it will eat even the most distasteful of plants. Deer resistant plants to consider are: vitex, lantana, buddleia, fountain grass, salvia, verbena, columbine, dianthus, foxglove, gardenia, celosia, marigolds, yarrow, dusty miller, canna lily, milk weed, Joe Pye weed, crape myrtle, lamb’s ear, Louisiana iris, and parsley hawthorn. Figuring out the best plants for your garden may be trial and error but many of these plants are Louisiana Super Plants and are tested and proven to do well in our climate. Flowers like vitex, lantana, salvia, and yarrow are excellent for attracting pollinators too!
Gardening should be fun. No one wants to spend time and money on plants that end up inside something’s belly. Whether you choose to build a fence, spray repellants, or install motion activated sprinklers, it is worth the investment to try deer resistant plants.
Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.