Ideas for Keeping Your Landscape Deer Free

Deer damage to ornamental plants is a recurring problem in many areas. Deer populations in many neighborhoods have grown due to suburban sprawl. In areas with heavy snowfall in the nearby woods, front and backyard plantings can serve as easy winter forage. It can be difficult to keep your landscape deer free, but it’s not impossible.

group of deer“Deer are selective feeders that eat leaves from flowers, shrubs and ornamental trees,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. “Damage to larger trees can extend up to 7 feet off the ground.”

In some areas, deer damage peaks in winter when snow cover reduces the food supply. Most areas with overpopulated deer herds experience problems year-round. The availability of natural food sources and the taste preferences of individual deer make deer-proofing a landscape a difficult task in many areas.

“Deer will eat almost any plant rather than starve,” says Andersen, “so damage control measures will be needed in addition to careful plant selection. Use of fencing and repellents also can help control deer damage to landscapes.”

Fences and plant protectors

An 8-foot-tall fence is generally sufficient to deter deer, but a double fence (fence within a fence) is most effective. In the latter case, space the fences about 4-feet apart to prevent deer from jumping both. If the cost and appearance of a double fence seem overwhelming, try tree protectors or wraps. These help to discourage deer from browsing on young trees. Plastic tree wrap, woven-wire mesh cylinders or burlap can be used to protect individual or group plantings. Be sure to unwrap shrubs at the end of the winter to allow for healthy plant growth.

Repellants

Repellents may help deter deer, but they do not eliminate damage completely. Homemade repellents include rotting eggs (mix two eggs with a gallon of water and deer in a yardspray the mixture on ornamentals). The eggs rot on the plants and the smell repels deer. Human hair hung in mesh bags makes a simple repellent. Hang the hair bags on the outer branches of trees about a yard apart and replace them monthly. Bars of strong-smelling soap hung in the same way will also work. This is a good way to make use of all those aromatic Christmas gift soaps you don’t plan to use. Most repellants have limited effectiveness, so switch them up to keep the deer guessing.

Once deer taste your garden, it is difficult to rid them of the habit. Replacing your current mix of trees and shrubs with plants that are less appealing will help move the herd along to other sites. The Tree Care Industry Association recommends planting trees that have a history of surviving areas of heavy deer activity, such as:

Best trees

Downy serviceberry, redbud, hackberry, pinion pine, juniper, paper birch, Japanese false cypress, magnolia, silver maple, peach, plum, willow, Japanese cedar and Colorado blue spruce.

Best shrubs and climbers

Larger, tall shrubs tend to withstand deer browsing better than low-growing ones because they have more leaves, making them able to withstand some defoliation; and taller plants are out of reach. Try these shrubs:

Barberry, pawpaw, boxwood, caryopteria, American bittersweet, red osier dogwood, Japanese plum-yew, creeping wintergreen, hollies, leucothoe, European privet, Japanese andromeda, Virginia creeper, blueberry elder, lavender and rose of Sharon.

Check with your local garden center or tree care company for a list of trees and shrubs in your area that are the least appealing to deer.

Find a professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your existing landscape. Search for a qualified tree care professional in your area.

 

*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional

3 thoughts on “Ideas for Keeping Your Landscape Deer Free

  • March 17, 2019 at 8:16 am
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    As we are located in the northern part of Ontario we come across this problem fairly often with our clients, including dealing with moose and bears. Sometimes I wonder if it is actually the other way around as in the local fauna is not a menace to the properties, instead humans are the menace to the local fauna as we continue to expand in areas that were once inhabited by wildlife.

    In any event, these are interesting tips that we also share with our clients.

    Jim – Orillia Tree Care

    Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 9:34 pm
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    This was a excellent informative post you have shared on this page about the speaking of replacing stakes but the tree maintenance is not as easy as gardening. It isn’t always as straightforward as it looks. It wouldn’t be wrong to say there are various tree maintenance activities that homeowners can do all by themselves, safely and efficiently. Routine tasks like, mulching mowing, planting can easily be carried out without hiring a professional arborist. However, when it is the question of bigger tasks that involve high-risk activities like tree removal, tree cutting or stump grinding, expert arborists in Charlotte, NC strongly recommend going with specialists who have the right experience, expertise, and tools to deal with such situations.
    Thanks/

    Reply
  • May 13, 2019 at 5:44 pm
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    Hi Emily. Thank you for taking the time to provide us such a great in-depth article about how trees are important to keeping deer away from property. We recently started a tree business in Yonkers and this information will definitely be beneficial to us when we work with clients who have deer in their area. We look forward to reading more of your articles.

    Reply

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