Here in Pennsylvania, we have a complicated relationship with deer. They’re an emblem of our state, they’re beautiful to look at - and they can be a complete nuisance. While there are around 1.5 million white-tailed deer in our beautiful state, when it comes to our yards, we’d like to keep that number closer to zero. Keep deer out of your garden with these tips:
KEEPING DEER OUT OF YOUR PROPERTY
The average deer will eat 6-9% of its body weight every day, which comes out to over 10 pounds of vegetation, and a single deer can decimate an entire garden in the time it takes for you to commute to work! To protect your plants, it’s important to have a deer prevention strategy in place.
FENCING & HEDGES
Your first line of defense against deer can be placing a physical barrier around your property. Height and density are key when choosing fencing or hedging - a hungry deer will have no trouble leaping over a fence under 5 feet tall. For effective deer-proofing, a fence or hedge with a standing height of at least 8 feet is ideal, and slanting fencing outward at a 45° angle will make it even tougher for a them to scale it. Deer are prey animals and will actively avoid entering territory where threats may be lurking that they cannot see. This is where the density of your barrier comes into play. Privacy fencing or dense hedges, like boxwood, that leave no visibility into the yard will drive deer away - even if they smell a favorite treat on the other side.
Deer are naturally cautious and tend to avoid anything that may pose a threat. Repellents work by mimicking the smell of predators or plants that are toxic to deer. These repellents are not poisons, however, so deer who grow hungry enough may still choose to brave the smell of a certain repellent without harm. The more variety in the types of repellents you use, the less hospitable your yard is to the deer, lowering the likelihood that a deer will enter the area. Re-apply repellents every few days, and again immediately after a rainfall.
DEER AND OUR YARDS
Deer are at their most invasive during the spring, when gardeners start packing annuals into the soil well before the forest greenery has emerged and some plants are especially appealing to foraging deer. This doesn’t mean we should avoid growing these plants, but it does suggest we should be diligent in protecting them. One way to do that is by nestling deer-resistant plants nearby. Deer find these plants bitter or foul-smelling and tend to stay away from them.
Blue Mist False Spruce
Rose of Sharon
Pee Gee Hydrangea
St. John's Wort
Deer may be a major threat to our gardens in the Lehigh Valley, but a practical approach to deer prevention is often very successful at keeping them at bay. As an added benefit, many of these deer prevention measures will also increase the overall sense of privacy and plant diversity on your property!
***Please note: this is only a guide. Where overpopulation exists, or a hard winter occurs, deer may eat anything.