Dear Deer


I wish deer could read. If so, I would post signs asking them to stay out of my yard and gardens this winter. I have already had a few frustrated customers come into the garden center saying how deer are eating their plants. I know it is frustrating.

Deer presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to gardening. Over the years, the one thing that I have learned is that each herd of deer eats differently so your gardening may require patience and experimentation. A good example is that I know a gardener in the Salisbury area, and deer do not bother to eat his hosta plants. In most cases, deer find hosta plants as “salad.”

You need to understand that we are the ones that have invaded their habitat. We have destroyed much of the natural areas used to provide their needed food and shelter. But not now. And, we need to understand that deer are over populated. I want everyone to know that deer munching on your plants is not unusual. Most deer are challenging to address because, during a brutal winter, deer will eat almost anything when starving. A full-size deer will eat approximately six pounds of foliage a day.

One way to lessen your frustration with deer is to plant more deer-resistant plants. Your first line of defense against deer is always intelligent plant selection. In a nutshell, any plant that has a scent or smell of deer typically will not bother. This is why boxwood and herbs are pretty safe from deer damage. I have a handout that lists deer-resistant plants. In addition, plants that are prickly or have fuzzy leaves are plants that deer tend to stay away from. Again, I wish the deer could read this list. One thing that I have learned about deer-resistant plants is that deer, when starving, will try to eat anything. They may spit out the plant, but they still damage it.

Another thought to deter deer is having a dog. Dogs will typically chase deer off your property.

Deer deterrent sprays are an option. We sell different deterrent sprays. Using a couple of different sprays and alternating use is recommended. Some homeowners make their sprays using eggs, hot sauce, garlic juice, cayenne pepper, etc. The downside of sprays is that you must apply them faithfully and regularly.

Some homeowners have successfully used human hair, bath soaps, blood, etc. One homeowner that I met will go to a barbershop and collect hair to use. Deer fencing is an option, but not for everyone. Another product that has success is Milorganite. We sell Milorganite. It’s a good product that has a smell to deter deer, and it is also a plant food.

So, good luck with deterring and reducing deer damage to your valued plants this winter.


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