Deer Proof Garden

Do you have deer? If you’re like most other gardeners in southern Connecticut you have an issue with deer. The fact is, short of teleporting them to another part of the country, there is no easy way of getting rid of them. There are many techniques and technologies available to manage deer activity in your garden.

Deer were not seen as much of an issue in Fairfield County, CT until the mid-1980’s when they exploded on the scene, munching away on gardens, grazing on lawns, spreading Lyme disease and becoming a hazard on our roads. The natural predators of deer have been long gone in this area, so the deer have found a safe and comfortable home in the suburbs and even into some urban areas. As development moves further into the formerly wooded areas, pushing out the predators, more favorable habitat is created allowing the deer to proliferate. In 2010 it was estimated that there were approximately 76,000 deer in Connecticut. Many towns in the area have wrestled with the deer overpopulation issue by culling the herds and sterilization with limit results and great public outcry.

As a result our gardens have been under a year round assault from these pests. Wintertime is the worst, the deer are hungry and with no foliage on the trees they eat whatever is available. We have seen hedgerows of yew and rhododendron stripped of foliage in less than a week. Springtime the deer are voracious eating everything green in sight. We have seen deer damage on new foliage on a broad range of plants on the deer proof list. We have found the so called deer proof is less of a gospel and more of a hopeful wish list to be used as a guide.

What to do then? There are a few ways to keep deer out of your garden all together and many ways to make your property less attractive to the deer.

The most effective deer control is with barriers. Netting and fencing can be used to protect plants from deer browsing. Fencing that can control deer includes electric fences where local regulations allow, but this type of fence is not really appropriate in suburban environs and really should only be used on more rural areas where children or pets will not be injured. Electric fencing also needs to be monitored so there are no interruptions of power during wind or storm events. There are other types of fencing that are the best long term solution for suburban areas that act as a deterrent by blocking access to a garden or landscape, as long as they are high enough, properly installed, anchored securely to the ground and properly maintained. These include woven wire, knotted wire or plastic netting fencing that can be installed up to height of eight feet or more that would be installed as a perimeter fence to keep deer away from the gardens. Again they will need to be checked after wind or storm events to make sure branches have not fallen on the fencing so that deer can jump over or gain access to the protected plantings. Eight foot high fences are recommended, but in areas with anticipated snowpack, you may need to add an additional 3-4 feet. Most towns have fencing regulations that you will need to review to make sure your fence meets code. We have had the best results from knotted wire game fencing it offers the most durability, is cost effective, is unobtrusive and keeps the deer out.

Another option is to protect individual plants by surrounding them with netting to
protect them. This can be accomplished with chicken wire or plastic netting. Make sure to secure the netting so it does not get loosened by ice, rain or snow and leaving your plants vulnerable. (Deer-X netting) This strategy can give you piece of mind for a few select plants when cost is an issue. However, the overall result can be less than aesthetically appealing and you still have deer roaming in the garden eating whatever else they can find.

Another option is spraying. Several commercial deer repellent sprays are available that will
prevent deer from browsing on ornamental plants for approximately six to eight weeks. New products have been developed that are systemic and are taken up via roots or foliage. After the effective period has lapsed the spray will need to be reapplied. During rainier periods or with more unsettled weather the length of effectiveness may

change, so be prepared to reapply frequently during the winter and early spring months. These are the most vulnerable times for plantings that are not deer resistant. Depending on your garden and the availability of other food for the deer, you may also

have to apply during the summer months when new growth appears or when favorites bloom (tulips, pansies, hosta, etc.). Repellents need to be reapplied regularly and also rotated since deer sometimes become accustomed to the smells or tastes. Repellents use either pain, taste, smell or a combination to keep the deer away. It is advised to switch brands periodically before the deer ignore the deterrents. Some brands of repellents (Bobbex, Hinder, Deer Away, Deer Scram, Deerbusters, Deer Out, Deer Stopper, Liquid Fence, Plantskydd, Shake Away, St. Gabriel Deer Repellent, Repellex, coyote urine). The best products for Connecticut are, as determined by the CT Agricultural Experiment Station in a 2010 study, were Bobbex or Hinder. There are also commercial deer spraying companies that will provide services to cover your plantings (DeerTech by SavATree, Sprayscapes and DeerPro by Redding Nursery). We are not proponents of coyote urine or products containing coyote urine.

Natural repellents include rotten meat, human hair, raw eggs and ammonia. A popular technique is to use strongly scented bar soaps like Irish Spring and hang it in cheesecloth or pantyhose and tie the bag to a fence post or placed at intervals in your garden bed hanging from branches or stakes to protect plants. Other recommendations are to hang human hair or Milorganite fertilizer.

Motion detecting devices can be controlled to turn on lights or loud noises (Deer Chaser by Garden harvest supply co.). Deer Tech offers a system that uses sounds to keep deer out of some properties. Some owners get a dog that likes to chase deer and will keep them off of the property; all you need is an invisible dog fence along the property line to keep your dog in and the deer out.

Often the best approach is to grow plants that deer find unpalatable. Use deer resistant plants in areas where other deterrents are not used. There are local lists of known deer resistant plants, as well as, favorite plants that can be used to design your gardens and keep the deer away. Avoid using some of their favorite perennials like hosta, lilies or favorite shrubs like roses or favorite evergreens like heathers, Evergreen azaleas, Rhododendrons, Japanese Yews, Euonymus, Blue Hollies, Arborvitae or Canadian Hemlock which will just act like a magnet…..and bring them to your yard. Boxwoods are a tried and true evergreen that the deer will not eat.

Controlling deer in the garden is a constant struggle and requires constant vigilance. One homeowner, with a fully fenced property, went out for the night and left driveway gate open and came home to a 15-20 deer in the front yard munching on their foundation plantings. No one system or approach is going to completely keep deer out. A combined approach has always yielded the best results.

Not sure where to start?
We can help you create the perfect deer proof landscape. Call Rock Spring Design Group, LLC 203•268•6979 or email us at today for a free
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