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Ways to Keep Deer from Dining in Your Yard

As many homeowners in the Northern Virginia-area know, deer can be a major landscape menace. Unfortunately, few plants are fully deer-proof, although there are several plant varieties that deer will generally leave alone. But in certain situations, such as drought or hard winters, deer may eat things they would otherwise leave alone - as hungry deer tend to eat anything that lies in their path. However, there are landscaping strategies, repellants and deer resistant plants that homeowners can incorporate to lessen the chances that deer will decide your yard is their own fine dining establishment.

To begin, look around your landscape and the neighboring areas. Are there any particular plants that the deer tend to leave alone? Have neighbors in the area had particular success with any one type of deer repellant or strategy? Look around for deer pathways. Try to avoid plantings where deer generally travel. Even consider installing additional hardscaping structures (such as boulders, rocks, gravel, stepping stones) into these areas. One note of caution, don't plant deer resistant plant varieties around more desirable plants to try and wart off the deer. Deer tend to trample the untasty plant varieties to get to their favorites.

Fencing. When deer pressure is extreme, the best way to deter deer may be to install a fence. An effective deer fence must be tall (at least 7 feet) and/or electrified. However, fencing the entire area may not be practical or feasible. Instead you may want to fence in (or cage) individual or specimen plants to protect them. This can be done by entirely covering the plant with chicken wire type fencing or a lightweight birdnetting. Or, you can place a wire mesh on the ground around the plant as deer tend to avoid stepping on wire mesh. Some people have had good luck with using a motion detector which sets off a light or water sprinkler when deer activate the sensor. This trains the deer to avoid that area.

Planting defensively. The real challenge is knowing which plants deer are most likely to ignore. The following plants typically go unharmed; however, the list is only a starting point. In different areas deer tend to favor different types of plants. Go slowly with plantings and watch which species the deer tend to leave alone. This is a general list; check to be sure any perennial plants are hardy in your area before planting. Remember, there is no guarantee that deer will avoid eating any particular plant.

Deer repellants. If fencing is not an option another avenue to pursue is the use of deer repellants. There are numerous commercial repellants on the market today. Newer repellant varieties claim to last up to several weeks even lasting through heavy rain showers. The best way to proceed with repellants is to try several different ones and see which will work the best in your particular situation. And, remember to always follow the label directions to make sure you get the best results from the use of the product.

Many homeowners have had good luck by mixing their own repellants. One recipe is: Mix three rotten eggs or a quart of sour milk in a gallon of water. Add a teaspoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of finely ground chili powder. Mix thoroughly and put the solution into a spray bottle. Spray favorite deer plants. It will have to be reapplied in about a month or after heavy rains. The mixture has a strong smell, but the smell will not be noticeable after the mixture has dried on plants. Several other products have been noted to work in deterring deer. These include blood meal or Milorganite fertilizer sprinkled around plants or using heavily scented soap (such as Irish Spring) hung around plants. Soap or mothballs can also be placed in pantyhose and then the hose placed on stakes throughout the landscape.

Call Lost Creek Landscapes for more ideas on the best way to keep your landscaping a feast for the eyes, not the deer!