Deer Deterrents: How to Stop Deer from Eating Your Plants

Imagine it has been your lifelong dream; a house in the country away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. A place where the air is clean, the soil is fertile, and where ”the deer and the antelope play”. It may be great to live in a forested area, but when it comes to planting flowers, shrubs, and all the other plants to beautify your home, you may not be thinking about the feeding habits of the forest creatures… namely deer.

Why Are There Deer Everywhere?

It is estimated that there were 500,000 white-tailed deer in the US in 1900. The most recent estimate is that the population has grown to over 25 million. The damage caused to both agriculture and residential property will exceed 1 billion dollars. Nature has always kept animal populations in check, but the suburban environment has disrupted the normal checks and balances of predators. The deer have had the opportunity to grow unchecked and have become a nuisance in many communities, leaving people to search for the best deer deterrent.

Deer have become accustomed to the urbanization of the US and can be found in forest preserves within many cities. They will travel a good distance in search of food; not only in areas that are adjacent to forests, but in many suburban spaces as well.

What Kind of Damage Can Deer Do?

A couple of years ago, I was asked to look at some arbor vitae that were damaged during the winter. When I got there, I could immediately see that the culprit was some hungry deer—they feed on the fronds that they can reach. Another helpful clue was the large amount of deer droppings that surrounded many of the plants. These plants will grow back, but the bottom parts will never be as full as the tops, especially if the deer return in the future.

What Deer Deterrent Should I Use?

Deer will feed on many plants; many vegetables, fruits (they especially love strawberries), flowers, and the tender tips of young trees. Adults will also damage trees by rubbing their antlers against the trunks. Most home landscapes can seem like a virtual smorgasbord of delights to a hungry deer. So how do you stop the deer from eating your plants? You can either plant less of their favorite foods, erect fences or other guards around your plants, or try to control their feeding habits.

There are an abundance of deer deterrent home remedies available online. You can try hanging bars of soap from your trees to present an unfavorable odor, or mesh bags filled with human hair or dog fur can also be used. Baby powder, blood meal, or bone meal will also provide some resistance, but the problem with many of these scent detractors is that they are short-lived, and once the deer become accustomed to the scent, it no longer distracts them from your plants.

One of the best ways to keep deer from eating your garden and landscape plants is to plant ones that they don’t like to eat, like boxwood, lilac, black-eyed susan, and more. However, if food is scarce, deer will eat just about anything they can to survive. If deer are a problem in your area, do some research and explore your options. It will keep your frustration levels in check.

We’d love to hear some stories or remedies that worked for you. Please share them in the comments section. And don’t forget that deer aren’t the only nuisance to your landscape—get more info on controlling pests like voles and other small animals.

Planting Bulbs in the Fall: Autumn Bulb Planting Tips

Bulbs_820x200

Of all the jobs to do in the fall, the one that I like the best, but hate to do is planting spring-flowering bulbs. It is not the actual job of planting, but I have a tendency to purchase too many bulbs and then I have to find places to plant them and then do the actual planting. Planting 100 small crocus bulbs may not seem like a big task, but it is if you follow the recommendation to plant them 3” apart—and that’s a good starting point when thinking about how to plant bulbs.

How Deep Should I Dig?

I have a very shady lawn and landscape, but I don’t worry too much about the shade from the trees as the bulbs will be up and ready to flower before most of the leaves on the trees open up. When I’m getting ready for planting bulbs in fall, I usually look for open areas where I can dig a large hole about 2 to 3 feet across and about 6 inches deep. The soil in the bottom of the hole should be loose and well-drained. If this is a problem in the area you picked, you may have to dig the hole about 6 inches deeper and add a layer of pulverized soil or humus compost to get back to the 6-inch depth.

What about Fertilizer?

Bone meal makes a great fertilizer for bulbs. I usually sprinkle a couple of ounces or so across the three-foot circle and lightly mix it in. If you don’t have any bone meal, a high phosphorus fertilizer will also work. On most fertilizer bags, the percentage of each nutrient in the bag is indicated by the middle number of the fertilizer analysis, such as 5-15-3. As with any fertilizer, don’t overdo it. It is easy to fall into the “if a little is good, a lot has to be better” trap. You could end up damaging the bulbs.

Once you have all the bulbs in place, slowly sprinkle soil over the bulbs with a shovel. Once you have placed enough soil in the hole so that the bulbs are covered about 50%, you can use a rake to finish the bulb planting job. The soil will create a mound over the area, which is okay. The soil will settle down over time and by next spring, it will be at about the same level as the rest of the landscape bed. It is also a good idea to water the area if rain is not predicted in the near future.

Now that you have completed planting your bulbs, the next part is the hardest – waiting until next spring to see the results of your work.

BulbsinSoil_820x200

Some other tips that may be helpful:

  • If you have a problem with squirrels digging up the newly planted bulbs, lay chicken wire over the area. This can be buried about an inch or so under the soil so it cannot be seen.
  • If you plan to plant single bulbs, use a bulb planter.
  • Place mulch over the area to help keep in moisture and help protect the bulbs. Don’t use more than about 3 inches thick of mulch.
  • Planting bulbs in the fall is not difficult and the results next spring make it worth the effort.

Want your lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood? You take care of the planting, and we’ll take care of just about everything else. Let’s find out how good of a team we can be.