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Look What Came to My Yard!

deer, fawn, deer browsing, deer problems

I noticed the stems and leaves in the perennial bed were rustling in an unusual way. The movement was too big to be a cat. Then, the big, sweet eyes gave it away. A baby fawn was hiding in my yard. I could hear coyotes making noise on the other side of the fence, but my arrival scared them away.

The spots on the back of a little fawn did a magnificent job of hiding it! I am not quite sure why camo sells so well, when the speckled coat of a fawn makes little deer absolutely disappear. The oh-so-adorable baby was just a few feet away, nestled in the bee balm, but I strained to see it.

A visit from deer to your lovely, landscaped garden is not always a tender moment of joy. They will eat just about anything that grows, without consideration of the cost to you and your careful landscape designs. They especially love to devour newly planted ornamentals, which can be devastating for a large commercial or industrial installation. If you are in an area where the deer and the antelope play, you need to take precautions to keep them from ruining your landscape plantings.

Smelly deterrents are not a workable option. Home remedies like pepper spray, urine, egg shells, soap, or human hair don’t work well for over more than a few minutes. There are commercial forms of deer deterrents, too, but they need to be reapplied on a regular basis. Who has an unlimited supply of urine and the time to mark all the plants in a large-scale landscape? Professional landscapers whose livelihood depends on healthy, beautiful plants use more practical and effective methods. Here are seven options for your landscape.

Your first and best option is to plant only items that deer will not eat. Poisonous plants like oleander and daffodils will be left alone. Spruce, Forsythia, Beautybush, Lilac, Goldenrod, Iris, Daffodils, Marigolds, and Barberry will be untouched.

Another option is to plant herbs and ornamentals with strong and bitter oils in their leaves and stems. Oregano, Coreopsis, Yarrow, Lamb’s Ears, and Wormwood are too spicy for a deer’s palate.

A third option is to plant species with fuzzy or spiny leaves. Even though deer love to munch on most Azaleas, they will avoid ‘Mrs. G.G. Gerbing’ and ‘George Tabor’ because those cultivars have furry leaves. Native grasses are unpalatable. They might take bites out of young Holly plants, but as the leaves mature and harden, they are sidestepped for less painful, less pointed options.

Mechanical means are the most effective way to prevent deer browsing damage. If you want to open up your planting choices beyond the poisonous, the fuzzy, the spiny, and the oily, you will need to use proactive measures to protect your plants.

For seedlings used in restoration planting plots, option four is to protect Individual seedlings with stiff biodegradable tubes until they can grow beyond the reach of deer. Vexar tubes of plastic netting or plastic columns that snap around new seedlings work well. This method of wrapping protection around new plants only works for narrow seedlings, so it is not a choice for dense, thick, ornamental plants.

A fifth option is rather extreme. You can put out an electric fence to guard valuable crops. An electric fence can zap unintended victims and can be unattractive. It works, but the aesthetic and safety costs are high.

My best experience for larger landscaped areas surrounded by woods is the sixth option. You can create a moat of wrinkled chicken wire, lying face down on the ground and covered with mulch. Deer hate getting their feet caught in the openings and will change their travel plans to walk around and away from an area bounded by the mangled fence. The wider the moat, the more effective, since deer can jump quite well!

One final thing. Pansies. Deer love Pansies more than anything else in the entire world! No deterrent of any kind will stop them from nibbling Pansies. Nothing will stop them, including standing next to the Pansies, waving your arms, and shouting, “Go away!” Option seven—If you live in an area populated by deer, keep your Pansies indoors.

Seven Options for Dealing with Deer Browsing