o How do I keep deer and moose from eating up my garden?

New England gardeners are not alone in being plagued by large, hungry creatures with antlers; but it's still a very serious problem in many areas.

When the question was presented to the New England Gardening Forum, some Garden Web members responded with their own experiences, for example;

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From Suenh in New Hampshire:

"Nothing stops a moose. Nothing!

Deer can be kept out with an assortment of tricks. But you need to rotate the tricks or they figure it out. The only permanent solution is an electric fence."

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From Chelone in Maine:

"To me, deer are little more than rats with long legs and pretty eyes. I realize this is not a "politically correct" opinion. Know this, though; we are overrun with deer because their natural predators have been largely eliminated AND we plant umpteen plants/shrubs that attract them.

I would like to see more people grant access to hunters, bow hunters, in particular. I personally LOVE venison. Any hunter who brings down a deer on my land will be held in very high esteem if he gives me a piece of venison in return for hunting rights...

Mmmm...! Fire up the grill!"

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also from Chelone, in a less hungry mood:

"We share our home with two, very active field dogs. I believe their presence has kept the marauders at bay, several neighbors report extensive damage, but I've only noted nibbles on a Nikko Blue hydrangea on the "outskirts" of our yard, and that was a few years ago (tough winter for deer!). While I am no fan of dogs (prefer cats) I have to say they seem to get the job done. I "sicced" them on 4-6 deer a year ago that were browsing in the wooded area of our yard (pre-dawn, 4:30-ish). Worked like a charm!"

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From Sara_the_Brit in Connecticut:

"I use several different things for different areas of the garden. My town is overrun with deer (SW CT) and have caused so much damage many people have given up gardening altogether.

1. My main gardening area is fenced off. I have a 5 foot high wire fence. Technically, deer can jump 8 feet, but they're lazy around here, and will simply go next door if it looks vaguely troublesome. 5 feet have been fine for 4 years.

2. Outside the 'zone', I use Bobbex spray at least twice a week in summer (more if there is lots of new growth). This is based on rotting eggs etc. Neighbors tend to use this, or Deer-Off which has a similar base.

3. I've used Irish Spring soap around some plantings, which works for a very short while.

4. In winter, like many neighbours, we have the shrubs professionally sprayed with repellent which is wax-based so it lasts all winter. It isn't cheap, but is less than replacing shrubs.

5. I grow hostas only in containers on my deck. Hostas are like chocolate to deer.

6. I use lightweight deer netting over my foundation plants. I have found that if hungry, they will push the netting into the plant and nibble whatever sticks out, so draping the netting around posts may be more effective.

7. Around here they don't seem to like andromeda/pieris, so many people are replacing their rhododendrons and other naked twigs around their houses with it.

There are lots of other things, but as has been said, they each work for about 3 weeks, then you have to change them.

We've even thrown small rocks at the deer, and they don't move. They just check the rock to see if it's edible." .........................................................................................................................................................

From cosmos in Massachusetts

"I think my dog and cats keep many animals away from my yard and gardens. I have never had a problem with any animal although I have woods in back of me and a pond. I did see turkeys a few weeks ago and there are deer in the neighborhood but not in my yard."

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A few years after this FAQ was written, cloud_9 started a thread on the New England Gardening Forum entitled Deer Deterrence Tips. Many Garden Web members responded with their experiences, as listed below.

Posted by cloud_9 z6 CT

Perhaps SOME are lucky enough to have an 8 foot fence all round their property. That is deer prevention. For the rest of us, some sort of deterrence is in order. Nothing is foolproof, but here are a few tips to help you fight the good fight.

You can try planting those plants that have a reputation of being poisonous or unappealing to deer. There are many lists available, but deer will browse most plants at some point or other; especially hungry deer early in the season and those cantankerous ones that just want to thumb their noses at you (no mean task when you come equipped with hooves). And maybe you LIKE hostas and other deer candy. The sneaky deer in my neighborhood were quite capable of ignoring the daylily foliage and then nimbly snipping off the flowers. How many of us grow daylilies for their foliage? I have also had deer blithely eat rose bushes with thorns so long and numerous as to make Morticia Addams swoon. Obviously these are formidable enemy.

Deer are creatures of habit. It is best if you start off early in the season convincing them that your neighbors offerings are much more appealing than yours. The first thing to do is provide some sort of smell/taste disincentive. Perhaps others will weigh in with recommendations for other brands of deer spray/deterrents, but I really liked Bobbex. (Newtown, CT company!) It is an all-natural product that doesn't wash off in the rain like some (most) of the others and has the added advantage of being a foliar feeder and anti-desiccant. You can buy it in premixed spray bottles, but save money over the long haul and get the concentrate. They also make a small critter spray called Bobbex-R That might be worth a try too.

After that endorsement I feel a little goofy admitting that for the past couple of years I have been making my own deer spray (I need LOTS). I have had good results as long as I remember to spray consistently and after it rains. Here is the recipe:

Homemade Deer Spray 
INGREDIENTS 1 gallon of water 
1 cup of milk (but I have seen recipes that call for 1/2 cup) 1 egg 1 Tsp vegetable oil 1 or 2 cloves of garlic 
1 Tsp dish soap

I have a giant container of chili powder from Costco that is getting old that I am going to try adding to the mix this year. I will let you know how it works for me. In other words, feel free to get creative

DIRECTIONS: Put the milk, egg, oil and garlic in a blender and really blend well pour through cheesecloth or a fine-screened strainer into a 1 gallon sprayer or a gallon milk jug and add the water. If you don't blend well or strain the mix you run the risk of egg blobs or garlic bits clogging your sprayer. Then you will have to chase the deer away with your #@%$&ing!!!. Add the dish soap (try to use an organic or at least an uncomplicated soap like the original ivory (do they still make that?) and SWIRL rather than shake to mix Mr. Bond. You don't want lots of suds. If you have a small sprayer or don't need the whole gallon use a milk jug to mix. Then you can stick the well-labeled remainder in the fridge for a week or two. (E Mom, this milk tastes BAD!) Try not to spray at high noon in full sun; cloudy days are ideal.

Whichever way you go, I strongly urge you to get a 1 or 2 gallon pump sprayer. They are relatively inexpensive and will stop your cramped-up hands from looking like Fred Sanford's when he was trying to get out of work. (Ooops, aging myself!) I got my 1-gallon for $16. You can find them for less.

You want to start off early in the season as soon as new growth starts and reapply as new growth appears. Continue throughout the season every few of weeks or so, especially after rain (or as directed on commercial spray). Some will need to spray and or wrap in the winter also. Perhaps someone else can weigh in on that front.

The second method of deterrence, and in my view, the most important: to develop a reputation. Remember as a kid the yard you never wanted your ball to go into because the person who lived there was crazy? Yea, you want to be that person. The best way is by shouting and flailing your arms at the deer as they munch away on your Mother's Day present. You'll have to try hard to convince them because deer are by their nature's cynical creatures. At first they will stare at you like, "You are kidding, right?" Sometimes wearing imaginative costumes such as a bathrobe and slippers or carrying props such as your morning coffee that you must try very hard not to slosh as you run in the afore mentioned bedroom slippers is an effective strategy. Soon the deer will only look sideways at your property and warn away their friends. This reputation can also work to keep problem neighbors from getting in your face and you will certainly find far less balls in your flowerbeds (and have to pass out less Halloween candy).

If you want to have a vegetable garden, you will probably want to fence it. Deer can leap like the dickens, so the recommendations that deer fence should be 8 feet tall is not exaggerated. Mine was 6 feet tall. You take your chances where you may. You could have taller posts and use a wire strung along the top to reduce the fencing cost. Lots of punji sticks in the form of tomato stakes could help. As long as you are making the effort to fence your garden, make it easy on yourself and deter the smaller critters at the same time by putting a smaller screened (think chipmunk) wire mesh at the bottom of your fence that is bent out along the ground in an "L" to prevent burrowing (think woodchucks and wascally wabbits). If you grow raccoon chow you will almost certainly need an electrical fence wire.

I saw the strangest thing the other day. There was a single deer in my yard and I called the kids to see it before I started to "enhance my reputation". Just as they arrived at the window, a big crow swooped down and chased that deer away! I knew I liked crows!

So, if you don't have your own trained attack crows for hire, good luck with those deer. On a final note: a aren't they cuuute??? :-P

Deb

Follow-Up Postings:
RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by tree_oracle z6b MA

Garlic & chili powder sound like an Every Living Thing Deterrence.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by ctlady z5 CT

I've had success by putting a few habanero peppers into the blender with water, then straining the resulting slop and using it with a pump sprayer. Only takes a few... I kept the strained liquid in a jar in the fridge though I don't know if I really needed to. Doubt too much mold would dare to grow in it. I was assured by a horticulturist that this would not deter (or harm) the bees and butterflies -- that they wouldn't mind the stuff (as long as they could have a frozen margarita too, I guess?) And indeed, it didn't seem to, but did stop the summer browsing the one summer we had some. Don't know if it will work against more serious invasions...
And yes, unfortunately they ARE cute! Here are two fawns checking out my blackberries a year or two ago...

(photo unavailable)

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by greenbug zone 6_CT

Thanks guys!! I have tried my hand at a similar recipe but ended up clogging the sprayer bottle. What kind of strainer do you use? My home made mix inadvertently has some settled solids and makes it really difficult. Once I tried using only soap and water but the foam still somehow made the sprayer bottle useless after a few squirts. I just bought a 2 gallon pump sprayer from Walmart for $ 8.82 or something with the intent of using for the Round up but on second thoughts, I will try to use it for the deer deterrent spray. Anna/greenbug

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips Posted by mad_gallica Z5 Eastern NY

A really 'standard' strainer is a paper coffee filter.

I'm still trying to figure out how to convince the deer that my cats are dangerous. They have claws, and teeth, and are very good at killing small stuffed animals and marbles.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by cloud_9 z6 CT

The strainer I use is my small hand-held wire mesh kitchen strainer. It seems to have a fine enough mesh to screen out anything that would clog my sprayer - mostly small garlic pieces that the highest setting on my blender hasn't liquified - not much.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips Posted by diggingthedirt CapeCod Z7?

Wow, Deb, I hope you published or are planning to publish this somewhere besides the forum. It's a very good read; and it deserves wider circulation. Rusty Spade, maybe?

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA

I can also add this thread to the How do I keep deer and moose from eating up my garden? FAQ.

I've been watching the thread - I can't add it right now, but soon. That FAQ was also taken directly from a GW thread with credit to everyone who posted.

Claire

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by crabgrass_central 5-6

I tried all kinds of natural and chemical deterrents last year, and the deer (and my resident Bunny FooFoo) simply considered them all to be condiments. So I bought a "scarecrow" which is a motion-activated sprinkler to post near one of my beds. So this year we'll see who hates it more, the deer or the silly gardener who keeps forgetting and walking past it.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by annie_nh z4/5 NH

I run a wire around the four stakes posted in each corner of my vegetable garden. .I cut up bars of soap(Ivory or English Spring) into about 4 cubes per bar, tie them up in old panty hose and then tie each bundle to the wire spaced about 4 feet apart. I have done this for the past 2 years and not once has any deer bothered my vegetable garden even though I see deer frequently in my field that surrounds the garden .

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by dporcella z5MA

two seasons ago, we tried the irish spring to great comic effect... in light,warm rain, a bear came along, picked up the soap and rolled around the garden. she used a young Kolkwitzia (beauty bush) as a giant back scratching loofah, too. the bush made a "beautiful" comeback, but not the irish spring;) last season, the bear developed a hankering for hollytone. made off with a giant bag. wonder what she'll be jonesing for this year?

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by runktrun z7a MA

Deb, Lol..great info as well as comic relief I agree with Nan we should post this on Rusty Spade. Ironically I just purchased a new bottle of Bobbex that regardless of competing odors from chemical products on the surrounding shelves the smell of Bobbex (still tightly bottled) caused me to gag. Does your recipe start to smell as foul as Bobbex after a day or two? I also have an abundance of pet hair, what are your thoughts about spreading the hair on the newly sprayed plants? I have tried the Bobbex-R in the past to deter rabbits and as I recall when comparing the two products (Bobbex and Bobbex-R)the main difference was the addition of caster oil in Bobbex-R. Thanks for the great recipe.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by cloud_9 z6 CT

kt - The Bobbex smell disappears for the most part (to evolutionarily atrophied human noses) as soon as it dries, but I can tell you from personnel experience that you want to be standing upwind while spraying and just take your chances with the deer nibbling on your bare legs! The homemade spray never smalls.

Mindy, if I am recalling correctly, posted a tip last year passed on by a hostaholic friend to place a clump of hair down in the crown of hostas (to remain unobtrusive). That tip was for human hair, but I bet pet hair would work also. Of course you asked about pet hair spread on newly sprayed plants. I would recommend just planting lamb's ear if you have a craving for fuzzy plants. Or petting your moss.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by diggingthedirt CapeCod Z7?

dporcella - thanks for posting; thinking of a bear in the garden makes me feel MUCH better about my rabbit problems. Even one happily lolling with a bar of soap scares me enough to be grateful that all I have to worry about is losing my lettuce or some hosta to a (comparatively) cute little bunny.

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by hostabuff z6 (ne MA)

I just bought Bobbex today - however I'm a little skeptical about how effective it would be before the foliage leafs out. I have bragged one time too many about how I NEVER see deer because I live in much too heavily a populated area - well guess who came to visit with three friends last week - first wildlife I have seen in my yard in 10 years. I wanted to mark the perimeters with some type of deer deterrent before some tasty hosta become visible. Do you think they can smell them under the ground? When I visited the store, I planned to purchase some coyote urine to pour around the perimeter of my yard - shows how little I know...ha

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by katie_gardener

Deb ~

What a great post -- I agree with the others! You ought to continue writing, collect your posts and publish! :)

~ K

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by cloud_9 z6 CT

Thanks for all the encouragement! I was sick, so indulged in some ubercomputerzombieness.

:D

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by molie z6 CT

I used to work at a large CT garden center & questions about deer vs. landscaping continued season after season after season.

Sadly, there is no permanent solution because of man's encroachment into the deer's habitat. More developement (in woodlands/fields) mean more landscaping and.. hey!.. deer are not stupid. They love the stuff that people plant in their yards much more than the stuff they find in the forests. It's almost like the tastebuds of the deer population have evolved due to the variety of "buffets" homeowners offer them.

Molie

RE: Deer Deterrence Tips

Posted by treeskate 6a

Someone had posted in 'inexpensive place to buy deer repellent bushes/trees?' and a poster responded with the recommendation of using Milorganite.....raquet ball sized amount in old panty hoes, tie it to tree brances along perimeter. So I went to my local nursery and was told almost everyone buys this fertilizer specifically for deer repellent. How come I am just hearing about it now! So for $13 I got a bag and will give it a try. I'm sure I must have old knee highs or panty house stuffed in my dresser drawer, lol. But he also said, like all products, you do need to rotate repellents. You can spread it on the ground but obviously it will need replacing sooner.

The deer did the worst damage this past year than any time in the last 12 years! Nips everywhere...boo hoo. But I plant only shrubs. The bunny explosion last year took out all my annuals in an enclosed garden section, so time to get chicken wire to augment my 2-1/2' fencing.

Anyway, thought I would pass along the deer repellent item and if anyone has tried it, can you post your experience?

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Deer being a perennial problem in some New England gardens, the issue keeps coming up. In 2011, terrene mentioned a new idea in a thread sort of related to the problem. I've excerpted her comments and some of mine.

RE: Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2011 #6 Posted by terrene 5b MA (My Page) on Sat, Oct 15, 11 at 8:00

So, I finally catch on camera, the culprits who have been eating the Swiss chard, Impatiens capensis, and Aster laevis. They also ate my morning glories down twice, but then I got smart and laid down 4 foot wire fencing flat on the ground along the back and sides of the trellis. This worked great! They don't like walking on it, and the Morning glories made something of a comeback.

I think this is a Mama and her 3 youngsters. (photo posted on the thread)

RE: Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2011 #6

Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on Sat, Oct 15, 11 at 10:33

That's an interesting idea, terrene, of laying the four foot wire fencing flat on the ground. I suppose it wouldn't work if the deer were desperate, but might just deter them in normal times.

I wonder if it would help to lay the fencing down in combination with an upright fence. Maybe the deer wouldn't be willing to jump up over the fence if they had to take off while standing on the wire on the ground.

Claire

RE: Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2011 #6

Posted by terrene 5b MA (My Page) on Sat, Oct 15, 11 at 11:00

………………… Claire, the previous owner of this house and I were having lunch and she mentioned that her brother-in-law uses cattle guard for their driveway. They have the entire yard fenced off, and cattle grid laid down across the driveway. Livestock won't walk across it.

The deer really don't like walking on the fencing. Mine is old rusty fencing that is kinda uneven. It is very wobbly and unsteady, they can't get their footing. Even my cat doesn't like walking on it (and I have to watch not to trip over it!).

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GENERAL INFORMATION

There's a lot of information on the Internet, and a web search using the term "Deer damage prevention" will get you to a number of good sites.

CATEGORIES OF PREVENTION

Available methods mostly fall into the following categories:

*Physical Barriers (such as fences, including electric fences and netting)

*Scare tactics (noise, water sprays, gunshots, etc.)

*Repellents (smelly soap, Bobbex, wax coatings, hair, urine)

*Execution (shoot them, eat them, and/or hang the head on your wall)

*Remove attractions (only grow plants they don't like)

Entered by claire

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