fawn on a lawn Photo: Lisa Zins

Although most people think of deer as cute forest creatures with retiring behavior, due to an growing population, they have become a major garden pest throughout the country. Although they tend to keep to forest edges and fields grazing on grasses and leaves, they become more daring when food is scarce, venturing into suburban yards.

Deer graze and browse leaves, stems and buds of many woody plants, as well as alfalfa, roses, corn, vegetables and fruits. Their damage is evident because they leave jagged leaf edges on the eaten plants, not to mention distinctive cloven hoof prints and bean-shaped droppings.

Prevention and Control

  • Although deer will eat anything if hungry enough, given a choice they tend to stay away from succulent plants, poisonous plants, pungent flavored plants, and plants with hairy or furry leaves. Plant ornamentals with these qualities in areas of heavy deer traffic.
  • Some gardeners have had success using human hair, dog hair, soap, garlic repellents, blood meal, rotten eggs, hot pepper spray, citrus-based repellents, or predator urine spread around or on flowers and trees.
  • Deer can be scared away by motion-sensing devices attached to lights or loud music.
  • Of all the methods, though, fencing is the most reliable. It's best to erect the fence before deer have found your garden or yard. For more information, read Animal Fencing Techniques.

Last updated: 01/30/2021