Spring is on our doorsteps and it is time to think about planting trees, bushes, flowers and vegetable gardens. We should also think about how to safe guard our plantings from being eaten by the increasing number of deer in our state.
Deer love to nibble on leaves, stems and buds of many woody plants. In spring and summer non-woody plants are favorites and fruits and nuts, especially acorns are important when available in late summer and fall.
Damage caused by deer or rabbits is not difficult to identify. Deer browsing often leaves a jagged or torn surface on twigs and stems. Rabbit or rodent damage will leave a clean cut surface usually at a 45 degree angle.
Some landscape plants are not favored by wildlife unfortunately if deer or rabbit populations are high and food is low due to snow cover, they will eat just about anything.
Here are some plants least favored by deer:
Trees – Ash, Beech, Birch, Juniper, Ginkgo, Hemlock, Honey Locust and Spruce.
Shrubs – Barberry, Boxwood, Forsythia, Lilac and Spirea.
Groundcovers –Ferns, Ginger, Lily of the Valley and Sweet Woodruff.
Perennial vines – Bittersweet, Grape, Honeysuckle, Trumpet Creeper and Wisteria.
Hardy bulbs – Crocus, Daffodil, Grape Hyacinth and Snowdrops.
Annuals flowers – Ageratum, Alyssum, Marigolds, Lobelia, Snapdragons, Sunflower and Petunia.
Perennials – Astilbe, Beebalm, Coreopsis, Columbine, Iris, Peony, Purple Coneflower, Soapwort, Veronica, Yucca and Spurge.
Herbs – Basil, Catmint, Chives, Dill, Lambs Ears, Oregano, Rosemary and Sage.
Fencing is the most effective way to eliminate damage. A fence made of good poly or metal is quite effective. Fencing should be at least 8 feet high. (Deer can clear a fence over 10 feet high but rarely will unless they are being chased fearing for their life.) Or a fence six feet high but slanted outward would also work. The deer will try walking under the fence and meet resistance. Such a slanted fence should be at a 45-degree angle, and may consist of fencing with a few strands of additional wire on top for extra height. A solid fence would also work. The deer could smell what’s inside but could not see its content and therefore fear jumping over it.
Check your local regulations about height of fencing. Some towns may not allow fencing over a certain height, say 6 feet.
Fencing around newly established trees is very important especially in the winter season. Deer can cause extensive and expensive damage to newly planted trees and bushes possibly killing them.
Repellants can also be effective in deterring deer, but must be used before extensive damage. Formulations of two tablespoons hot pepper sauce in 12½ gallons of water with Wilt Pruf anti-dessicant has worked well. Human hair in bags and blood meal all have had mixed results and don’t weather well. Bars of smelly soap hung on trees have shown to be fairly effective repellents. Commercially available repellents such as Deer Away and Hinder have had good results.
Here are a few homemade remedies worth trying:
3 raw eggs, 3 tbls. of red hot sauce, 3 tbls. of garlic juice or minced.
Add enough water to a blender to process and mix well. Add this to a gallon of water and spray on plants.
Blend 2 eggs and a cup or two or cold water at high speed. Add this mixture to a gallon of water and let it stand for 24 hours. After 24 hours, spray on foliage. The egg mixture does not wash off easily, but re-application 2-3 times a season may be needed. For a larger quantity, blend a dozen eggs into 5 gallons of water. This mix is also said to repel rabbits.
Mix four or five eggs and 4 tablespoons hot pepper sauce with a gallon of water, and applying it with a sprayer. Plan to reapply every 10 to 14 days.
Use 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil, 1 Tablespoon of dish soap.
Add 1 gallon of water and shake well. Spray or sprinkle on plants every two weeks or after heavy rain.
Use 2 eggs, 1 cup skim milk, 1 cup water, and 2 Tablespoons liquid dish detergent.
Put all in blender and spray.
One whole egg, one cup of milk (skim or regular), a few tablespoons of cooking oil and one tablespoon of liquid soap with one quart of water. Add one teaspoon of hot chili oil. Set the blender on low to mix all the ingredients together. Pour the mixture into a small spray bottle. Spray every five to seven days.
Use 2 cups of water, 5 cloves of fresh garlic, 1 cup of chopped onions, 5 Tbsp. powdered hot pepper. Pour into a covered container and let stand for 24 hours. Strain and mix with 1 gallon of water. Apply to plants with a sprayer.
Human hair, coyote urine, moth balls, bone tar oil, rancid grease, feather meal (dried chicken feathers), dried blood or blood meal. These can be put alone or in combination in a nylon stocking, mesh bag, or plastic bag with holes about 3 feet off the ground. Try hanging fabric softener sheets every 3 feet. Also ammonia-soaked rags can be used.