3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  June 5, 2009

Not now, my deer

Dealing with nature’s little darlings

What often looks like a picture along a roadside; a group of deer gently grazing is a beautiful sight. Put these same animals in your back yard, and it can spell frustration. For many of us deer are a way of life we have come to accept. If you live in an area where deer and other wildlife (I am referring to animals; not the local teenagers) are problematic, you might be inclined to throw up your hands and yell, “Dad-gum those Deer!”, or possibly something even harsher.

Your trees, shrubs and flowers often look like an all-you-can-eat buffet to wildlife. Rabbits love to munch on clover and other grasses, as well as certain kinds of flowers. Deer love fruit and many kinds of shrubbery. They frequently lunch on the branches of apple and other trees. And, of course, there are the ever-present moles that populate many lawns.

All these critters, and many more, can make keeping a beautiful garden, a nice lawn or some outstanding trees in good shape a real challenge. Fortunately, there are several simple and relatively inexpensive ways to keep the damage to a minimum.

Having a feeder or mineral block away from the garden will help keep their focus where you want it to be, away from your plants and flowers. You can try one of the many commercially available deer repellent sprays, but they require frequent re-application and the results are mixed at best. Probably the best defense is using plants they find distasteful and fowl smelling…at least to them.

Deer rely on their sense of smell to determine what is safe and desirable to eat. A wide variety of strong odors confuse the deer. The animal will generally leave the area and go to a landscape where it can clearly identify what it is eating. Also, plants are much more susceptible to being eaten by deer when new growth emerges. This tender growth is irresistible to deer. Therefore, early spring damage by deer is harder to control. Now that we are in late spring, the task becomes much easier.

Aromatic plants include: scented geranium, most perennial salvia, oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary and Poukhanense Azalea, to name a few. Distasteful plants include: dwarf Alberta Spruce (as well as most other spruces) juniper of all species, Eastern Red Cedar, Red Buckeye, Elderberry, Boxwood and yarrow to name a few.

Rabbits will eat plants and flowers out of gardens, but a simple, narrow mesh fence can keep them out. Surprisingly, even full-sized rabbits can squeeze between the gaps in standard chain link fence.

It doesn’t generally need to be more than 18 inches high to discourage them, especially if there are easier food sources elsewhere. Rabbits can dig a hole under fencing, so it’s not a foolproof method. To discourage them further, sink the fence half a foot below the ground as well.

Planting a section of clover near the back of an unfenced yard will tend to keep them there and away from your garden. Monks hood, hollyhock, aster and many others are beautiful, and are generally not preferred by rabbits.

Keeping Mother Nature’s creatures in view, but out of the garden is certainly achievable. In areas where the problems are great, it will likely require using all the tools in your arsenal to keep the “grazers” at bay. By making your garden less appealing to these uninvited guests, it will go a long way towards managing and minimizing the damage done.