Deer – Oh dear

Horticulture Hints

Deer are North America’s largest garden pest and control is one of the biggest challenges for home gardeners.

How to tell the difference between deer and rabbit browsing? Though both will consume the recent new growth and the most succulent plants, deer do not have any upper front teeth and must tear plant growth away when browsing, thus leaving a stem tear with ragged edges. Rabbits, on the other hand, have both upper and lower teeth and leave clean cuts when munching on your plants.

There are three main options for controlling deer browsing: putting up eight feet fences or wrapping individual plants in deer netting; using repellents; and considering deer food preference alternatives.

Plants that are highly scented are said to help to deter them, but a hungry deer will eat anything when food is scarce. Some perennials that deer tend not to eat include: daffodils, hyacinths, columbine, ferns, yarrow, foxglove, lavender, peonies, and iris. Annual plants such as marigolds, sweet alyssum, and salvia are among those least desirable to deer.

Using deer repellants work only if you keep up with your spray schedule according to label directions and reapplication may be needed after rainfall.

For use on food crops, be sure to select and purchase a product that is labeled safe for use on fruits and vegetables.

A homemade spray repellent recipe can be made of a beaten egg, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, dish soap and cooking oil mixed in water. Plant foliage must be sprayed every couple of weeks, and, if it rains, the substance must be reapplied.

Did you know? On average a single deer can consume 5 to 10 pounds of plant material a day.

Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.