Deer are beautiful, majestic creatures, but they're also voracious eaters, meaning they're not welcome in your precious vegetable garden. Urban and rural homeowners often complain about deer damage to their gardens. Luckily, there are a few different ways to prevent deer from invading your space, eating your veggies and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. First of all, ensure your garden doesn't contain any vegetables deer eat.
Fruits and Vegetables Deer Don't Like
Deer will eat practically anything when wild food supplies are low, but otherwise, they avoid certain vegetables and herbs. Rhubarb is a good vegetable to grow in your garden if you want to keep deer at bay, as it is toxic to them. Vegetables with potent smells, like fennel, garlic and onion, also repel deer. Deer don't like thorny vegetables, like cucumber, or vegetables that have hairy peels, like certain varieties of squash.
Other vegetables not particularly palatable to deer are tomatoes, peppers, carrot roots, eggplant, asparagus, leeks and globe artichokes. Herbs usually safe from foraging deer are mint, chives, dill, lavender, sage, thyme, parsley, tarragon and rosemary. Deer will eat cilantro, kale, chard, basil, okra, melon, summer squash, winter squash, bok choy, brussels sprouts, radish and potatoes if they are hungry enough, despite these edibles not being particular favorites.
Fruits and Vegetables Deer Love
If you grow beets, cabbage, apples, berries, beans or broccoli in your garden, deer will want to stay and feast. Deer also love lettuce, leafy greens, pears, spinach, turnip, cauliflower, carrot tops, kohlrabi, peas, strawberries, plums, sweet potatoes and sweetcorn. If you want to minimize deer damage in your garden, avoid these edibles.
Preventing Deer Damage
If planting deer-resistant garden edibles doesn't keep deer at bay, consider other preventative measures. Check your state laws and restrictions on hunting permits for homeowners. You may be allowed to hunt deer at certain times of the year, or if you have a special permit. A far more humane way to keep deer out of your garden is to erect a high-voltage electric fence. For large areas, erect a wire fence at least 8 feet high using two 4-foot widths of welded wire fencing joined one on top of the other.
Another way to keep deer out of garden areas is to hang bars of fragrant soap from stakes or plants around the edge of your garden. Leave the wrapper on the bar and drill a small hole through the soap before hanging it. However, this may only work for a short time as deer get used to fragrances. An alternative repellent is a mixture of eggs and water, applied to the ground with a pressure sprayer. (Don't worry about the rotting egg odor; it's repellant to deer but humans can't detect it.) As a guide, mix a dozen eggs with 5 gallons of water to cover 1 acre, and reapply after each rainfall. Human hair also repels deer. Collect hair from your local barber shop and place two large handfuls of hair in open mesh bags. Hang bags near crops 28 to 32 inches above the ground. You may have to experiment with different deer repellents to find one that works.
About the Author
Claire is a writer and editor with 18 years' experience. She writes about science and health for a range of digital publications, including Reader's Digest, HealthCentral, Vice and Zocdoc.