You Can Have a Beautiful Garden in Deer Country

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

If you have ever experienced the disappearance of tulip blossoms overnight, leaves devoured or newly planted flowers ripped from the ground and tossed aside, you can probably understand why I think it is time for start a support group for gardening in deer country.

Deer typically consume one ton of plants per year. How maddening! We search for answers, only to discover there are no easy solutions to this problem. But with careful planning, experimentation and just a bit of effort, your beautiful garden and deer can co-exist.

There is no single solution to gardening where deer are present. It requires a combination of control strategies adapted to your garden and lifestyle. For example, fencing is the most effective way to protect your plants.  However, for most of us, installing a 7’-12’ fence around our property is not realistic. Therefore, we rely on landscaping with deer resistant plants in combination with repellents to protect those plants that the deer love as much as we do.

Plants & Repellents

With both deer resistant plants and repellents, results vary from one garden to another. There will always be some measure of trial and error. However, based on our decades of experience designing and installing landscapes and assisting gardeners here at Merrifield Garden Center, we have identified plants that deer don’t find appealing. Click here for our list.

Landscaping with deer resistant plants is a good first step. But where feeding pressures are high or you want to grow tulips, daylilies, hydrangeas, yews or others, you will need to use repellents on a regular basis.

Deer have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and most repellents contain very smelly, natural ingredients to repulse them. With time and weathering, odors fade and the repellent must be reapplied. Liquid Fence and Bobbex, our two best-selling repellents, typically remain effective for four to six weeks between applications. Deer will eventually adapt to any repellent, so we recommend using different products every once in a while to keep them guessing.

Though we do not have a formal “Gardening in Deer Country” support group, you are invited to talk to us about this problem. It’s something we all understand and can offer suggestions to help cope with the issue or at the very least, lend a sympathetic ear. Don’t let the deer get you down, keep on gardening!