Unfortunately, those answers are correct. Deer eat most garden veggies and avoid plants in the Allium family, such as onions, garlic, and chives, as well as strongly scented herbs, such as those in the mint family.
So what’s a veggie gardener to do? Here are three options:
Repellents: In “Deer Country 4,” I discussed repellent sprays and the fact that many cannot be used on edibles because they contain rotten eggs or other offensive ingredients. But note that I said “on edibles.” Some repellents are designed to be used “near” edibles, close enough that deer turn away from the repellent and the garden. Also note that I said “many,” not “all.” Some spray repellents may be used on edibles and have labels outlining proper usage. Because of their expense and requirements for reapplication from time to time, repellents often are only practical for relatively small gardens.
|Gromit, Garden Guardian (Photo: Cindy M.)|
Fences: For a large veggie garden, the most practical—and perhaps most expensive—answer is fencing. But what kind—electric, plastic, welded wire? And how high—4’, 6’, 8’, 12’, the sky?
|Paul K. Checks His Solar Electric Fence|
|"Soft" Fencing Doesn't Work|
That leaves standard welded wire fencing—even chain-link fencing if you want to invest significantly. The heavier and taller the fencing the better. Deer have no problem standing next to a 4’ fence and leisurely hopping over. On the run and in the right circumstances, deer can clear an 8’ fence.
So what to do?
First, think smaller garden area rather than larger. Deer seem to like to know how they’re going to get into and out of an area, so many are reluctant to jump into relatively small spaces. A 10x10 garden generally will be more deer proof than a 20x20 garden.
|"Fence Extenders" at Lake Elkhorn Community Garden|
One Master Gardener has an 8-foot wooden fence with narrow slits that deer never have jumped. Her theory is that they cannot see what’s on the other side and decide not to venture into the unknown.
Our veggie gardens are protected by a split rail fence faced with 4-foot high, 2”x3” welded wire fencing, which I believe no deer has jumped in the 14 years we’ve lived here.
Doesn’t that break all the rules?
Well, no, deer don’t read the rules. I believe there are specific reasons deer haven’t jumped our fence. Our garden is on the side of a hill, higher on the garden side, lower on the deer side. Since our garden is on the slope, I’ve terraced it into relatively small beds with concrete stacking blocks, which add uncertainty to “what’s over there” when the deer see it. Just beyond the narrow veggie gardens is a concrete sidewalk and then another level of terraced flower gardens—and then our house—more uncertainties.
If you have a severe deer problem like we do—not just one or two browsers from time to time—read up on the subject and consider alternatives that will help you grow veggies sanely in Deer Country.
To link to “Deer Country 3,” which contains more information about Soderstrom’s book, CLICK HERE.
To link to “Deer Country 4,” which discusses repellents, CLICK HERE.