Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Deer Country: Repellent Spray Experiment Update

Doe eating with Brow and Zer
Spray, spray, spray, to keep the deer away. Oh that sprays would work, I always thought. I first posted about this year’s experiment in early April, when I announced that I was using a new mint-based spray, Deer Out, on several plants deer at Meadow Glenn love to browse: hosta, heuchera, viburnum, and tomato.

I have sprayed periodically through the summer, especially after heavy downpours, to refresh the spray on the plant leaves. About a month ago, I used the last of the ready-to-use bottle that I had bought late last winter and ordered a bottle of concentrate, which I’m now using. The concentrate costs more initially but, after dilution, is much cheaper per application than the ready-to-use variety.

I made my latest inspection of Deer Out-sprayed plants and sprayed them again on Monday (August 1). Here’s what I found:

Browsed hostas in 2009
(No, the rabbit didn't do it)
Seven hostas—perhaps one of the most famous deer “candies”—unbrowsed. In fact, the plants have bloomed and have gone to seed, an extremely rare occurrence here at Meadow Glenn. Photo 2 shows three of the hostas on Monday. Photo 3 shows a deer-browsed specimen on July 29, 2009, almost two years earlier to the day—just before I divided and moved the hostas about 25 feet south.

One heuchera (coral bell)—unbrowsed, though in late-summer decline because I hadn’t watered it recently.

One arrowwood viburnum—unbrowsed, though it’s “twin” just two feet away shows fresh signs of browsing.

Unbrowsed hostas in 2011
One Virginia Sweets tomato—unbrowsed, except for the stem the bambits browsed before I started spraying it. I wanted to be certain the deer knew I had planted a tomato among the perennials in our front yard. Yes, they found it but haven’t browsed it again since I began spraying.

You might think deer haven’t been visiting our front gardens, but you would be wrong. Photo 1 shows a doe and her twin fawns—I call the twins Brow and Zer—chowing down about eight feet from the Deer Out-sprayed tomato plant. I regularly see deer hoofprints in the mulch near the heuchera and the hostas. I paused while I was typing this on Monday (Aug. 1) about 5 p.m. and checked our yard—and the doe and fawns were browsing on our west lawn.

Yes, we have deer aplenty at Meadow Glenn—and since spring Deer Out deer-repellent spray has kept the deer away from the test plants. I’ll probably spray at least two more times before frost—perhaps more if we have downpours. At the end of the season I’ll make a final report about Deer Out.

If Deer Out is repelling deer from our munchables, can I guarantee that it will keep deer from browsing your plants? Absolutely not! There are too many considerations, including size of the local deer population, availability of preferred foods, and the food preferences of individual deer or herds.

'Go ahead and try the Russian Sage, Zer,
but I'm warning you it will taste awful
and you might get a bellyache.'
Deer Out works for me, but a friend, Ella R., who lives about five miles away, read my April posting and bought Deer Out. She lives near a watershed with so many deer that they lounge in her yard.

Ella reported how her deer responded to the Deer Out: “Bob, I just wanted you to know I ordered the Deer Out and it came in 3 days. We sprayed the hostas. The deer thought it was salad dressing! The hostas are gone, most of them eaten down to the ground.”

And a final note: I bought both lots of Deer Out. I have not received consideration of any kind from any source for conducting this experiment.

To read my first posting about this experiment, CLICK HERE.


  1. I also purchased the product after several folks recommended it at the Garden Walk & Talk. Thanks for the reminder. I think I will go out and reapply after our nice morning rain. Anita

  2. Deer hoofprints abound this morning (Wed., Aug. 3)to within 18" of two of the hosta plants--and not one leaf was browsed. Hey, I'm pretty much convinced that Deer Out turns the deer away.

  3. I purchased some Deer Out after reading about it on your blog back in the spring. I was desperate for help so the price was of no concern, and it was still cheaper than buying new plants to replace what they've eaten. I can happily say it works! I've been able to take the cages off of my viburnums and blueberries. As a wildlife gardener, I try to garden "with" deer, not "against" them, and Deer Out has allowed me to plant things I previously couldn't have or they'd have been devoured. Thank you for suggesting it!