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13+ Best Deer Repellents to Keep Deer out of the Garden

13+ Best Deer Repellents to Keep Deer out of the Garden

What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of Deer and Do Deer Deterrents and Repellents Work?

Losing precious plants, trees and entire crops to demolition by deer and other creatures is distressing and discouraging. If that’s happened to you then you’re on a mission to do whatever possible to get rid of this costly problem. If it hasn’t yet happened to you then congratulations for looking into PREVENTION of this landscape and garden pest. But do deer repellents and deterrents work, and if so which ones?

No One Solution

Some do, some don’t, and some work better than others, but which ones? There are lots of options and answers but not always agreement as to which deer deterrents are best. That’s because there is no one solution that works the same or equally well for all situations.

As with many things in the garden and in garden pest control, there’s rarely just one solution. It often requires a multi-faceted approach where more than one thing combined is the best defense for the greatest protection. Toward that end, we’re doing a deep dive into a number of options here for how to keep deer out of your yard and garden.

DEER REPELLENTS

TWO BEST DEER DETERRENTS

These first two tips below are considered the very best solutions for getting rid of deer problems. However, as you will see, not everyone can implement those, so we’re covering a range of options.

1. Hunters

On one of the extension services, their advice was that the very best deer deterrent is to kill them.

If you’re a hunter that can be a win-win. Dinner comes to you as you survey and protect your garden domain. In some states (not sure about all, so google it or check with your state wildlife commission), you’re allowed to kill deer and wildlife on your own property any time of year.

A member of our Planting for Retirement Facebook group lives in Minnesota and has a short three month window for gardening. So when rabbits started raiding their garden, their best solution has been to shoot them and harvest the meat. The rabbits fed on their great organic garden food and they in turn, dined on the fatted rabbits. That sounds like a natural solution for omnivores.

When Killing Deer Doesn’t Work

  • VALUES: If you’re vegetarian or vegan
  • RESTRICTIONS: If you live too close to other homes such that a rifle shot is against city ordinance or neighborhood CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions)
  • FIREARMS: You don’t own or wish to own and shoot firearms

2. A Deer Fence is the Very Best Defense

The ultimate best solution to keep deer out of the garden is a minimum 8′ high electric fence. Of courses fences cost more and take more to install.  However, consider that once you have it in place, it should serve for years to come at no additional cost and no hassle or repeatedly having to reapply the short term solutions.

If you plan to garden for years to come and want to protect your precious garden produce, a fence is a solid investment. So serious growers and homesteaders will definitely want to consider budgeting for a fence as soon as you can if you’re in an area with a healthy deer population.

An 8′ Tall Electric Fence Works Great

One GardensAll community member shared what’s working for her:

“My dogs take care of the squirrels and groundhogs. To keep raccoons and deer out of the main vegetable garden, we purchased an electric fence many years ago (~15?). Back then, I believe it was just over $300. That included the main system, wire, clips, and posts for 50x60ft of garden. Best investment ever. It’s still going strong. No worries about 200ft of corn, 100ft of beans, and other veggies.

It won’t hurt wildlife or humans, but it does make you very uncomfortable.
~Trina Rodgers, gardener

Pros of a Fence to Deter Deer

  • Once it’s in place it can serve for many years to come without any issues
  • There are solar electric fences that simplify electrical hookups for electric fences
  • These can keep out deer and other animals that raid or dig in gardens

If you just have a smaller, contained garden area, that might be the way to go. Otherwise, not just any ole fence will do when it comes to deer.

Cons of a Garden Fence to Repel Deer

  • Bigger up front investment
  • Not usually that attractive
  • Deer fences need to be at least 8′ tall
  • Electric fences need to either be solar, which is more costly, or connected to power

Edible Landscaping Nursery in Virginia, shared that they had to finally deploy an 8 foot fence and a string of electric fencing atop that because of course deer can jump. The end result has been quite effective, and while costly, especially for a nursery with lots of acreage, once it’s done your deer worries are over. (Then you can focus on the rabbits and moles)!

A fence is a bigger up front investment for a much bigger long term gain.

DEER DETERRENTS FOR WHEN YOU DON’T HUNT AND CAN’T INSTALL A FENCE

3. Predator Pee & Poo

Ages ago when I had a landscaping business in Asheville, NC, one of our Biltmore Forest customers asked us for a deer repellent or something for the deer destroying her prized hostas and other plants. This was thirty some years ago and there weren’t many legal and non-lethal solutions.

Back then there weren’t any neatly packaged products either like you can readily buy today.

Lacking apex predators (other than human hunters), the deer population had grown into a major nuisance. We pondered the solution and decided to experiment with a homemade repellent that would make the deer think a predator was lurking about. The Asheville Zoo accommodated us with a bucket of fresh mountain lion poop!

We placed the lion poop in little bags of cheesecloth and hung them around the lady’s yard. An unpleasant job, to say the least, but it worked! Still, it was a lot of stinking trouble!

Nowadays, there are so many options for keeping the deer (and other critters) away from our gardens and landscape. Not only that but you can actually buy mountain lion pee as well as other predator urine such as fox, coyote and wolf repellent on Amazon!!

Dogs and Humans Too

Whenever this topic comes up on the GardensAll Facebook page, there are always a number of comments about human urine working to deter deer and other garden pests. Some say the males in their family — either dogs or humans or both — make night time rounds cloaked by dark for privacy, to mark the perimeter of yard or garden plot.

But what about households without males in residence, or those homes in more congested neighborhoods where homes are too close together to want to risk making the evening rounds? In these instances, some have said their solution is to pee into a jar and then go out and sprinkle it around the perimeter.

But of all the many options, which deer repellent is most effective in deterring deer from your yard and garden plants?

Mountain Lion Image - Deer Predator

4. A Fertilizer That’s Also a Deer Repellent

The deer repellent we’re using with best success and added benefit, is Milorganite.

We first heard of Milorganite for deer repellent from an old-timer at a local feed and seed supply store. I asked him what he used to keep deer out and whether he used fencing, and he said “No, no.. Milorganite.”

So we bought some for deer repellent, only to discover another benefit: Milorganite is a deer repellent and fertilizer! Actually, it was created first as a fertilizer, but discovered to have the added benefit of repelling deer. We appreciate the recycling ingenuity of the world’s longest running recycling plant that engineers this product.

Now we use Milorganite as a fertilizer that also repels deer. We sprinkle it around fruit and nut trees and other young trees, and in and around our straw bale garden.


Pros – Milorganite Works

With Milorganite as a deer repellent, you’re also regularly fertilizing your plants. It doesn’t require a lot to serve as a deer repellent, so it’s not overdosing your plants with fertilizer nor is it breaking the bank.

Cons – Frequent Applications Required

The disadvantage of any deer repellent product is that it requires repeat applications, especially after a rain. However, if you apply it ever two weeks during prime growing season, that’s essentially just twice a month for 3 months, so six-ten applications isn’t an arduous task and gives you a chance to check your crop health as well.

Whenever we’ve fallen short on reapplying, such as shortly after rain, the pesky deer have taken advantage, so it definitely needs to be applied regularly. We’re applying it roughly twice a month, but as indicated, if you have a heavy rain, you’ll need an interim application.

Milorganite works well as a deer repellent so long as it’s applied regularly and after rain.
~GardensAll.com

Effective deer repellent - GardensAll.com
Placing a band of deer repellent around each plant.

Where to Buy Milorganite?

You can get Milorganite from your local mill or tractor store, or from Amazon. If you have a large area, you can likely arrange for a pallet of it for the season as a discounted price. That’s what we do. For more on Milorganite and where to find it.

Deer Can Devour Trees or Shrub Overnight

Having delved into the topic of elderberries for an article, they looked like a great addition to our “upper garden”. We set out four Elderberry plants (2 Yorks and 2 Adams) and they were doing quite well. But then, can you guess what happened?

That’s right, the deer discovered three of them and nibbled off most all of the leaves and flower heads. We’d not applied any Milorganite to those and were pretty naive about the deer having plenty else to eat.

Now, to prevent further damage, we’ve been applying about 2 cups in a circle around each elderberry bush every two weeks and again after good rains. In just two and a half weeks, We’ve seeing the bush again which is great! It won’t be able to bear fruit and flowers this season but should rebound in order to by the next one.

Elderberry bush-deer-ate-to-ground-GardensAll.com
GardensAll Elderberry bush eaten down by deer; now protected by Milorganite.

Milorganite Fertilizer Definitely Deters Deer

Deer herds roam through our yard on a regular basis but they’ve not touched the elderberries since the application of Milorganite.

We also took measures to protect our new planting of Jerusalem Artichokes – AKA Sunchokes, which the deer devoured the previous summer. The good thing about Jerusalem artichokes is that it will—and did—come back the next year.

Again, after applying Milorganite there’s no sign of grazing or even nibbling. Yay!!

All Deer Repellent Sprays, Powders and Granules Must Be Reapplied After Rain

UPDATE: While our Sunchokes did come back the following year, they’ve since been totally destroyed. We don’t yet live at this property and the next season the deer munched the regrowth before we could reapply Milorganite following a rain. They ate all the greens, stems and roots, completely demolishing whatever was left.

We had an entire patch of Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) demolished by deer overnight.
~GardensAll.com

Sunchokes protected from deer-GardensAll.com
Jerusalem Artichokes – AKA Sunchokes protected by Milorganite fertilizer-deer repellent.

How to Apply Deer Repellents

Apply approximately 2 cups of Milorganite in a wide enough circle just beyond the drip line of the plant to kept it protected from deer. Just be sure to reapply after a heavy rain.

For predator urine just read the product label.

We got our elderberry plants from Edible Landscaping, but you can also order elderberry plants from Amazon or Norm’s Farms.

York Elderberry from Amazon
Adams Elderberry from Amazon

5. Motion Activated Sprinklers – Repels Deer, Squirrels, Rabbits and Raccoons too

A motion activated sprinkler is another helpful garden gadget we’ve used to great effect for a few years to deter deer. We have the Hoont Motion Activated Water Blaster. It worked well enough that we now have four, two for each garden area.

While the deer can adapt to certain odor deterrents, they’re much less likely to stick around when something starts vibrating, rotating, “clucking” and spraying them with water. The added advantage of a motion activated rotating power sprinkler is that it’s also helps to keep our tomato nemesis at bay: the squirrels!

So far, these motion activated sprinklers repel deer and also keeps away squirrels, cats and dogs from our garden. That’s a real plus because we lost way too many tomatoes to the squirrels in our first year.

In fact, the following year, we added two more motion sensor sprinklers to take care of a few areas left unprotected.  As the squirrels got used to the area covered by the sprinkle we had they found a couple narrow dry passages to the tomatoes. So we lost a few, but nothing like the previous year.

Pros – Motion Activated “Scarecrow” Sprinklers

  • They work to deter deer and other furry and feathered critters
  • They add a little water to the garden at the same time, so it’s not wasting water
  • With two sensor sprinklers set up our tomatoes were well protected.
  • Can be entertaining seeing critters — and humans — accidentally trip it on 😂

Cons – Motion Activated “Scarecrow” Sprinklers

  • They take some handyman skills to set up
  • Require a little monitoring and adjusting of the water jets
  • Determined animals can learn ways around the water, or to just ignore it
  • You may need more than one, which means two hose hook-ups which may not be available,, especially if you’ve got drip irrigation going too as we do.

6. Deer Repellent Plants

This is our most favorite deer repellent solution because it’s about planting and growing! If we can design our garden landscape to be surrounded by plants that deer do not like, we have a good chance of creating a “living” functional fence that provides beauty and even food, all while serving to keep the deer away.

There are some plants that deer do not like to eat, and there are also plants that repel deer by the smell. However, if food is in short supply, deer will eat just about any plant, and especially the young leaves and shoots in spring.

That said, the best we can do is to strategically plant as many of the types of plants deer don’t like as possible.

Deer Don’t Like Plants That:

  • are thorny or prickly leaves or stems
  • have strong scents and pungent, such as garlic, onions
  • taste strong, such as herbs
  • are poisonous or produce thick latex-like sap
  • have hairy leaves

How to Use Deer Resistant Plants

Planting for Retirement member and homesteader, Isabella Jib in Eugene, OR, offers this great tip if you have a low fenced garden area:

“Plant your onions, garlic, and leeks just inside the fence, so deer will not be tantalized by wafts of strawberry scents from the forbidden territory.”

“Steep leaves of garlic or leeks in water for several days and spray it on tasty things like rose leaves. Some recipes call for a bit of egg white to make it stick longer. I also spray that smelly water on the ground (okay, on the mulch,) around choice plant stems to confuse the slugs.”
~Isabella Jib, gardener, homesteader in Eugene, OR

For this next list, keep in mind that if deer are hungry enough, they’ll even eat the plants they typically avoid. So the following are plants to consider that might help, but no guarantees if you have hungry deer.

Perennial Deer Resistant and Deer Repellent Plants

“Deer do not like calendula and other marigold plants. I did not have a fence, but had those scattered all around my garden. It works for me for over 20 years now.”
~Patty Leahi, herbal essences, reiki practitioner, WorldEnergyHealing.com

7. Dogs as Deer Deterrents

What about dogs?

Many in the Gardens All community say their dogs are highly effective at keeping deer away from their garden. So that can work if you have an outdoor dog, but ours are indoor/outdoor dogs that sleep inside and tend to be wherever we are, which means they often miss the deer.

Pros to Dogs as Deer Deterrents

  • It’s free
  • Gives the dogs a job that they enjoy
  • Dogs in the yard and garden definitely deter deer from coming closer
  • The dogs scent can be enough to cause the deer to steer clear if they can find food elsewhere

Cons to Dogs as Deer Deterrent

  • Can lead to excessive or incessant barking
  • Indoor/outdoor dogs aren’t always in the garden
  • Dogs may run too far off if they continue chasing the deer

Dogs barking frequently or incessantly, as outdoor dogs are inclined to do, isn’t a pleasant neighborhood experience. We have an electric dog fence, so the other liability is that our dogs could be motivated enough to “run the line” if they were actually chasing wildlife. It would be awful to lose them that way, so the dog defense just isn’t a viable or preferable option for us right now.

DEER REPELLENT CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE COMMUNITY

When it comes to protecting your garden from pests, there’s no one right way. Often, it requires a combination of solutions for the best results. We love sharing from the experience of gardeners in our community in case their experience may help others.

NOTE: Some extension services claim that many of these home remedies are as yet unproven if not validated through scientifically applied studies. They say that the deer it may appear that soap bars hung from trees deterred deer when in reality the deer moved on to other grounds or got hit by a car and so didn’t return.

We think that if it’s working for you, keep doing it until it’s no longer working and then try something else. Many gardeners do tend to conduct their own non-clinical and yet effective trial and error experiments and we’re all keenly motivated to not waste our time doing something that’s not working. So don’t rule out supposed myths and urban legends for some may be true.

For example, the Milorganite we’ve used as cited above works well for us so long as we reapply shortly following a rain. Whereas some extension services say that the deer repellent sprays work best. However, some of those have to be reapplied not just after rains but also on new growth as new shoots are highly desirable edibles to deer and the new shoots won’t be coated with the spray.

8. Plant Sprays to Deter Deer

The most effective plant sprays are those with sulfuric odors or that induce predatory fear such as those containing decaying animal proteins. Sprays applied directly on plants have been found to be more generally effective than those applied to the soil around the plants.

Effective Deer Repellent Sprayers

Fear Based Deterrent Sprays – Predator

  • Deer Out – (a non-meat version includes whole egg solids and deer repellent peppermint essential oil plus garlic)
  • Liquid Fence – deer and rabbit repellent
  • Plantskydd – Repels Deer, Rabbits, Elk, Moose, Hares, Voles, Squirrels, Chipmunks and Other Herbivores

Pain Oriented Deterrent Sprays – Hot Pepper (effective at maximum concentration)

Pepper Spray Options:

  • Bonide Hot Pepper Wax – ready to use spray
  • Pepper spray recipe:
    • 5 tablespoons cayenne pepper
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil or dish soap
    • 1 gallon of water

Disadvantage of hot pepper spray deterrents:

  1. Plants have to be munched to be repelled by bitter or heat deterrents
  2. The pepper powder and soap or oil combos tend to clog sprayers
  3. Pepper deterrents can also repel good pollinators
  4. Handling pepper concentrates can also cause human burn with skin contact – and be SURE to AVOID touching eyes

9. Fabric Softener

These are reputed to repel deer. They dislike the strong scent. Try pinning some scented dryer sheets around the area you want to shield.

10. Grated Bar Soap

Because deer dislike strong, soapy scents, some gardeners have discovered grated bar soap to be an successful barrier. Try strong deodorant soap such as bars of Irish Spring or Ivory. Sprinkle the grated soap about the garden to create a barrier.

These are reportedly less effective, but some people swear by it.

11. Cats and Kitty Litter

Surprisingly, cats can be useful in deterring deer. The scent of cat and dog urine repels deer. If your cat isn’t using your flower bed (lucky you!), try sprinkling some used kitty litter about the garden to create an odor barrier.

Tossing bits of dog and cat hair around the garden may help distribute deer deterring scents as well, though also considered less effective by extension services. However, it could be helpful in relation to other options listed in this article.

CREATE DISTRACTIONS AS DEER REPELLENTS

12. Distract the Deer With Plants Deer Love

If your backyard seems to have become a deer path, plant something especially tasty to deer alongside a path that angles away out of your garden. Some farmers have saved vegetable gardens by planting plants deer love away from their garden.

This is one of our favorite options because it also benefits the deer with something to eat.

If you decide to plant plants that will entice deer away from your garden, start with some of their favorites.

Keep in mind that planting any of these in or near your garden or landscape could be an open invitation for the deer to come and graze. Or devour, for indeed, we’ve experienced an entire couple dozen or so crop of sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) disappearing overnight.

Plants Deer Love

  • Clematis
  • Crocus
  • Daylilies
  • English Ivy
  • Hostas
  • Pansies
  • Tulips
  • Winter creeper

13. Salt is Another Distraction

Salt may deter deer. Hunters have recognized for centuries that deer will likely be interested in salt. Set a salt lick far out of your backyard on a path that leads them away from the garden and you may be able to intercept and redirect their route.

Try More Than One Deer Deterrent, and Alternate Between Repellents

Whatever you try that works, keep at it, but be aware that deer can adapt to most applied substances over time as they sense it as no longer a threat. When that happens, you’ll need to switch things up and rotate your solutions over time.

A member of the Planting for Retirement group recently shared that while the deer had eaten everything in her garden last year, she did enjoy watching them. Apparently a doe with triplet fawns frequently visited her yard.

Doe fawn image by Eileen Miller. Eileen enjoyed regular visits from a mother and her triplets over a summer.
Doe and fawn image by Eileen Miller. Eileen enjoyed regular visits from a mother deer and her triplets over a summer.

We Love Deer, But…

If you’re like us and admire the grace and beauty of deer on your land, you still don’t want to share your garden with them. Some of you have indicated that you plant plenty of “deer food” in the woods and available areas for them to enjoy.

It’s great when that works but often the deer don’t recognize that they’re not also welcome to eat whatever else they want and they can quickly destroy your plants and garden. This is where natural deer deterrents can be employed and deployed.

Deer Ticks Dangers

Another liability of having deer around are deer ticks. Also known as that “black legged tick” are often mistaken for a “brown dog tick”, with black legs and brown body. The deer tick is known to carry Lyme disease and can be brought in by deer and find their way to dogs and humans.[1]https://www.orkin.com/other/ticks/deer-ticks/

So, if you want to protect yourself and your plants without resorting to synthetic chemical substances or violence (tempting though it may be at times), you can. There are numerous natural deer deterrents to help you.

Better to enjoy viewing the deer at a distance.
~GardensAll.com

Meanwhile, if you’re into DIY, for a cheap but effective homemade deer alarm system that even trains the deer to stay away, you’ll want to read on and watch Beau’s video.

Homemade Deer Repellent

Beau Ouimette trains the deer to stay away!

“This is how I keep deer out of my garden. It works every year. It is safe for pets and costs almost nothing to install. I live in Western Maryland and we have tons of deer here!” Beau Ouimette, says about his homemade deer repellent fence.

THANKS Beau for sharing this awesome tip!

We also found a couple super handy deer repellent plants guides created by:
1. NC State University Cooperative Extension Service
2. Rutgers, NJ Ag Extension

And… you may enjoy these related articles on keeping rodents, rabbits, and earwigs out of the garden. Also how to attract birds that consume yard and garden pests.

The Ultimate Deer Repellent – The Bottom Line

The bottom line? The best solution to deter deer is no one thing, but numerous things working together.

Deer and Garden Art

Hey… we love deer and enjoy seeing them crossing through our property, but these are the only kind of deer we would want in our garden! (Thought these were super cool, so included them).

The only kind of deer we’d want in our garden! LOVELY found wood art deer!

Let’s Keep on Growing!


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