Waves of deer are entering my backyard at night and eating my roses. Help me defend my gorgeous flowers!
April 11, 2012 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Waves of deer are entering my backyard at night and eating my roses. Help me defend my gorgeous flowers!

Small deer are jumping our chain-link fence, which is about 4 feet high, entering our yard and causing absolute havoc in the garden. Does anyone have any tips on how to scare them off?

FYI I've tried tying shiny Mylar ribbons at various points of entry and on some rose bushes, making our yard look like an episode of Solid Gold. We've also scattered cayenne pepper around the place and installed solar-powered ultrasonic noise makers.

Looking on the Web, I've seen sprinkler sentry devices that detect movement and shoot jets of water, as well as really high fencing. (We're in Orange County and can't put up anything too aggressive without incurring the wrath of neighbors, plus I don't want to injure the animals.)

I'm just wondering if there is any backwoods country wisdom that might solve my problem. We're also trying to get the brush in the common area behind our yard cleared out.

Thanks for any help you can provide.
posted by teedee2000 to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Deer don't like rosemary. Perhaps you could surround your flowers with rosemary? Are the flowers hostas? Those are usually goners at my house so I don't plant them any more.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:49 AM on April 11, 2012

Deer Off.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2012

This sounds pretty vile and I've only ever seen it in the deeeep backwoods country area where I live, but people around here sometimes hang small bags of human hair off of tree branches-- the smell deters the deer. I can't believe I just typed that. So creepy, but apparently effective.

My in-laws have put up these low lawn flags that are brown and wave around a lot just off of the top of the lawn (I'm guessing that it looks like other animals), but this probably only works well in windier areas.
posted by mireille at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2012

Deer netting, either around the roses themselves or a replacement for the fences. Make it high. It's fairly cheap.
posted by edgeways at 7:54 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talk to your neighbors, see if they are feeding deer, if so, ask them to stop because that's luring the deer into the area. Cover or wrap saplings shorter than six feet using corrugated plastic tubes/sleeves, deer netting, or hardware cloth. Trim back low-hanging (less than 6’) tree branches. If possible, plant native species and avoid exotic species (native plant species are more likely to have evolved to resist browsing whereas exotic species attract deer). Cover ornamental plants with netting or mesh. Use scare tactics/deterrents such as motion detector-triggered lights, scarecrows, and radios to deter deer from browsing in gardens/landscaped areas. Strategically placed bars of soap (and even human hair) will deter deer; pepper spray on foliage works too. If you can heighten your fence, you'd want it to be 10 feet so that there's no risk of them jumping over it and getting impaled, but it sounds like you probably can't raise your fence that high anyway.
posted by srrh at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2012

I know three bits of "country wisdom" from friends and family. All of them swear by it. All are a little weird.
One person pees around his vegetable beds late at night to prevent his veggies from being eaten by deer and rabbits.
Another person hangs used socks and pantyhose here and there near his plants and orchard.
Lastly, I know the sole barber in the town I grew up in saved the hair sweepings from the floor for a customer that sprinkled them in his flower bed to keep the critters away.
posted by piedmont at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2012

Some additional info:
  • we've tried Deer Off - didn't work
  • we can't use pepper spray because it burns the bushes
  • forgot to mention we have motion-triggered lights too

posted by teedee2000 at 8:01 AM on April 11, 2012

I've heard people around here claim that human pee works, but generally once the deer are bold enough to not be deterred by other technique, they're going to eat your stuff unless you physically keep them out. There is a whole lot of deer fencing around here, with white ties every 10-20 feet so that deer and birds don't crash into it unexpectedly. Ugly but it does work.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:13 AM on April 11, 2012

4 ft fencing is nothing to deer, honestly. I think the recommended minimum I've heard is 8 ft to definitely keep them out; I'm in semi-rural upstate NY.

Personally I don't mind the deer much, being generally sentimental about the animals and birds in the yard and nearby wooded areas, but I'll add that we try only to plant stuff they don't really like. A nearby village has gone quite off the deep end (local political turmoil, neighbors hating neighbors) about their deer problem; it's a ritzy area so they ban tall fences for aesthetic reasons and are now seemingly about to implement sterilization and sharpshooters to thin their herd. (At which point I imagine the deer from surrounding areas will move back in.)

Anyhow -- we've had luck with iMustGarden's deer repellent, available at Agway. You have to give the plants a new spritz after it rains. We've kept them off tulips, lilies and hostas (otherwise known as deer salad ;-) with this.

but people around here sometimes hang small bags of human hair off of tree branches

Ah, the Blair Witch mystery finally explained.
posted by aught at 8:33 AM on April 11, 2012

In the DC area, people get lion dung from the Zoo as a deer repellent. Looks like it works in the UK too. Rather bizarrely, Amazon UK stocks it but Amazon US doesn't.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:38 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to work at a garden center near a historical battle field where deer hunting was prohibited. I can tell you that our official take on the subject was, if they are sufficiently hungry, nothing will stop them. Has there been construction around you lately? Often these onslaughts are prompted by loss of habitat. Other times, the populaion outgrows the food supply. Build the wall higher, or start planting only plants toxic to deer, I'm afraid our experiences aren't promising in terms of deterrents.
posted by Ys at 8:39 AM on April 11, 2012

Dig a few posts and string fishing line around the area at heights of 2 - 4 feet. It will spook the deer and hopefully deter them.
posted by cwarmy at 8:41 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Milorganite (an organic fertilizer made in Milwaukee) is allegedly an effective deer repellent. It looks from their website like they sell it in California.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:13 AM on April 11, 2012

We have the 8 ft plastic mesh fencing, and it works. It's also not super visible if you're far away, but the animals don't seem to get hurt by it (if you run into it you really just bounce). If you start looking, you might be surprised by how many people have it in unnoticeable areas.
posted by anaelith at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2012

Chiming in to agree - if they're hungry enough that Deer Off doesn't work, then nothing will work but a big dog or a fence. They're desperate.

However, this seems to vary year by year. The repellent works, but more like a locked car door works. It makes your plants less attractive but not completely inedible to them, and they'll eat them if there's nothing else available.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:23 AM on April 11, 2012

Some friends of mine had the same problem and the human pee & hair mentioned further up worked to keep the deer away from their plants.

Creepy, I know, but maybe worth a try.
posted by Bearded Dave at 10:34 AM on April 11, 2012

I was going to suggest a Deer John letter, but...

.. a motion detector deer repellent would be better.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:50 AM on April 11, 2012

Pantyhose & Irish Spring soap. Put the soap the leg of the hose, tie to sturdy branch. Borrow a dog and have it mark your property line every few days.

Unfortunately, once the deer learn you have something edible, they usually stick around until it's gone and then come back again the following year.

(and just an FYI, there is no 100% guaranteed solution. Critters don't follow directions - my mom just had 5 separate squirrel infiltrations to her car's electrical system - $7,000 worth of damage total. They finally ended up trapping and relocating but she's already gearing up for next year)
posted by jaimystery at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2012

A farm I drive by daily has a few bars of soap (possibly Irish Spring as mentioned above) hanging around their tall shrubs. You can see the indent around the circumference of the shrubs where the deer were eating away at them, and the soap is at that height.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:24 PM on April 11, 2012

Bars of soap do not work, human hair does not work. Even a lively dog will not always work. While our dog slept on the porch, a few feet away deer ate halfway through a daylily bed.

You need an 8' tall fence, or two lower fences, 4-5' high and the same distance apart, because deer are high jumpers, but not broad jumpers.

We have an electric fence, which won't work since you live in a residential area. Even with the electric fence, we get the occasional incursion.
posted by sevenstars at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2012

When we had this problem in suburban Chicago, my uncle went to the store, came back with a box, and handed me some rubber gloves. "Try not to get any on you," he said, "it doesn't come off too easily." And with that, I was sent to the garden to pour coyote urine into little bottles packed with cotton balls. The bottles had small holes all over, and the cotton soaked up the urine, which didn't smell all that bad. The bottles came with caps with a wire ring like a key ring on the top. I clipped the bottles to the fence, and we never had another deer problem again.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2012

Thanks for all the great responses. Marked some as best answers but only time will tell. I'll try to post an update if the system lets me.
posted by teedee2000 at 7:41 AM on April 12, 2012

« Older How to deal with a lost money order?   |   Wi-Fi woes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.