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Use plants to deter deer

Even in the city, deer are seen browsing on ornamental plants. They seem to think many of our garden plants are candy we offer them. Urgh! There are certain plants that they prefer, but if they are hungry enough, they will eat any plants.

So, how can we co-exist with the wildlife in our neighborhood?

First, plant those plants that they do not like. If the plant has fuzzy or hairy leaves, they generally avoid them. Prickly foliage is also a deterrent.

Just like us, deer smell their food before they taste it. Plants with a strong aroma are generally left alone. Herbs, especially lavender, basil and mints, are good examples of this group.

Deer tend to avoid plants that are toxic. They also do not like plants that are difficult to digest because they are fibrous.

Ornamental grasses are low on their menus. If you have plants that deer are very fond of, surrounding them with some of the plants they don’t like may deter them.

However, if plant selection is not adequate, the ultimate solution is fencing them out. It can be snow fence, electric fence (if permitted), or placing netting over the entire garden or simply over individual plants. A wide barrier of large rocks also will keep the deer away from your garden. It will have to be wide enough that they cannot jump over it, which could be 8 feet or more.

There are many deer repellents available that combine offensive odors and tastes. However, the only way they will work is if they are applied faithfully probably as often as weekly. The ones that seem to work best as based on putrefied eggs. Using strong scented soaps or human hair may be effective for a short while, but the deer learn to ignore them.

Scare tactics can be effective. People historically have used pie plates and strips of tin foil. Once again, the deer tend to become used to them. One product that does seem to work is a motion activated sprinkler with an infrared sensor. The sprinkler should be high enough to avoid being triggered by blowing plants.

Many of these suggestions will only work during some of the seasons. Freezing temperatures will prevent the sprinkler from working. Annual herbs will lose their aroma. It is important to change tactics periodically. The deer will become accustomed to any technique that we use.

There are many techniques that have varying degrees of success. Some are not scientifically proven yet, but people state that they work in their garden. Time may prove that there is a scientific basis to their effectiveness just as we have learned about the medicinal ingredients that are found in plants.

For ideas to outsmart the deer that are invading your garden, go to http://go.osu.edu/outsmartdeer.

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