Greenhouse Canada

Fighting hungry deer the natural way

July 2, 2008  By John Raby The Associated Press

July 2, 2008, Charleston, W.Va. – It took hours to get those impatiens looking just right and those pole beans growing, only to have them mowed down by hungry deer. Help your customers fight back using safe and natural methods.

It took hours to get those impatiens looking just right and those pole beans growing, only to have them mowed down by hungry deer.

This year, it's time to fight back.


While quick fixes are available at stores – no, not guns – by way of sprays and granular materials to repel deer, help may already be at home. The possibilities are endless, from bar soaps to hair to spicy solutions.

The key is knowing what deer's sensitive noses don't like.

They certainly don't like humans. And human hair, especially those from freshly permed salon customers, works great, as long as gardeners aren't shy about asking stylists to sweep up several handfuls to place alongside their plants or hang above the ground in nylon stockings.

Sandy Wilfong uses dog hair to keep both deer and raccoons from ravaging her sweet corn crop. The employee at Zahm Greenhouses in Huntington, Ind., gets her hair from a dog groomer.

"It absolutely will get the 'coon out of there. We haven't had the problem with the deer, either,'' she said.

The creek behind Bob Matthews' home in Greece, N.Y., is a popular deer hangout. During the growing season, there's an all-out blitz to keep them from harming his sunflower and vegetable crop.

Matthews, who operates a website dedicated to home gardening, swears by a garlic-and-water spray applied every few weeks, especially after a rainy period.

Other home remedies:

Baby powder: If it's good enough for baby, it's good enough for baby plants.

Eggs: Crack a few, mix with two litres of water and apply the solution to plants. The eggs will decompose and deer won't like the smell.

Deodorant soap and dryer sheets: Soap shavings could be scattered on the ground, or drill a hole in the soap and hang them from trees.

Chili powder, cayenne pepper and hot peppers: Matthews suggests chopping some peppers in a blender and add water, let the solution stand overnight, then strain it through cheesecloth and empty into a spray bottle. "I've never seen a pepper plant, sweet or hot, that's been bothered by a deer,'' Matthews said.

Mothballs: They're dangerous around vegetables because of their chemical content and work great in flower beds but could be spotted by curious children. Try crushing them to a less-detectable size. "Something unnatural like soap, dryer sheets or human hair – I don't want human hair on my tomato plants,'' Matthews said. "You've got to think logically about how you apply this stuff.''

Blood meal: The nitrogen-rich granular fertilizer repels deer but is attractive to dogs.

Visual scare tactics: Reflective material, flags, balloons, aluminum pie plates and paper streamers, although many won't work if the wind is calm.

Fences: If cost isn't an option, a tall fence may outdo any home remedy.

An 2.5-metre fence is the most practical use around larger-scale operations such as orchards, said Steve Miller, a research horticulturalist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville.

"Something in the kitchen cabinet is probably not going to work,'' he said.

Another option is simply knowing what plants deer like and don't like.

Some of their favourite candy? Columbine, daylily, geranium, hostas, impatiens, pansies, redbud, rhododendron, roses and tulips, and many vegetables, including beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

Annual flowers usually left alone by deer include dahlia, four o'clock, flowering tobacco, larkspur, marigold, poppy, snapdragon, strawflower and vinca.

According to Dave Jensen, owner of Deer-Resistant Landscape Nursery in Clare, Mich., some top deer-resistant perennials are barberry, bleeding heart, bluebeard, boxwood, butterfly bush,
catmint, daffodils, foxglove, hellebores, hyssop, lavender, monkshood, mullein, ornamental grasses, meadow and Russian sage, and spurge.

Avoiding Bambi and family altogether might simply come down to location.

"I myself have not had an issue with deer,'' said Steven Bess, an employee at Marilyn's Nursery in Lebanon, Mo. "I live in the city.''

The Associated Press

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