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Gardening in Deer Country


Shadow enjoys the shade

As lovers of animals, we welcome all wildlife into our garden, even deer and squirrels. We enjoy seeing the squirrels run and play among the oak trees, and we like it when we awake to watch deer eating fallen acorns early in the morning fog. What angers me, though, is taking a walk in our woodland garden to find that the deer have apparently enjoyed an all night buffet in our hosta bed, or devoured the tender buds of our blueberry bushes that would have developed into juicy berries for our children.


Shadow, our large black lab, is getting older, napping in the shade more and chasing deer less. Actually, I have observed her lying down on a soft bed of leaves to watch deer forage right beside her. We accept that though, since she is a very good dog.


Still, we'd like to enjoy the investments we've made in our garden. Plants can get expensive. So what do we do about it? Getting rid of the deer is not an option for us. Fencing must be at least 10 feet tall and surround the whole garden to be effective. Deer deterrant sprays are too expensive and are just temporary, having to be resprayed after every rain or watering.

The best option we've come up with is to plant things deer do not eat. Many of the plants disliked by deer come with a strong fragrance which will fool the deer into thinking there's nothing there they want. For every plant they like, we try to plant one they don't.

Unfortunately, many of our native plants are tasty to deer. Afterall, God created a food source for the animals when he made the animals. If you have the space, you might just want to plant plenty of the plant, hoping when they eat, they'll leave some for you to enjoy.

But there are a few easy to find native plants deer don't like, and here's a list to give you some ideas:
  • Buckeye
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coreopsis
  • Iris
  • Native Ferns
  • Magnolia
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Sedums
  • Verbena
  • Witch Hazel
  • Yarrow
The deer-resistant plant list can be lengthened if you consider adding some non-native, yet non-invasive, plants to your garden. Herbs are great, since their scent is not a favorite of deer. (Except for basil--deer seem to like basil.) Rosemary has helped us alot, making a great companion for the native plants in our dry roadside garden. The scent permeates a large area of the garden on warm or breezy days.