Deer are natural herbivores, and while seeing them eat plants and berries in the forest is cute, it gets old pretty fast when they start eating your ornamentals and shredding your trees with their antlers. If you’re looking to keep deer off your turf, we’ve got the low-down on common and effective deer deterrent strategies.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that while these methods are proven to keep some deer away, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to completely avoid damage. Why? Remember that whitetail deer are homebodies, rarely venturing more than a couple of miles from their territory. So, if you’ve seen damage to your property, it’s likely that some of the deer you see are repeat offenders—and they won’t all be deterred.

What you can do, however, will make it harder or unappealing for deer to encroach on your turf. Here are our top four tips:

Tip 1: Install fencing.

This one sounds easy enough, but depending on the size, terrain, and intended use of your property, it may not be feasible. If you have the resources, putting up a tall fence—aim for between 8 and 10 feet high—will discourage deer from breaking in and chowing down at your expense. Whitetails can jump pretty high, but any deer with the athletic prowess to jump a fence that high is either running on pure adrenaline or is Olympic material. Suffice to say, you probably won’t have more than a couple of deer getting in over the course of a year.

If you’re unable to install a fence, or if your geography only allows you to partially enclose your property, chemical and natural solutions are going to be your next best bet.

Tip 2: Put up natural barriers.

When chain link isn’t an option, a prickly thorn bush can do the trick. Barberry and black hawthorn bushes are a solid choice when creating a thorny barrier, but sometimes the most obvious answer isn’t the most effective solution. Deer are pretty picky eaters, so shrubs and ornamentals without built-in deterrent mechanisms can work just as well if deer aren’t big fans of their flavor (or smell).

Deer tend to avoid plants like these:

  • Prickly and thorny plants, as mentioned
  • Plants with fuzzy and/or hairy-feeling leaves
  • Very fragrant plants
  • Plants that have an unpleasant taste

Place plants with these traits around the perimeter of your property for the best chance of keeping deer away.

Tip 3: Use deer repellent.

Now that you’ve done what you can naturally, it’s time to enhance your strategy with chemical applications. Use Spotrete F, a liquid fungicide, on ornamentals in the areas where damage occurs. Spotrete is intended to last several months, so your application should last through spring. Spotrete is cost-effective and can be used with a backpack sprayer, meaning you can treat a whole landscape easily without breaking the bank.

Treat plants where there’s heavy deer pressure to lessen damage. As we mentioned earlier, no deer repellent product will prevent all damage. Remember that if you have a dozen deer come by think that the plant tastes bad, they won’t come back, but they still will have taken a few bites. Also, keep in mind that when there’s snow and the leaves get stripped off the plants deer like to eat, they’ll get desperate and will eat plants they normally won’t eat.

Tip 4: Add an anti-transpirant for additional protection.

Deer aren’t the only threat to your ornamentals in the winter. The elements can take their toll, too. Applying an anti-transpirant to your ornamentals will keep desiccation at bay and prevent snow mold from forming. An anti-transpirant like AquaLock will put a wax-like layer of protection on plant surfaces and will also lock your deer repellent in place through its washoff-resistant properties.

Next year, you can enhance your Spotrete application with AquaLock, which is recommended for wintertime applications up into mid-March, which coincides with the time deer-related damage occurs the most. For AquaLock to be effective, though, the temperature must be 40°F or higher, and with weather conditions being in the single digits this January, it’s too late for AquaLock. Next year, you’ll want to apply 4 to 8 ounces of AquaLock in one gallon of water per thousand square feet.

For extra strength, you can apply a spray adjuvant like Chem-Stik, a nonionic spreader-sticker that will enhance the coverage of AquaLock and provide additional washoff protection. Precision Labs, Chem-Stik’s manufacturer, recommends using 4 to 8 ounces of Chem-Stik per hundred gallons of spray solution.

This powerful combination will keep the Spotrete stuck to your ornamentals. AquaLock seals it in place, while Chem-Stik provides additional protection from the elements.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to keeping your ornamentals protected this winter and all year round, we have the advice and solutions that make a difference. Reach out to your rep to see how they can help you tackle planning for the new year.