After tending a garden, nobody wants to see their hard work go to the deer. Since deer tend to feed overnight, you may not catch deer in the act of feasting on your garden. To determine if deer are the culprit in your garden, look for hoof prints, torn leaves, and trampled plants. The most effective way to stop deer is an 8' tall fence around your garden, but if you don't have the desire, time or money to build a fence, here are some other ways to deter deer.
1. Drape Garden Netting/Row Covers
Netting and row covers are an easy way to protect plants from being eaten by deer. Tack down the edges of the barrier with ground stakes, to prevent the barrier from being blown off by the wind.
2. String Fishing Line
As a thrifty alternative to draping your plants with netting, you can string fishing line around your most prized plants. The string should surround the plant and be 2-3' above the ground. The fishing line will confuse deer and discourage them from making your plant their next meal.
3. Place Motion-Activated Sprinklers
Send the deer scrambling to look for a meal elsewhere. Deer are skittish by nature, so the unexpected sound and spraying water will scare deer away.
4. Apply Repellent on Affected Plants
There are many types of deer repellents available, but the most effective are ones that emit a sulfur odor (similar to rotten eggs) or bloodmeal. It's also important that the repellent is applied to the leaf surfaces, instead of products that create a perimeter of odor. Lastly, be consistent with application after rainfall and use a different formula every so often to prevent deer adaptation.
Pro-tip: Use caution when applying repellent to vegetables and herbs you intend to eat.
5. Select Plants Deer Avoid
Incorporate plants that deer avoid to disguise the plants deer find enticing. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell and extremely fragrant plants sometimes interrupt deer's ability to locate their favorite plants. In addition to smell deterrence, deer sometimes avoid thorny or fuzzy-leaved plants. Here are some suggested deer resistant plants:
Deer will learn and adapt to some of these methods, so it's best to experiment and see which work best against the deer in your neighborhood. If one method starts to lose effectiveness, don't become discouraged, just shout your battle cry and add another deterrent the deer don't expect.