Who among rural gardeners does not have problems with deer? Plenty of folks in the Wood River Valley and beyond have issues with wildlife, and its not just because their garden looks yummy. Rather, deer, like elk in winter, are in our backyards and gardens because this is their habitat. The Humane Society of America offers some tips on how to handle backyard wildlife.
"People's frustration can lead to completely unnecessary battles between deer and humans," said Laura Simon, wildlife expert and field director of urban wildlife for The Humane Society. "With some knowledge and creativity and willingness to make some minor compromises you can have a beautiful garden that deer will not destroy."
Simon and others recommend using native plants that have evolved over the years to deter deer browsing or tolerate its impact. And use plants that deer don't like and will avoid, such as strong smelling plants in the mint, geranium, and marigold families; plants in the daffodil family and toxic plants such in the foxglove and nightshade families. Also consider planting anything with fuzzy, prickly or sharp leaves, most ornamental grasses, ferns, artimesia, juniper, cotoneaster, butterfly bush, trumpet vine, scotch broom, St. John's Wort, Asiatic lilies, and barberry.
But be careful. Some of these are extremely invasive and toxic and should be planted with care and knowledge about growing patterns.
Gardners have tried everything with mixed results. So, if you're willing, experiment. Cutting up dryer sheets and tying the strips to the fence may work. Mixing cayenne powder with sticky substances and applying to the fence has also been known to be a deterrent. There are also hot pepper sprays; two such are Hinder or Plantskydd.
As well, people have had some success keeping wildlife out of the gardens by using certain kinds of non-glycerin deodorant soaps (Ivory or Irish Spring) that can be grated around plants. Conversely, wild animals are turned off by the smell of humans, especially urine. If you don't want to pee in your garden, there are different types of predator-urine drops available at hunting stores and through agway.com. Coyote's is most often recommended.
The key is to start using repellents before, or as soon as, you notice damage, Simon said. "Be diligent about reapplying regularly—every two weeks and after heavy rains. Alternating differing kinds of repellents may also help."
Some fences are called deer proof. Hmm. Personally, I'd try a few of the planting options to be safe. But remember better safe than sorry. Once deer have discovered a food source, get ready for a fight. After that, it's very difficult to get them to change their ways.