Ward off deer with homemade methods

By Ryan Cornell

Oh deer.

As the population of our white-tailed neighbors continues to rise, some homeowners may have noticed damage to their gardens and bite-sized chomps taken out of their flowers and tomatoes.

Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Corey Childs said there are ways of keeping hungry deer out of the yard, including deer-resistant plants and repellent sprays.

“None are foolproof,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do to keep them completely out unless you build a very high barrier fence, which nobody wants to do.”

But by incorporating different techniques such as planting deer-resistant trees and shrubs, homeowners can help make their yards less appetizing to them.

According to the Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum in Boyce, deer-resistant trees include ginkgo, honey locust, American holly, southern magnolia, sweetbay magnolia and bald cypress. The arboretum states that rarely damaged shrubs include bluebeard, button bush and Chinese juniper.

Although most lawn and garden centers carry deer-repellent sprays, Childs said others can be made at home.

“There are some things people can concoct in their kitchens,” he said. “It’s as simple as sticking bars of deodorant soap around to give off an additional odor that there are people around.”

Another trick is to place caches of human hair around the garden.

“For a number of years, people have gone down to barbershops and asked for hair,” he said. “They put it in a cheesecloth and hang it up.

“The problem we’re having is the deer population is becoming more acclimated to humans and our smells, so deodorant and hair aren’t as impactful as they once were.”

This has led some frustrated homeowners to add their own special ingredients. Mixtures of hot pepper sauces and soap are popular choices, which are then sprayed on plants, while others have used eggs, milk, detergents and even urine.

“Usually people start with something that would be the least toxic and work their way up, but there’s lots of different stuff out there,” Childs said. “…When deer start consuming the plants, they get a little bit of heat that’s not palatable and they move on.”

Dogs also can be used to deter traveling deer.

For more information on repelling deer, contact your local extension office.