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Deer: What’s Working

May 18, 2012


I love my garden, but even with dogs, so do the deer.

I see deer every single day.

They wander down our street like the elk in Northern Exposure.

They stand in our front yard taunting our barking golden retrievers on the other side of the fence.

They dart into the road when I’m driving, and scamper through the shallow end of our harbor until the swans shoo them away.

In short, we are their guests.

I’ve discovered the hard way that if my attention to deer deterrents wavers even the slightest bit, my garden pays the price.

Nothing is 100% effective, but overall I’ve found the best advice is to rotate products every 2 weeks for the duration of the garden season.

So this year I’ve decided to keep a journal of sorts, about the products I’m using, how well they work, and what pros and cons go along with using them.

An Early Start to the Season
We were away most of March, and it was unseasonably warm here, so the garden shot up a bit earlier than usual.

When we got back from our trip, the deer had had a bit of a picnic. So I didn’t delay in spreading deterrents.

We have about 2/3 of an acre, and the entire perimeter of the yard and foundation of the house is planted, as are several raised beds.

Our fence encircles the back yard, or about half the property, but at only 5 feet tall it doesn’t stop really hungry deer.

In the unfenced front yard I stick mostly to deer resistant plants — except for some Rhodys & Hydrangeas that predate my gardening efforts on the property & that I love enough to try to protect.

In the back I mix it up a lot more, and have both deer resistant plants as well as plants that neither I nor the deer can resist.

First Application: Coyote Urine Concentrate Liquid
Yep, it stinks. I sprinkled it along the entire perimeter of the yard.

The dogs were a little interested, but after a few sniffs they were done investigating. This is important as their intense fascination can mean trampled plants and/or smelly dogs.

Two weeks, including some rain, and the deer left everything alone.

Second Application: Deer Scram Granular
Again, I sprinkled it along the entire perimeter. Its been 2 weeks since, and even with a few days of rain & the deer have stayed away.

But the dogs were intensely interested in the product, rolling in it, nibbling on it. And they got pretty stinky!

Third Application: To Be Determined! I’ve been shopping and have quite a variety of products in stock. So stay tuned — I’ll be applying something new this weekend.

Third Application, Deer Off, May 4, 2012:
Today I tried Havahart’s Deer Off, which is supposed to deter deer by smell (rotten eggs & garlic) and taste (hot pepper).

I sprayed this directly on all the shrubs and plants throughout the yard.

Annoyingly, the sprayer totally crapped out half way thru the application. So I sprinkled it on the balance of plants.

I couldn’t smell either the eggs or the garlic, which I hope is good news. I’m letting the plants dry before I let the dogs out & see how they react.

Fingers crossed the deer stay away!

Fourth Application: Milorganite, May 10, 2012
The deer left everything alone BUT we had A LOT of rain this week and the deer are everywhere so I didn’t want to risk waiting the full 2 weeks before my next application.

Also, we had a vole attack. Some Paladin and Miss Kim lilacs I put in last year got nailed this year. Not to death, but substantially.

Predator urine was frequently recommended in various web articles to deter voles, so I sprinkled some coyote urine granules around the yard, and also smashed down every tunnel I could find!

But I only had a small amount of coyote left over from last year to begin with, and the vole efforts cleaned me out … so I put in another order & I also ordered the urine granules of choice (apparently) in vole control: fox & bobcat. (The granules are much easier to use, I’ve found.)

For the deer, I just sprinkled Milorganite along the perimeter of the property. If you haven’t heard of Milorganite, it’s actually made from human — yes that’s right, human — waste. It’s sold as an organic fertilizer but the word in the woods is that deer do not like it.

We shall see!

Fifth Application: Deer Out, May 17, 2012
Days of non stop rain, then finally some sun.

The deer stayed away, but I could really see evidence that the voles had taken hold. Lilacs, Rhodys & clematis, damaged or dead.

I kept stomping down tunnels & sprinkled bobcat urine granules around select plants beyond our dogs reach.

All the rain also had me worried about dilution so this afternoon I sprayed all the plants with Deer Out, a mint/rotten egg/garlic/pepper product. It actually smelled nice, minty. And it dried quickly. And the dogs ignored it.

My big question: can I let myself go and wait more than a week between applications? I think the answer is yes provided we stop getting so much rain.

Sixth Application: Deer Scram, May 23, 2012
Another very rainy couple of days, and yes, the deer stayed away. The garden is getting very lush & looks very healthy.

There’s no visible evidence anywhere on the property of products I’ve sprinkled previously. The heavy rains all month long have dissipated & diluted them all.

So I felt it was time to apply something.

Deer Scram contains one ingredient the dogs simply can’t resist: dried blood. It also has garlic. So it’s supposed to be stinky scary for deer … it’s definitely stinky!

I sprinkled it along the perimeter on the outside of our fence, beyond our dogs reach.

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