Deer may be elegant, attractive wildlife, but they can be some of the worst backyard and garden pests as they damage trees, eat gardens and flowerbeds, trample foliage and leave feces throughout the yard. While fences can be effective at keeping deer away, harsh barriers can also be eyesores. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to deter deer that are inexpensive, easy and effective.
Deer have sensitive noses and tend to avoid areas with strong odors that might conceal predators or other threats. Crushed garlic cloves can be sprinkled on mulch, or spread human hair clippings to give deer the impression that the area is visited by many people. Hot sauce, soap flakes and mothballs can also be used to deter deer if spread liberally to overwhelm their sense of smell.
Deer avoid areas where predators are active, and homeowners can give deer the impression that there are predators around in order to keep the deer away. Allowing a dog to mark its territory around the yard will discourage deer, or predator urine from foxes, coyotes or mountain lions can be purchased from specialty hunting stores. With privacy and discretion, it's also possible to use human urine to mark territory.
While wire or wooden fences may be unsightly, a natural barrier of thick, tall shrubbery can be just as effective at deterring deer, and far more beautiful. Deer are reluctant to jump over thick barriers, so good, solid shrubs can be helpful to keep deer out of the yard, especially if the shrubs are close together or include thorns so deer cannot pass through the plants.
While a very hungry deer will sample just about anything, some plants are less palatable than others. Filling your landscaping with less delicious plants can encourage deer to move on to tastier areas. Deer-resistant plants include succulents, daffodils, irises, yarrow, sage, chives, lavender and any plants with furry, fuzzy or thorny textures.
Avoid Feeding Deer
Many homeowners misguidedly offer deer a salt lick or feeding station to try to keep them away from landscaping and gardens. This just keeps deer nearby, and instead it is better to remove all possible foods, including harvesting the garden early so deer don't have any meals waiting for them in the yard.
If you don't want deer in your yard, the best possible technique to use is all of the above – the more ways you attempt to deter deer, the more likely it is that your efforts will succeed and your landscaping and garden will be safe from their unwanted attention.