LIVING IN MARIN means sharing the roads and paths, your extra backyard produce, and your garden with deer. You’ll have better luck in the garden and less frustration if you are respectful of these creatures and know the rules. To that end, here are garden design considerations to keep in mind and some tips on fences and plants that will keep deer at bay without endangering them.
KNOW THE RULES
The Hunger A hungry deer will eat almost anything. From summer into fall there is less food, and deer need to get water by chewing on plants. Early spring brings more food sources, but during birthing season mothers get extra hungry.
Use Repellent Young plants taste better to deer than established plants and it takes time for plants — even those considered deer resistant — to build up resistant qualities. As you wait for your plants to build resistance, either cage them or spray them with a deer repellent like Liquid Fence. Deer become familiar with repellents, so rotate different types when they become ineffective.
Think Regional Deer eat different plants in different areas. Try using plants that have proven successful for your neighbors. Usually, groups of deer have similar aversions to certain plants. In general, deer don’t like strong-smelling plants, plants with toxic milky sap, like euphorbia, or plants with fuzzy, prickly or thorny textures (except roses).
Smart Fencing Install a smaller fenced area if you want to grow vegetables, fruit or other deer favorites. It’s important to leave an open trail for deer.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERT
Plant guru and owner of Green Jeans Garden Supply, Kevin Sadlier, recommends thinking outside the box with it comes to deer. “Try a less conventional and more compassionate approach and you may get better results,” Sadlier says. He suggests putting out a tub of water for the deer so they get their moisture needs met and, in turn, they may avoid eating your ornamentals. “Also try planting a forage garden for the deer,” he adds. “You might enjoy wildlife more.”
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Oh Deer”.