6 Deer Repellents You Need To Try

Someone's garden looks appetizing... Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading

Just. One. Deer.

That’s all it takes to undo hours and hours of painstaking yard work. Just one deer can wreak havoc on a beautiful garden. Those vegetables? Flowers? Uprooted. Well-raked planters? Trampled.

deer in neighborhood
Someone’s garden looks appetizing… Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading

Fortunately, there are several low-impact ways to deter and repel deer. You don’t have to resort to poison or nasty chemical solutions from companies like Dow or ConAgra. You can use tried-and-true, centuries-old methods that won’t brutalize your soil or biome.

The Best All-Natural Deer Repellents

This pro/con chart can help you decide which tried-and-true method is best for your deer repellent needs.

Method Pros Cons
Smelly Repellent
  • Biodegradable
  • Super effective
  • Smells terrible
  • Needs to be replenished often
  • Washes away after rain
Biodegradable Soap
  • Biodegradable
  • Low impact
  • Also repels insects, esp. aphids
  • Can alter pH of the soil
  • Washes away after rain
Traditional Fencing
  • 100% effective
  • No chemical or smell effects
  • Many options
  • Expensive
  • Blocks sun
  • Creates border
Deer Fencing
  • Very effective
  • Less obtrusive, cheaper than traditional fencing
  • No chemical effects
  • Might disrupt the look of your garden
  • More expensive than smell repellent and soap
  • Requires maintenance and installation
Visual And Sonic Deterrent
  • No chemical or smell impacts
  • Wind chimes can add a pleasant element
  • Lowest effectiveness
  • Noisy
  • Some deer might not notice deterrents
Repellent Plants
  • Extremely sustainable
  • No additional labor
  • No chemical or smell effects
  • Companion planting opportunity
  • Medium effectiveness
  • Takes up garden space
  • Might be bad neighbors to current/desired plants

How To Make Smelly Deer Repellent

Deer repellent that works by scent is easy to make, and there are dozens of recipes. Each of them has their merits. You should feel free to experiment with ours. Your local Cervidae might have a stronger reaction to a different formula.

What You Need To Make Deer Repellent

  • Eggs
  • Dairy (cream, milk, or yogurt all work)
  • Biodegradable liquid soap
  • Garlic
  • Spice (pepper flakes, chili powder, etc.)
  • Water
  • A spray bottle

Instructions For Making And Using Deer Repellent

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender with water. Add enough to make the solution sprayable. Go easy on water at first—you can always add more later, but you can’t take any out.
  2. Strain the final product into containers.
  3. Fill a dedicated spray bottle with the solution.
  4. Store the remainder of the repellent solution in an unrefrigerated area where you don’t linger. The goal is for the eggs, dairy, and garlic to rot and become smelly. The worse the solution smells, the better it will work. You won’t want to smell the results, even when you’re applying the solution.
  5. Spray the solution on your plants or pour a small amount over the beds and planters that deer favor.
  6. Reapply the solution every 6-10 days and immediately after rainfall or windstorms.

How To Use Soap To Repel Deer

Deer dislike the smell of soap. Dish soap can work as effectively as the blended repellant described above, and it will not disgust you every time you step into the garden.

The end #garden #njgarden #deerrepellent

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  1. Buy a solid or powdered biodegradable soap. Dish soap works best, but any other will do in a pinch.
  2. If your soap is in bar-form, use a cheese grater to shred the soap into shavings.
  3. Sprinkle the shavings or powder across the affected garden beds.
  4. Reapply the soap every 6-10 days or immediately after rain or a windstorm.

How To Build A Deer Fence

Deer fencing is one of the more benign and unobtrusive ways to protect specific parts of a garden. It’s not as intrusive or intimidating as a full-on privacy fence—just as much light will get through, which is a plus for gardens—and deters most Cervidae.

  1. Dig holes for and set up fence posts that are approximately 4 feet tall and space them about 4 feet apart.
  2. Drill holes into the fence posts and install hooks that will support wire.
  3. String fishing wire through the hooks. Encircle the entire fence. Leave a gap to come and go or build a gate.
  4. Fishing wire should deter most deer, and it is nearly invisible, but stronger stuff might be necessary. If the fishing wire isn’t effective, use twine or, if necessary, rope or metal wire.

How To Repel Deer With Sight And Sound

Repel Deer With Sight

Finally, there’s a use for those old Dave Matthews Band CDs you have laying around your house!

cds hanging in garden
Ruth Hartnup / Flickr (Creative Commons)
  1. Rip the music on the old CD onto your computer if you haven’t already. The CD isn’t going to work after this.
  2. Tie twine or wire around the CD. Leave plenty of slack; the CD will need room to dangle and flap in the breeze.
  3. Hang the CD from branches, awnings, or fence posts near the affected area.

The refracted light from the CDs should startle any nearby grazing deer. They’ll become a bit more cautious and give the CDs—and your garden—a wide berth. You can also substitute strips of aluminum cans or foil for the CDs.

How To Repel Deer With Sound

A garden-variety wind chime could actually be enough to deter a deer. Try hanging a chime farther away from your house. Install it near or above the garden bed. The wind-swept chimes might make deer nervous enough to keep them away from your garden.

You can also make your own DIY rattlers that could scare away deer—fill up an old metal or plastic container with dried beans and hang it above the affected area.

How To Repel Deer With Plants

The scent of some plants is more than enough to ward off deer. As with soap or the stinky solution above, deer just can’t abide the smell of the following plants. It’s like trying to eat dinner with rotting vegetables in the same room.

  • Poppies
  • Bleeding hearts
  • False indigo
  • Spurges
  • Daffodils
  • Monkshood

Tall grasses, ferns, and plants with thick/furry/sticky leaves, like lamb’s ear, are also anathema to deer. Deer will struggle to digest any of those plants, and their foliage is unpleasant for them to walk through.

poppy corner… #gardenpoppies

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As a permaculturally-inclined gardener, you don’t want to harm your deer neighbors—but you sure would like them to go the heck away. With these methods, you’ll get both outcomes, and both you and the deer around your homestead will be happy.

Written by Peter Johnson

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