Oh Deer

Garden Clippings for November 11, 2023

It has been a while since I’ve seen a deer.  We would spot a few when we lived in the rurals, but since moving to town, the only time I’ve seen a deer is when we visited Pinery Provincial Park.

But the deer are coming.  For sure.

It was a few years ago that I was asked by my Brother-in-Law to design a memorial garden on the grounds of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, a suburb of Chicago.  The design was easy enough, and the installation of the garden, which included a brick walkway, bench, boulders and plants, was both energizing and rewarding.

Three months later I returned to visit the garden and noticed the Hostas were missing.  Apparently, the deer had eaten them up a day or two after planting.

My sister Betty and her husband Tom live in a well-established neighbourhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Their home is a stone’s throw from the busy 28th street, a commercial row of Meijer’s, McDonalds, and Marriotts.  To protect her flower and veggie garden from deer, she applies repellant once a week, more often if it rains.

When the inevitable rise in deer population arrives, gardeners would do well to prepare themselves.  The easiest way to keep deer out is to utilize deer resistant plants.  These days, a quick Google search on any plant variety will reveal its level of resistance.

Deer don’t like strong smelling herbs and flowers such as lavender, oregano, garlic, Lantana, or Onion.  They also don’t enjoy plants with hairy or fuzzy foliage.  And obviously, plants with thorns such as Barberry, Roses and Bougainvillia are a safe bet.

Fencing, hedges, tree netting, and other barriers will deter deer, but they would need to be high enough because a 4 or 5 ft fence is hardly a hurdle for a healthy deer.  If deer are a serious issue, an electric fence might be the solution.

Scare tactics may be enough to keep deer at bay.  Motion activated sprinklers, the neighbour’s dog, or ultrasonic devises are other ways to keep deer out of the garden.

Deer repellants, now readily available in spray, dust or granular form are becoming the wisest way to keep deer out of the garden.  Repellants smell bad and taste worse.  They will need to be applied often, depending on the type used, the hunger level of the deer and the smorgasbord you are tempting the deer with.

We may never see deer in great numbers, because deer prefer wooded areas over urban areas.  Cities with heavier tree coverage such as Kitchener, Ottawa, Toronto and London will likely see more deer than Windsor, Chatham and Sarnia where tree coverage is less than 20%.