Deer have a significant impact on landscape plantings in New Jersey. Many homeowners have given up on buying new plantings for fear that deer will eat them and the money will be wasted. There is a perception that nothing can be done to stop the deer, so why bother. This is a mistake – there is plenty that can be done to have a beautiful garden that is very deer resistant.
Deer have a very repetitive range within which they browse. Usually, their territory is roughly one square mile. They generally follow the same ‘grazing’
pattern and timing. As grazing animals, they will nibble to taste test plants which is why at times you find they have munched on plants that might fall into the “deer resistant” category. As a general rule, they avoid leaves that are aromatic and/or having fuzzy texture…tomentose leaves. This is why you will see deer avoid lavender and herbs or lambs ears and viburnum.
The first step to a Deer Resistant Landscape is to pick the right plants. From the smallest bedding plants to the largest trees, there are varying levels of deer resistance for the plants available in our area. Although there are no plants that are absolutely deer proof, there are many plants that are strongly deer resistant. The best guide we have found for the varying levels of resistance among plants is published by Rutgers. It can be found at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/. You’ll see that this list, like most lists, break the plants down into levels of resistance. The highest category is plants that are “Rarely Damaged” by deer. If deer are a major issue in your garden than stick with
plants with this level of resistance.
Picking highly deer resistant plants can do the trick for many landscapes, but it may not be enough in some cases. If deer continue to be a problem then the next step is deer repellants. Although there are countless home remedies for deer repellants, there are some very effective commercial products that are easy to apply. Many people have
had unsatisfactory experiences with older deer repellants. A new generation has corrected many of the deficiencies of older products. New Jersey gardeners have reported excellent results with two products that are available on-line. The first is Deer Scram (http://www.deerscram.com/) which is very appealing because it is a granular product that is shaken from a dispenser around the base of plants, or the edges of beds. The second is Deer Out (http://www.deerout.com/) which is sprayed directly on leaves, won’t wash off, and can last a month or more between sprayings.
Although there are no guarantees, there certainly are two steps that you can take that can result in a diverse and beautiful Deer Resistant Landscape. Pick plants from the “Rarely Damaged” section of the Rutgers list, and use a simple to apply, long lasting, deer repellent.