Deer are graceful creatures to observe in natural settings. The romance wears off when you see the damage they’ve raked through your flower beds. As human habitation spreads more thickly, the deer’s natural predators are being forced out, leaving our vegetarian garden predators in paradise–no enemies and plenty of well tended delicacies lovingly arranged for optimum dining. Deer particularly appreciate expensive, pampered plants like roses, turning the joys of gardening into an unpleasant war for the gardener.

Many herbs are just as vulnerable to Bambi’s versatile palette. The trick is to plant the herbs deer don’t like and properly shelter the rest. Once this is accomplished, finding a few hoof prints from the night before won’t result in outrage. Keep in mind there are two types of deer herds. One type is the traveling deer herd, who are just passing through for a few evenings. The other is the resident deer herd who are living in the area. Residents are often eager to experiment with plants they normally wouldn’t eat when their natural food sources are depleted.

Tips for Setting up the Deer-proof Garden

Whether you’re planning a new garden space or defending an existing garden against a deer-invasion, you have several practical, organic solutions available. Start with any of these options for deer-proofing your garden based on what makes most sense to you.

  • Choose Deer-proof Plants
  • Install Proper Fencing
  • Install Motion-sensitive Irrigation

Deer-proof Planting

Fortunately for the herbalist, most of our favorite plants are naturally deer-proof. The essential oils generated by the rosemary and lavender we adore are repulsive to deer. Many culinary plants have these strong odors, and it’s easy to encourage them to intensify their scents by decreasing their watering schedule. When these herbs are drought-stressed, they protect themselves by producing more deer-repellant essential oils. A few dear-repellant plants to consider are:

  • lavender1Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Artemisia – ie. Mugwort, Wormwood
  • Mints – ie. Lemon Balm, Spearmint
  • Walnut
  • Dill
  • Hyssop
  • Alliums – ie. Garlic, Chives
  • Elderberry
  • Rue
  • Yarrow
  • Nasturtium
  • Feverfew

Deer-proof Fencing

Fencing is the best way to protect the herbs deer find especially tasty like parsley and basil. A deer can jump at least eight feet in the air from a stand-still, so don’t pinch pennies on height. Having deer usually means you also have raccoons or rabbits, too, so consider digging the fence line into the soil several inches and curving the excess toward the enclosed garden before burying it. Deer can be deterred by planting a low line of shrubs inside the garden fence along the base.  Their long, graceful legs are prone to breaks. If they can’t see where they’ll land clearly, they’ll be less willing to take the leap.

Motion-sensitive Irrigation

Many garden shops and feed stores carry motion-sensitive irrigation that will spray any offender with a cold blast of water once they step into your yard. These contraptions are spendy but effective on deer, raccoon, neighborhood dogs, rabbits, and other unwelcome guests.