Oh, deer. Maybe the top garden pest in Western North Carolina. They get our vegetable gardens, they get our fruit trees. They knock things over at the nursery.
The list of DIY deer deterrents is almost as long as the plants they eat. Shaving Irish spring around the plants, dangling plastic grocery bags in the trees, and pie tins are some things we’ve heard work out the hollar. We have had decent luck with “Liquid Fence,” a spray you can get on Amazon. It’s pretty expensive and takes a lot, even in concentrated form, but it seems to deter them for a bit.
Deters them at least for a while until the next big rain, or they get really hungry again.
Truth be told the best approach to deer is to live with them. That means starting with three basic strategies:
- Buy deer-resistant plants (not from the list below.)
- Fence what you can.
- Accept the inevitable munch or two.
Here are a few well-loved plants in the Asheville area that are particularly susceptible to deer damage:
- Evergreen azaleas. We can’t even grow these in the nursery landscape because of the deer. We keep trying though, they are beautiful plants. We especially like the older, spring-blooming varieties like Girards. But, they are all deer magnets for sure.
- Oak leaf hydrangeas. These are great plants when they find the right spot, but they don’t like areas with a lot of sun and wind exposure, and, of course, watch out for the deer.
- Blueberries. There aren’t many fruit plants that are resistant to deer, and blueberries certainly aren’t. If the deer don’t get them, the birds will.
- Rhododendron. They are not as bad as Azalea, but they munch them enough to be frustrating. We like Illicium as a deer-resistant substitute in the shade. Look for the ‘Star Power’ series.
- Hostas. Deer and hostas just seem to go together. Folks either seem to be up to their ears in hostas or can’t grow them because they get scarfed so fast.
If you look at that list, you’ll notice one trend: Shade-loving plants. Deer are opportunists and will go for what they find in sheltered, out-of-the-way areas first. If you do end up growing some of these we can’t blame you, but place them near the house or in well-traveled areas if you can.
Finally, keep in mind that no plant is truly safe. Fruit trees and arborvitae are a couple more that can get decimated all of a sudden. If you have a lot of deer in your area, give your new plants some extra protection as they get established in the first couple of seasons and keep in mind that larger plants can take grazing better than dwarf varieties.