Making Your Landscape More Deer Repellent

Terry L. Yockey

Deer are becoming a serious problem for most home gardeners. The number one question that I am asked as a Master Gardener is how to repel these voracious visitors. Everyone seems to have a favorite remedy and my own list has gotten longer and longer as time goes by.

Black Deer Netting
Gardeners Supply

So what is the most fool-proof? Simply--a very tall fence. Since deer can jump 12 feet high from a standing position, your fence should be at least 8 to 10 feet tall. Using heavy black mesh between tall posts is an inexpensive way to build a high fence, but for shorter protection try electric wires or slant your fence outward at about a 45 degree angle.

What else can you try if you do not want the expense or hassle of building a fence? I have neighbors that have had some success with stringing fish line between trees, which startles the deer when they run into it.

Other Deer-Repellent Strategies

Sprinklers with motion detectors that release a spray of water when activated have proven to be very effective against not only deer, but raccoons, rabbits, geese and even neighborhood cats and dogs.  One product by Contech Electronics is aptly named the


Scarecrow and attaches to any standard garden hose.  When the Scarecrow detects an intruder's movement or body heat it sprays a 3 second burst of water.  If the animal returns, the unit automatically activates again.  Apparently, deer aren't too keen on being wet and between the water, the noise and the movement of the sprinkler; most deer don't seem to come back.  One nice feature is that it only uses 2 to 3 cups of water per deterrence, so it can usually be used in communities under water restrictions.

You might also try the new Cadillac of motion detector sprinklers made by Havahart that is aptly named the Spray Away Elite.  The Spray Away Elite uses a solar powered battery and has a water reservoir so you can use it anywhere in your yard.

Milorganite is an organic, slow-release fertilizer made from good ole Wisconsin sludge.  That's right...since August 1, 1926; the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) has been producing and selling this useful sewage byproduct.  It has been approved by the EPA for use not only on turf and ornamentals, but also on vegetable gardens.  I don't know.  I have tried it on my lawn and it worked just as well as other organic fertilizers, but I just do not feel that comfortable putting it on my veggies.  Your call.  It really does seem to help keep deer away, however, rain does dilute the effect.

Plantskydd® Repellent

Blood meal or blood products such as Plantskydd Animal Repellent spread where needed.  Plantskydd has an advantage over just blood meal because they add a stickum that makes it last up to 6 months over winter and up to 4 months during the active growing season.

Urine, coyote or human can be either spread where needed or applied to sachets or dispenser bottles.  I like the dispenser bottles because the scent is protected from rain and can last for up to a month before you need to replenish it.  Coyote urine can be purchased in bottles from 8 ounces to 1 gallon (I really do not want to think about how they harvest the stuff).  If you are collecting your own human "product," the first of the day is usually the most potent.  With both, I think it is best not to mention to your neighbors what is in the little bottles hanging from the trees. 

Garlic Clips
Gardeners Supply

Strong scents such as small hotel soaps drilled and hung on your shrubs and trees or fabric softener strips and bags containing peeled garlic bulbs can be hung or spread around vulnerable areas.  For a garlic defense with less muss and fuss use Garlic Oil Dispensers that clip right where you need them.  Spaced about five to six feet apart they form a very strong odor barrier that can last up to six months.

Liquid Fence

Making your plantings unpalatable. There are several sprays available, however, in 1999 Auburn University did extensive testing on a wide variety of deer repellent sprays and found that the most effective were those that contained putrescent (rotten) egg-based products such as Liquid Fence or Deer Away. One big advantage to the commercial products is that they have a "stickem" in their formula so you do not have to reapply the spray after every rainstorm.

A new development invented here in MN is a systemic repellent that makes the whole plant unpalatable to deer, rabbits, and a long list of other animals for up to year. You can see a video that tells how it works HERE.

Homemade Deer Repellent Recipe  2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap, 1 teaspoon garlic powder or liquid garlic juice, and 1 gallon of water. Spray weekly and/or after it rains--and hope your deer aren't into spicy foods! [People have told me that raw eggs mixed in a blender with equal parts skim milk and water, plus a few tablespoons of liquid dish soap, also works.  Let it sit for a few days and get really funky before you pour it onto your plants for the best results.]

Lastly, you could try playing a radio outside all night, which should make you extremely popular with your neighbors.  The deer--but almost certainly not your neighbors--will probably get used to the sound after a while.

Deer Repellent Plants

More Deer Repellent Products

Deer Solutions Video

Plow & Hearth

Some ideas for keeping the deer away from "Garden Time."


 Gardener's Supply Company


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