Best Homemade and Commercial Deer Deterrents for Your Garden
Over the years, I've had many deer visit my garden. Although they're adorable and charming, they totally lack the ability to pick up on social cues. Using bold and blatant tactics, I have attempted to convey that they have overstayed their welcome. I tried various methods to keep the deer away from my plants and flowers. Some methods worked while others did not. I'll share my experience below.
Will Homemade Deer Deterrents Hurt My Plants?
They are completely safe to use and won't kill your plants. But be warned that they do smell and taste awful, so wash your fruits and vegetables carefully (in vinegar) if they've been treated with deer repellent.
Recipes for Homemade Deer Repellent Spray
The most effective natural, homemade deer deterrent is a spray made of putrid smells, namely eggs, garlic, and chili peppers. All you have to do is spray the mixture on your plants, and deer will not go near due to the offensive fragrance that the spray gives off. The following sprays have worked wonders.
1. Rotten Egg Spray
Eggs contain sulfur compounds, and when they decompose, they release a putrid gas called hydrogen sulfide. The smell is worse than a bad case of morning breath and will send deer far away from your yard.
- 3 raw eggs
- 3 cloves of garlic (you can add more if you want)
- 3 cups of water
- 3 tablespoons of milk or yogurt (milk products contain a protein called casein that helps the mixture stick when dry)
- 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- Blend the eggs, garlic, milk, cayenne pepper, and water in a blender.
- Pour into a container with a lid, and let it sit outside for several days to ferment.
- Strain the mixture into a spray bottle, and spray on plants and on the perimeters of your yard or garden. Please save any remaining repellent in a jar, and wash out the bottle after each use because the nozzle will get clogged if not washed properly.
2. Red Hot Chili Pepper Spray
This recipe is courtesy of North Dakota State University horticulturist Ron Smith. This guy knows what he's talking about. Warning: Handle the peppers very carefully—they are extremely spicy. Start the blender at the lowest speed to avoid splashing on yourself.
- 4 habanero peppers
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 tbsp of olive oil (or vegetable oil)
- 3 tablespoons of yogurt or milk (milk products contain a protein called casein that helps the mixture stick when dry)
- Blend the peppers in enough water to liquefy.
- Strain the mixture through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into a jar with a lid. Don’t skip this step or the solids will clog the spray bottle.
- Mix in the olive oil and milk/yogurt. This helps the mixture stick to the plants.
- Add the mixture to a spray bottle, and dilute with enough water to get a 1:10 concentration (1 part mixture to 10 parts water).
How to Use Deer Deterrent Effectively
1. Begin these deterrent methods in early March when deer begin forming their feeding patterns. If you make your yard unappetizing from the start, the deer will steer clear of your garden for the entire season.
2. Reapply weekly and after a rainfall.
3. If using a spray, spray in the early morning after morning dew.
7 Natural Ways to Keep Deer Away
Try these low-tech and common inexpensive home remedies to keep deer out of your garden. Here's the list of what I tried on my neighborhood deer and how they worked. I suggest you try some of them first before investing too much money in other methods. Using a combination of concoctions seems to work the best. Rotate them often to confuse and confound.
1. Sprinkle Chili Powder on Your Plants
I sprinkled some around my plants and even on the leaves. This worked wonderfully because my plants are still intact.
2. Grow Deer Deterrent Plants
Deer don't like to eat smelly plants, and mint appears to be one of their least favorite so I plant them around the perimeter of my garden. Other culinary herbs, like thyme, rosemary, sage, or lavender work as well. I went a step further and planted some hot peppers around the perimeter. So far, this border defense seems to be working.
Other plants that deer hate include:
- Onion and garlic
- French marigold
If you are interested in planting deer repellent flowers, there are flowering shrubs that deers hate as well as bulbs that they won't eat. These may be enough to keep them away from your yard forever.
3. Use Irish Spring Soap
Irish Spring soap smells really nice, and some creatures must think so too because many of the bars I set out were clawed and gnawed at. I found remnants scattered about. Could it have been the work of raccoons in cahoots with the deer? Hang unwrapped bars of this strongly scented soap in mesh bags. This could work if there aren't clever, thieving creatures around.
4. Sprinkle Human Hair Around the Yard
The theory behind this method is that if the deer are afraid of humans, the scent might repel them. Next time you get a haircut, ask them to save the clippings. Sprinkle the hair around your plants. If the sight of hair mulch puts you off, you can wrap some in cheesecloth (like a tea bag) and hang them.
5. Keep a Dog
Deer see dogs as predators, so the mere smell of a dog is enough of a threat to keep deer far away from your garden. You can spray dog urine in your garden or leave mesh bags stuffed with dog hair around the yard. The only downside to spraying dog urine is that it must be applied every few days and after it rains.
6. Introduce Flashing Lights and Noises
Deer are skittish animals, so reflective light and sudden loud noises send them running. You can try hanging up CDs to create reflection and suspend pots and pans on string to make clanging noises. However, if deer are hungry enough, they can work up the courage to ignore these sights and sounds, and once they are able to feast in your garden, they will not associate your lights and noises as threats.
6. Fabric Softener Sheets (Least Effective)
I read that if you strategically place these sheets in your garden, pests will avoid it due to the smell. My garden smells freshly washed, but the deer didn't seem to mind.
7. Dried Blood Meal (Least Effective)
This is generally a beef product and comes in powder form. The scent of blood is thought to signal danger is near and send the deer away, but it will also attract carrion-eating birds—I can confirm this. It did not affect the deer, but it did bring crows to my garden. If you do try it, be careful of the amount you use because the high-nitrogen content can harm your plants.
Avoid These Flowers and Plants That Deer Like
The following plants and flowers are a deer's favorite. If you want to keep deer away from your garden, avoid planting the following:
- Strawberries, apples, and other berries
- Pansies and violas
Build a Deer Fence
This is not a cheap option by any means, but it is 100% effective at keeping deer out. You can use either wire or wood; just make sure the fence is at least 10 feet tall, but preferably 12 feet. Deer can and will jump over fences shorter than 10 feet. It's also a good idea to keep the wire and wood spaced 8 inches apart. Anything wider and deer will try to squeeze through.
Tip: Have the fence slant outwards at a 45 degree angle. Deer can jump over very tall fences, but they are unable to cover much distance.
Should I Make the Fence Electric?
This is a great added measure to scare them off, but check with your county to see if electric fences are allowed. Keep in mind that electric fencing is an expensive option and isn't needed if you only have a few deer roaming through the area.
Commercial Deer Repellent Sprays & Gadgets
1. ScareCrow Motion-Activated Animal Repellent by Contech (Most Effective)
- Finally—something that works reliably! This motion-sensor water sprinkler works great night and day. It can be set to squirt a narrow area or 360 degrees. Do be careful though. You most definitely will get hit with a jet of water when you're first setting it up.
- There's no need for smelly sprays.
- It's fun to watch.
- Doesn't harm the animal.
- Uses little water. It shoots a pulse of water for three seconds and repeats after eight seconds if the target is still in the area.
- Can be connected to other ScareCrows to cover more area
- Can detect an animal as far as 30 ft away
- Can be used to ward off cats, dogs, bunnies, kangaroos, and even door-to-door salesmen
- 2-year limited warranty
2. Liquid Fence and Havahart Deer Off II (Second Most Effective)
- These sprays are made of all the vilest smelling ingredients imaginable. It seems that deer are very picky with their noses, and they are frustrated by these sprays.
- The deer have tasted some of the treated plants, but they usually leave the rest alone.
- In order to ward off the whole family, I end up bathing the plants in the smelly solution; this covers the plants in unsightly blotches of white when dried.
- It's good to rotate these sprays to keep them guessing. Spray every few weeks and after a rain.
3. Solar NG-001 Predator Control Light by Nite Guard (Third Most Effective)
- This is a really simple device. It flashes a red light strobe that frightens the animals. It's waterproof and solar powered.
- I hung this near my tomato plants, and when combined with the chili powder, I have not had any nibbles.
- Others have commented that many people have mistaken their strobe light for an advanced security system, so it could also serve as an inexpensive theft deterrent.
4. Sweeney's 5600-6 Deer Repellent, 6 Bait Stations (Least Effective)
- These bait stations are supposed to be all-season, weatherproof deer repellents.
- They have a "patented design that triggers the flight response in deer" and is supposedly odorless to humans.
- Funny thing about these stations: every night, something would take the little bait disk off the metal stake and leave it a few feet away. Lately, I've noticed that there are not only bait stations missing, but the metal stakes are also bent.
Deer Destroying My PlantsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Did You Know?
Another term for a herd of deer is a mob? Mob aptly describes my crew of daily visitors. They're like a mob of hungry teenagers, pillaging and plundering the fridge.
Tips for Using the Contech Scarecrow
- The sensitivity can be set to detect large or small animals and at various distances. It takes a few tries to successfully adjust the sensor eye, and be prepared to get sprayed while trying.
- Set your scarecrow in position. Before turning the water on, walk across the area you plan to protect. If you can hear the trigger click, you have successfully aligned your scarecrow.
- If your area has hard water, you may find that a mineral residue forms on your unit. Hard water deposits on mine developed a thin, white crust on the entire unit. You can easily clean this off the sensor eye to ensure correct performance.
- You may want to anchor your scarecrow with a stake. The mechanism violently shakes when spraying, causing it to shift position if not secured properly.
- The unit comes with an attachable scarecrow decal. I chose not to use mine because I liked the plain look better. Note: the manual mentions that the decal can frighten small birds.
- The scarecrow is on a plastic stake. I found it best to make a pilot hole with a metal stake before driving the plastic stake into the hole. This keeps the plastic intact.
- Over time, the scarecrow can leak. Always check your unit for leaks. If it is leaking often, tightening the hoses or give it a quick clean to stop it.
- Use a good-quality hose and check for leaks before hooking it up to the ScareCrow.
- Windy conditions can result in a false activation. Your battery can run down quicker with constant false activations, so do check the battery often. You can do this easily by turning the water off and walking by the activation path. You should hear the clicking of the device if the battery is still operational. My battery lasts about 2 months.
How to Fix a Leaking ScareCrow
After three months of continuous use, I noticed the ScareCrow sprinkler head was leaking. Since the water pressure is always on, this was not a good development. I checked the user's manual, and it directed me to disassemble the unit and backwash the sensor head to remove any debris.
Above is a photo of the unit disassembled and the sensor head unit. Notice the white build-up on the outside of the unit? That is because our water is exceptionally hard, so mineral deposits collected on the filter screen. A quick wash with a hose cleaned it out. After reassembling the unit, the leak was gone. Yeah! It still works!