How I Saved My Garden With the Best Deer Deterrent Ever
This is when all the trouble started. Mom doe and her twin babies liked the neighborhood hospitality so much, they invited the rest of the family to stay—and by stay I mean just that. They've made this grassy knoll in my backyard their living room for the past year. These visitors are a large and friendly family of white-tailed deer. 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, yet they still remain.
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.
Why They Kept Sticking Around
Over the years, I've had many deer visit my garden, and I am usually able to persuade them to move on to other yards. This family, however, just was not picking up my hints. They seemed to be digging in—their quick, easy, and free meals of deer corn provided by my neighbor were just too tempting, and my garden provided the perfect assorted desserts for after dinner.
Now would be a good time to remind you not to feed deer. You may think you're doing a nice thing, but feeding deer does them more harm than good.
In order to preserve my garden, I decided something had to be done. I tried various methods to keep the deer away. Some methods worked while others did not. I'll share my experience below.
Home Remedies to Keep Deer Away
I began my assault with low tech and inexpensive common home remedies to keep deer out of my garden. Here's the list of what I tried and how they worked. These may work for your neighborhood deer, and 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.
- Irish Spring (Might work)
- 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.
- Fabric Softener Sheets (Doesn't work)
- 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.
- Chili Powder (Works)
- I sprinkled some around my plants and even on the leaves. I think this did work, to some degree, because my plants are still intact.
- Hot Pepper and Mint Plants (Works)
- Deer don't like to eat smelly plants, and mint appears to be one of their least favorite. I read that planting mint around a garden can deter them. I went a step further and planted some hot peppers around the perimeter. So far, this border defense seems to be working.
- Human Hair (Might work)
- 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—it makes me gag!—you can wrap some in cheesecloth (like a tea bag) and hang them.
- Dried Blood Meal (Didn't work)
- 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.
Homemade Deer Repellent Recipes
Again, some of these may work for you, some may not. You'll have to try them out to see what your neighborhood deer respond to.
- Red Hot Chili Pepper Spray (Works to some degree)
- 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)
- 2 squirts of Elmer’s glue
- 2 squirts of dish soap
- 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, glue, and dish soap. 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).
- Rotten Egg Spray (Works)
- 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!
- 6-8 eggs
- 6 cloves garlic (you can add more if you want)
- 5 cups water
- 2 squirts of Elmer's glue
- 2 squirts of dish soap
- Blend the eggs in water.
- 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 enjoy.
- This spray needs to be applied often.
Commercial Deer Repellent Sprays & Gadgets
- Liquid Fence and Havahart Deer Off II (Both work)
- 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.
- Sweeney's 5600-6 Deer Repellent, 6 Bait Stations (Doesn't seem to work)
- These bait stations are called 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.
- Solar NG-001 Predator Control Light by Nite Guard (Works)
- 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.
- ScareCrow Motion-Activated Animal Repellent by Contech (Works best)
- 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. It's fun to watch, too! Do be careful though. You most definitely will get hit with a jet of water when you're first setting it up.
- Why I like it:
- 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
Helpful ScareCrow Tips
- 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 a quick clean can 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 was leaking at the sprinkler head. Since the water pressure is always on, this was not a good development.
I checked the user's manual, and it mentions to disassemble the unit and backwash the sensor head to remove any debris if the sprinkler head leaks.
Above is a photo of the unit disassembled and the sensor head unit. Because our water is exceptionally hard, mineral deposits had collected on the filter screen. Notice the white build-up on the outside of the unit? That's due to the hard water.
A quick wash with a hose cleaned it out. After reassembling the unit, the leak was gone. Yeah! It still works!