The following article was featured in our Spring ’05 newsletter.

PLANTING A NEW LANDSCAPE WHEN YOU HAVE DEER

When you’re about to start planting your new landscape it’s helpful to understand your neighbors, the deer, so you can avoid irritating and costly interactions between them and your new plants.  Deer are creatures of habit.  If their habit is to come to your yard for dinner, they won’t stop doing it simply because you are changing the menu.  Chances are, they will modify their palates to fit what you have put on the table. 

            If possible, even before the new landscape is installed, you can put out some offensive scents or sounds so they start to view your landscape as a not so welcome place.  Examples of this are:  hanging clanging pie tins along their paths; putting out synthetic predator urine samples in a broad area; even using a ‘Scarecrow’  (a motion-activated impact sprinkler), or if you should be so lucky, a good guard dog.

            When you are acquiring your plants, remember that the deer can eat plants in the nursery cans also.  That means that when you first bring them home you should take precautions to protect these new vulnerable plants from the deer.  They can and will taste ‘deer resistant’ plants, and the fact that they are still in pots makes no difference to the deer.  You should put the plants in an area that is inaccessible to the deer (like behind a high fence).  You can spray a healthy amount of deer repellant on them, or you may have a few other ideas.  Just be wary lest you think the deer won’t come up on your deck to taste new plants.  We have heard testimonials from plenty of people with plants still in their containers.  Deer can climb stairs and may think nothing of walking on decking.

            When you plant new plants in your landscape, you will have to protect them from the initial curiosity of the deer.  They will probably want to taste everything, and unfortunately those plants straight out of the nursery might taste pretty good.   Most plants that taste bad to deer are full of bad tasting oils or have a concentration of oils that at least make them smell bad to deer.  When a plant has been coddled in a nursery, it tends to loose those qualities while being pushed for fast growth.  When these same deer resistant plants have been growing in your yard for at least several months they will take on the qualities that they need to survive among the deer.  Consequently, any new planting, deer resistant or not, should be protected for the first 6 months.  This can mean temporary fencing, bird netting, spraying deer repellants on a regular basis, utilizing ‘scarecrow’s, motion-sensitive lights, or basically using what work best for you with the least inconvenience.  The goal with a deer resistant landscape is to be able to eventually stop protecting the plants from the deer, and have the plants survive.

            A special note here for the protection of your trees.  The stems and leaves of the trees might be less susceptible to damage from the deer (because of their heights) than the trunks of the trees.  In late summer, when bucks are entering their rutting seasons, they have overwhelming urges to rub the velvet off their antlers.  Their object of choice to help with this task is sapling trees (new young trees).  You need to protect them until their trunks get rigid enough to no longer be attractive to the deer as rubbing posts.  You can cage the trees by wrapping cylinders of wire around their stakes, or wrapping the trunks with trunk protector wraps (available at the nursery).  You could also wrap the trunks loosely, up to about 4’, with small cylinders of chicken wire (unattached and removed in a few years).

            The Front Yard carries many of the deer repellant products mentioned in this article.  We also have repellant techniques and a complete list of deer resistant plants (with a rating system!).  Come on into the Nursery.  We’d love to talk with you about your deer.  Happy deer ‘scaping!

Read an article from Colorado State, "Preventing Deer Damage"

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