Deer Resistant Gardening

Deer Resistant Gardening

Anyone that has attempted landscaping a yard in Texas can tell you that “deer-proof” just might be the biggest oxymoron of them all. In fact, “deer-resistant” is close to falling into the same category. We love gawking over those summer fawns with their little white spots and lanky legs, prancing to keep up with mom, but once they step a hoof onto a freshly sodded yard—just feet away from costly new plants—our tune can change faster than a Cowboys fan. 

So, what is a Texan to do?

Aside from turning your outside oasis into a rock quarry or erecting a deer-proof fence on your property line, here are 6 tips for maintaining harmony between your precious landscaping and our “deer” friends. 


Choose the Most Effective Plants

Yes, duh! But here are a few rules of thumb when choosing your landscaping. Look for plants that smell. Deer have a strong sense of smell and there are some scents that deter them, including mint, clove and rosemary. (There are even people who swear by putting blocks of soap in their landscaping for smell.) Additionally, look for plants that are prickly or fuzzy, textures which deer like about as much as children enjoy raw broccoli.


Plant Grasses 

Deer tend to stay away from grasses because their bellies are not suited to digest it well. In fact, they could die from a sole diet of grass! They instinctively know that these are low in nutritional value. The only time you might see deer eating grass is when the plant is very young and succulent. 


Install Motion-Activated Sprinklers 

Try sneaking up on a deer and you can see that they are very skittish creatures. Installing a motion activated sprinkler can keep them away — as well as any other unwanted 4-legged neighbors like dogs, rabbits, and more. Plus, you get the added benefit of some extra watering.


Use Deer Repellent Spray, Granules or Animal Hair

There are many on the market and it might take some experimenting. They can be hit or miss with mixed reviews on their effectiveness. Most are safe for households with children and pets, but always read the labels carefully to be sure. Animal hair — and even human hair — is said to ward off deer, but this is a little harder to come by, unless you have a barber in the family or a dog care business.


Test Plants Out First

Before you go buy $200 of that ground cover, buy a couple plants and see if the deer like them. It’s no guarantee, but it’s better to find out with only $20 worth. 


Hire A Local Landscape Architect

If you want to make your life easier, a professional can create a beautiful landscape plan with deer-resistant plants. DIY deer strategizing can be like putting a puzzle together when considering watering conditions, sunlight requirements and planting space. Local Landscape designers know the area, they know the plants and they know the deer situation. 

In fact, here are a few tips from a couple of well-known Fredericksburg experts:

“The issue about deer resistant plants is that they will eat them if they are really hungry. They will come in and browse them anyway, taking a bite here and there. If there are a lot of deer, a bite here and there will really take a toll on them. You want something that can out-grow the munching. Turks Cap is one of those and it blooms too. The plants I have seen that are less appealing to deer are Boxwood, Butterfly Bush, salvias, lantana, red leaf yucca (they will eat blooms occasionally) and any plant that smells like chives. I have used the “Enforcer” sprinkle which has worked for me. A motion sensor turns on sprinkler for just a moment. You can set it for day, night or all the time. I have some beautiful Dianthus growing out front and they haven’t touched them. It’s always a battle but keep at it. Some you win. Some get eaten.” — Kevin MacWithey, Retired


“During extreme drought conditions even “deer resistant” plants are subject to deer nibbling or complete consumption. You can’t fault the animals. They’re just hungry. Use deer repellants, cage or fence your plants or understand you’re going to be sharing your plants with the wild animals that are trying to survive.” — Rene Avalos, Lawn Force Landscaping


All this being said, let’s put a Texas-sized asterisk on this blog post as every herd of deer is different and when a severe drought hits, you just never know what lengths the deer will go to for survival. Just like humans, when you’re starving, even that 2-year-old twinkie in the back of the pantry looks good. 



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