Repellents: For minor deer-damage problems, repellents will be effective for awhile, but eventually the deer will probably grow accustomed to the repellent and begin browsing again. Under the pressure of a scarce food supply, deer may even learn to use the odor of repellents as guides to choice food sources. Periodically changing from one type of repellent to another can increase your chances for success. You can make your own or buy a commercial repellent.
Hang bars of highly fragrant soap from strings in trees and shrubs. Or nail each bar to a 4-foot stake and drive the stakes at 15-foot intervals along the perimeter of the area.
Try using human hair. Ask your hairdresser to save hair for you to collect each week. Put a handful of hair in a net or mesh bag (you can use squares of cheesecloth to make bags), and hang bags 3 feet above the ground and 3 feet apart.
Farmers and foresters repel deer by spraying trees or crops with an egg-water mixture. Mix 5 eggs with 5 quarts of water for enough solution to treat ¼ acre. Spray plants thoroughly. You may need to repeat application after a rain.
Commercial repellents are available at garden centers. Be sure to ask if a product contains only organic ingredients. You may have to experiment to find one that offers good control. Watch for new products coming on the market, too. For example, preliminary tests of milk powder as a deer repellent seem promising.
Experiment with homemade repellents by mixing blood meal, bonemeal, exotic animal manure, hot sauce, or garlic oil with water. Recipes for concocting these repellents differ, and results are variable. Saturate rags or string with the mixtures, and place them around areas that need protection.
Some gardeners who own male dogs that regularly patrol their yards report that they have few deer problems, even though they don’t have a fence or use repellents. It seems that the scent of the dogs is enough to discourage deer from spending much time in the area.
Deer-proof plants: If fencing your yard is beyond your budget, and repellents aren’t doing the trick, you could try revamping your landscape with plants that deer don’t like to eat. Over time, remove the plants that deer have damaged so badly that they’ve lost their attractiveness 37or never flower. Replace them with shrubs, vines, and perennials with a reputation for being deer-proof. There’s no hard-and-fast list, and it’s possible that the deer in one region may dislike plants that are quite palatable to deer in another. Ask your Cooperative Extension service for a list of plants that seem to be locally deer-proof, and consult the Resources section for books on the topic.