Q. Are there any homemade spray formulas for repelling deer from the garden?
Lois Anne Ulizza, via email
A. Once deer find something they like in your landscape—or get hungry enough to eat plants they once ignored—putting a stop to their feeding can be a full-time and frustrating effort. Fencing, at least 8 feet high or electrified, is considered the best way to exclude these voracious varmints, but it can be both expensive and unattractive. Where fencing is impractical or prohibitively pricey, farmers and foresters spray plants with a repellent solution made of eggs and water (5 eggs blended in 5 quarts water per quarter-acre). Eggs are the active ingredient in some commercial deer repellents.
The trouble with repellent sprays, no matter how effective, is that they wash off in rain or snowfall; even without precipitation, they wear away over time. And deer have to sample your plants to be deterred by the taste.
Using a combination of methods can give the best results. Consider caging prized individual plants, installing a motion-activated light or sprinkler, adorning a single strand of electric fencing with strips of peanut-butter-coated foil, hanging bars of soap, and/or walking your dog in the area to achieve a reasonable level of control. Avoid putting plants that are favored by deer in places where they are likely to be browsed.
Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, December 2013/January 2014
Photo: (cc) Matt Buck/flickr