Q. How do I keep deer from eating my garden?
A. Deer are difficult to deter, especially if natural foods become limited due to overpopulation.
Many commercial products are available to discourage deer from eating their plants. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label. The only guarantee is to construct an eight-foot or electric fence.
Deer eat almost anything in the spring, as tender new growth emerges from plants. They prefer vegetation that is soft and high in water content. Over-fertilized and over-watered plants are particularly appealing. Plants with thorny or hairy leaves or stems or plants with strong scents or tastes, such as herbs, are less inviting. Three categories that are highly resistant to deer feeding are palms, herbs, and ornamental grasses.
Damage to trees is most common on younger trees or saplings or small trees with low-hanging branches that are easy for deer to reach. A few good choices are River Birch, Ginkgo, American Holly, Crape Myrtle, Pines, Live Oak, Bald Cypress, Chastetree, and Honey Locust.
Evergreen shrubs that prove to be relatively safe are Abelia, Wintergreen Barberry, Plum Yew, Yaupon, Wax Myrtle, Rosemary, Yucca, Lorapetalum, and Tea Olive. Seldom-damaged deciduous shrubs are Fothergilla, Butterfly bush, Japanese Barberry, and American Beautyberry.
Some good vine and groundcover choices are Ajuga, Crossvine, Junipers, Carolina Jessamine, Mondo Grass, Confederate Jasmine, Vincas, Creeping Rosemary, and Climbing Fig.
Now to flowers. In the perennial category, deer are not particularly fond of Russian Sage, Dianthus, Lenten Rose, Lantana, False Indigo, Yarrow, Columbine, Cast Iron Plant, Bee Balm, Lamb’s Ear, Purple Coneflower, or Gaura. For annuals, they normally do not bother Petunias, Zinnias, Dusty Miller, Coleus, Marigolds, Snapdragons, Cosmos, Begonias, or Ornamental Peppers.
Many of the bulbs that come back reliably year after year in this area are also deer resistant. Spring-blooming perennial bulbs include Amaryllis, Snowflakes (Leucojum), and Daffodils.