How to Garden Successfully in Deer Country Suggestions to help you grow vegetables, flowers, & other plants where deer eat just about everything
About this program This program is based on a voluntary survey of Howard County Master Gardeners and garden club members about gardening in deer country. It was researched and drafted by Bob Nixon, Howard County Master Gardener and revised for statewide distribution by Jonathan Kays, Extension Specialist, Natural Resources, University of Maryland
What we’re going to discuss Facts about deer Publications about deer & gardening Deer & vegetables & small fruits Deer & flowers (perennials) Deer & shrubs & trees 7-point summary
Maryland deer history 1634: Fr. Andrew White, priest & journalist, wrote that deer were so plentiful “that they are rather an annoyance than an advantage.” Native Americans and colonists used deer for food & clothing, with increasing exports of venison & hides to Europe. 1729: Legislature prohibited deer hunting between January 15 and July 31. Fine: 400 lbs of tobacco for each infraction. 17 th through 19 th Centuries: Forests of eastern and central counties cleared for agriculture. Natural predators—wolves, mountain lions, bears— exterminated. No limits on deer killed.
Deer in the 20 th Century 1902: So few deer remained in Maryland that hunting prohibited 1910 deer population (est.) – U.S.A., 500,000 – Maryland, <2000, nearly all in 4 western counties (Garrett, Allegany, Washington, & Frederick) – Howard County, zero to <100 1910s through 1930s: Deer imported from Michigan and Pennsylvania. Then the increasing local herds used to establish new herds around state. 1927: Deer hunting resumes in Allegany County, with five bucks killed.
Deer now 2009 to 2010 Maryland hunting season – 100,663 killed statewide Current deer population (est.) – U.S.: >20 million – Maryland: <230,000
Detailed information Maryland White-tailed Deer Plan 2009-2018, 83 pp: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Hunt_Trap/ pdfs/2009-2018MarylandWTDeerPlan.pdf Some Maryland counties have comprehensive deer management programs
How much do deer eat? 3,000 lbs per year compared to 1,500 lbs per year for the average human 7 lbs per day. A healthy deer density is 18 to 30 deer/square mile. Problem herds are 100 deer/sq. mi or more Example: 100 deer X 7 lbs/day equals 4900 lbs/week, 21,000 lbs/month, and 255,500 lbs/year This food is not available in small woodlots of suburbia, which is why lawns, hedges, and flower beds attract deer
Deer diet January to March: Coniferous browse, deciduous bark & dry leaves, acorns and other nuts, winter fruits such as rose hips, sumac, & poison ivy (4 to 5 lbs/day). April to June: Herbaceous plants & grasses followed by buds & shoots of shrubs & trees (7 to 10 lbs/day). July & August: Herbaceous vegetation, young leaves, new growth of shrubs and trees, gardens. September to December: Soft (fruits) & hard (nuts) mast. Acorns make up to 50% of diet. Bramble leaves, mushrooms, gardens.
Typical diet, but … “Deer will attempt to eat almost anything if their population is high and they are running out of food. That happens most often in times of drought or near the end of a colder-than-normal winter.” Scott Aker, horticulturist, U.S. National Arboretum.
Why do deer prefer tender grasses and herbaceous plants, buds, leaves, and new growth of shrubs and trees? Deer have incisors only on the bottom, so they pull/pinch rather than cut their forage. Their bottom incisors impact on upper pad of cartilage. They also recognize the nutritional value of fertilized vegetation.
Free publications: HGIC Fact Sheets 655 & 810 and Extension Bulletin 354C FS 655: Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage FS810: Using Commercial Repellants to Manage Deer Browsing in the Landscape EB354C: Options for managing deer damage: fencing, repellents, vegetation mgt, & population management http://extension.umd.edu/woodland/your- woodland/publications-libraryhttp://extension.umd.edu/woodland/your- woodland/publications-library (tab for wildlife and insect damage)
Vegetables & small fruits deer don’t eat 1. “Can’t think of one” 2. Onions, garlic 3. Some herbs, such as parsley, fennel mints, sages
Fencing is best: 8 ft or higher fence of wire or plastic… Costly to install but low maintenance and effective References: Managing Deer Damage (EB354C) Montgomery Co Master Gardeners Recommendation 1 for protecting veggies & small fruits
More on fencing to protect veggies & small fruits Shorter fences and electric fences using baited electric polytape or wire are good for small areas Paul K. Lake Elkhorn Community Gardens References: Managing Deer Damage (EB354C)
Recommendation 2 for protecting veggies & small fruits Herding dog with “Invisible Fence” works well but dogs must be left out at night when deer feed Gromit Photos: Cindy M. Taunting Gromit References: Managing Deer Damage (EB354C)
Recommendation 3 for protecting veggies & small fruits Use netting on fruiting shrubs & trees, but it’s often hard to reuse. Kent Phillips’ blueberry cage
Recommendation 4 for protecting veggies & small fruits Repellent sprays containing ingredients that offend a deer’s sense of taste or smell (rotten eggs, fish or meat byproducts, bitter taste) work best. Few products are labeled for edible plants. Most are for ornamentals, so read labels carefully. Those labeled for edibles wash off during rain. You must reapply repellents periodically, especially after rains or when plants are putting out new growth. Reference: Using Comm. Deer Repell. (FS810)
Using commercial deer repellents (FS810) 1) If deer pressure very high, will not be effective. 2) What works in one area may not work in another. 3) Must be reapplied about every 6-8 weeks, possibly longer. 4) Change repellent & active ingredient annually. 5) Buy in concentrate form (usually from internet) to reduce cost. Ready-to-use formulations are expensive. 6) If deer are a long term problem, a fence may be a more permanent & economical solution.
Recommendation 5: Support managed deer hunts and community deer-harvest efforts 1) Too many deer is the problem. 2) Encourage HMO and local officials to work with wildlife professionals to harvest deer in your area. 3) Support managed hunts and bow hunting on small acreage properties. 4) Allowing high deer populations results in other safety & environmental problems, such as lyme disease, vehicle collisions, & damage to ecosystem.
Recommendations for protecting flowers 1. Plant resistant varieties (27 suggestions) 2. Have a good fence—or a deer- chasing dog 3. Plant in container on deck 4. Use repellent sprays 5. Learn to live with them but support population management efforts
N.B./Nota Bene/Please Note The following lists of deer-resistant plants are not definitive. They are based on the experience of 28 local gardeners, and those gardeners have not planted every kind of plant to determine whether it is deer-resistant. Also, deer diets differ from area to area. So please use these lists as a starting point for your personal experimentation. Study other lists. Ask other neighborhood gardeners about what works for them.
Remember! 1) Deer browsing resistance varies with changes in deer populations, availability of alternative foods, and environmental conditions. 2) Damage from browsing is most severe when snow cover or extreme cold reduces availability of other foods. Summer droughts can cause similar problems. 3) When deer get hungry enough they will eat anything.
Deer-resistant flower 5 Moss Phlox, Moss-Pink (Phlox subulata) “Pull & spit” Native* Native* = Listed in Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (2005 ed.)
Deer-resistant trees 2 Spruces (Picea spp.) Picea pungens aka Colorado Blue Spruce Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’
Protect shrubs & trunks of young trees from fall “rubbing” Bucks remove dead “velvet” and polish their new antlers in October and November by using trunks of young trees and branches of shrubs If the buck rubs through the bark all around a trunk, the tree may die
More examples of rubbing Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) Redosier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Protect trees below “browse line,” about 5’ from ground to lower limbs
Black gum (Tupelo) with trunk protector and with cage to browse line Use welded wire (2”x3”), not plastic mesh or chicken wire, plus two stakes, both preferably iron, to protect to browse line. Hang wire high enough for your mower to clear. Trunk protector can be hardware cloth, plastic, even plastic stake or rebar.
Conventional wisdom about food preferences 1. Deer avoid toxic plants – Daffodil 2. Deer avoid fuzzy-leaved plants – Lamb’s Ear 3. Deer avoid aromatic herbs – Spotted Mint 4. Deer avoid strong-tasting plants – Allium 5. Deer avoid prickly-leaved plants – Spruce 6. Your local deer may ignore conventional wisdom and may not read lists of deer- resistant plants, so experiment and see what works in your yard
Summary of suggestions for successful gardening in deer country 1. Install a fence. 2. Plant resistant varieties. 3. Use dog to chase deer out of the yard. 4. Spray repellents persistently. 5. Protect shrubs & young trees up to the “browse line” (about 5’+).
Summary of suggestions for successful gardening in deer country (cont.) 6. Remember that deer don’t read “don’t eat” lists & in tough times will eat about anything. 7. Plant enough so you won’t mind sharing some. Read and comparing notes with other gardeners. 8. Do what you can to reduce the number of deer because high deer populations damage the environment & endanger safety.
Resources Grow It! Eat It! http://www.extension.umd.edu/growit – We have all types of practical food gardening tips and information. Check out our popular blog! Home and Garden Information Center http://www.extension.umd.edu/hgic – Here you will find factsheets, photos, and videos. You can also subscribe to the free monthly e-newsletter. – We answer gardening questions 24/7…just click “Ask Maryland’s Garden Experts” Maryland Master Gardener Program http://www.extension.umd.edu/mg – Consider becoming a trained MG volunteer!
This program was brought to you by the Maryland Master Gardener Program Howard County University of Maryland Extension
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