Deerly Departed….Top 10 Deer repellents that don’t work and a couple that do.

July 14, 2009

An entrance

An entrance

Oh how I wish the deer would go party elsewhere and leave my garden alone……


Living in a forested area we see a lot of wildlife. A lot. My garden is a buffet for deer and rabbits, while turkeys and grouse displace my evenly placed bark (not to mention plants!) to make nests; and squirrels plant unwanted trees for me. Pesky rodents are another topic entirely, so I won’t even go there! Coyotes, bobcats, cougars, bear, and lynx have trampled through, not paying any attention to what they were trampling.

I love seeing our surrounding wildlife, but do so hate sharing my garden with their destructive tendencies. Our first few years here, we had no problems because we had no garden. Loved seeing all creatures back then and even tried enticing them! The turkeys come through every year in droves, usually 5 or 6 hens with at least a dozen chicks each and a few males that my husband likes to ‘gobble’ at to raise their tail feathers. Now when I see them I start putting up barriers so they won’t dig up my plants in their hunt for bugs, slugs and ‘dirt bathing’.


The deer in my neighborhood come here for midnight forrays at the dessert cart…aka my roses & hostas. They’ve nibbled many a plant to the ground including but not limited to… heuchera, tiarella, mountain laurel, bay laurel, sedum, strawberries, bergenia and all the leaves off the lower branches of sumac, cedar, and elderberry…..AND plants they’re not supposed to like such as rhodies & iris! Holly & barberry! Don’t they know they’re not supposed to like prickly leaved plants? They’ve actually joined me in the garden midday, thumbing their noses while munching elderberries right in front of me! At least my deer will run away when I run towards them. My friend on Whidbey Island has deer that look her right in the eye and will not leave! We call them Psycho Deer! One actually chased her out of her own garden!

You're so cute, but......

You’re so cute, but……


I’ve waged war … Serious war… For many years now, trying every home remedy ever given me as well as spending big bucks on everything except a fence. Call me crazy, but don’t fence me in. Let me tell you about what works and what doesn’t to keep the deer at bay. At least in my garden, your mileage may vary. Over the last 20 or so years, these are some of the more memorable remedies I’ve tried ~ myths that are still being perpetuated ~ as well as those those that actually worked for me.

They forgot to eat the last leaf!

They forgot to eat the last leaf!


-Soap on a Rope, hung from trees. Dial soap, Lifeboy soap, Irish spring soap, Dove soap, handmade soap, any strong smelling soap. They each worked for about a day. I think they worked for that one day because the deer were surprised by a sea of objects dangling from my trees. The next day they were just furniture and the deer ate around them. Next remedy…..!

-Interspersing plants deer don’t eat between those they do. Get real! Deer always find the plants they like to eat AND start eating those they’re not supposed to! So much for that one! Next!

-Hair. Human hair, dog hair, cat hair, monkey hair (don’t ask!). None of these worked at all. Or maybe just slowed the deer a tiny bit as they had to manuever past the hair to get to the foliage. On to the next remedy…

No no no not that way!

No no no not that way!


-Blood meal. This works, but PLEASE only apply at night after the hornets have gone to sleep! Ask me how I know this!! If you don’t dig it into the soil, the hornets will find it in the morning and consume it before it can scare the deer away. Waste of money and time if you don’t dig it in unless you’re into feeding hornets. It IS a great soil amendment, but once dug in, the deer don’t seem to notice it after the first day or so. Next….

-Urine. Yes, I made my husband pee around the perimeter of my garden. I made my dog pee the perimeter of my garden. Neither worked! Thank God we don’t have any close neighbors. I picked up dog poo and placed it strategically around my garden. Didn’t deter deer, attracted flies and stank! I’ve heard Zoo Poo (some zoos allow you to come pick up their poo to use as compost in your garden) works because it’s a more powerful aroma and scares the deer on a deeper level but after dog poo permeating the air I don’t want something stronger if I have to smell it too. Anyway, so much for ‘marking territory’! On to the next…..


-Banging pots & pans. Works until I run out of steam. The deer stop running when I stop running, which leaves them munching up near the road, still in my garden unless I chase them all the way up the road. Which I do. When I have anger adrenaline because they just ate my newest most expensive hosta to date! Doesn’t work when I’m sleeping or not at home. Or if they’re sneaking into a part of the garden not in my view. Next….

-Egg mix. You take an egg, a dash of milk, a dash of chili pepper or hot sauce, mix well and add water to equal a quart. A multitude of recipes with slight differences in measurements exist. Strain the egg mixture so it doesn’t clog your sprayer, then spray onto all the plants deer eat. That DID work for about a month. Then the deer started eating plants they hadn’t EVER tried in the past. So I counter attacked by spraying everything. Again, it worked for about a week. Did I want to spray my entire garden weekly? Maybe….

OK, I was finally ready to start spending some serious money to save my garden. By now I have invested thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and I cannot tell you how much sweat, blood, tears, not to mention my aching back and hands in my garden!

Out, out, out!

Out, out, out!


-What started me down the commercial path was an organic fertilizer that smelled like fish I tried about 10 years ago. Bio Mera? Made by an Oregon company, when I started using it I noticed my plants were not just growing, but were THRIVING. My garden always smelled like the ocean after I applied it, which I kind of liked! It occured to me my plants were looking so good not just because I was fertilizing with really good organic fertilizer, but because the deer weren’t ravishing them! I deduced the deer must not like the smell of the ocean…or fish…a lightbulb moment! I used this with great success for 2 or 3 years until the formula seemed to change. One year it was no longer as ‘fragrant’, didn’t exactly look the same; and the deer began applauding my efforts to feed them juicier, tastier plants by coming by more often.

Deer Away was a commercial product I tried, advertised as a deer repellent, but didn’t work for me. Same with Plantskydd.

-Another product on the market for awhile, I believe was called Repel. Basically it was blood meal in a can with a filter inserted. This worked for two seasons, but I had little cans on wire sticks or hung from wires in trees all over the place. After awhile they became part of the landscape and I didn’t notice them anymore, but everyone who visited my garden did & asked me about them. Eventually the cans ran out of blood meal & I haven’t seen them advertised lately.

Repel cans everywhere

Repel cans everywhere


-Finally I tried Liquid Fence. Very expensive, but this was my last resort and it works. Stinks up the place like nothing else & my husband leaves for the day when I announce it’s spray day! The smell dissipates after a day but deer continue to be repelled by it until plants sprout new growth. It also repels rabbits! I’ve used this with great success for the last 3 years. My hostas are thriving, I have roses again & everything else is growing as it should without molestation! Of course, in order for it to work, I have to spray once a week at the start of the season (when my plants start to grow), for 2 to 3 weeks, then I can get away with monthly applications until the deer are desperate, about mid to end of August. At that point I simply apply as frequently as I need to until it’s time for the plants to go dormant anyway or we have our first freeze.


Too late, she ate my lilies!

Too late, she ate my lilies!


My friend Judy had her husband build a couple robots. With motion detectors. She said they worked beautifully. Her ‘bots’ spooked the deer by moving and making noise when motion (deer) was detected. The next season, she put in an electric fence. Guess the noise & all that nightly motion detracted from their sleep. My husband looked at me and asked ‘Do you reallly want me to build you a robot?’ as I excitedly told him what Bill had made for Judy’s garden. Knowing that look and that tone of voice, I laughed and said of course not! You know the phrase “pick your battles”…well at my house, it’s “pick your requests”!

Do you have a remedy that works? Or Doesn’t, but you’d like to share so the rest of us don’t have to try it? Please enlighten us by leaving a comment for everyone to read! And thanks for stopping by! Until next time…….


27 Responses to “Deerly Departed….Top 10 Deer repellents that don’t work and a couple that do.”

  1. 9 comments:

    Heather said…
    I love your blog! I just found you on Blotanical and am also now following you on twitter! Sorry about the deer problem, I know how frustrating it can be. We have lots of deer in our fields on a regular basis but the dogs seem to keep them out of the yard. Good luck and I can’t wait to read more.

    JULY 11, 2009 7:03 PM


    Linda S. said…
    Thanks Heather, I’ll look for you on Blotanical & am also following YOU on Twitter.

    JULY 11, 2009 9:38 PM


    lynn’sgarden said…
    Ah, Linda, a subject I hate but am always discussing! I’ve used a product called Bobbex, which stinks to high heavens, and it’s worked for me for 3-4 yrs..until now! I spray at dusk so I don’t disgust my neighbors, (but maybe also so they don’t know it’s me) who’s stinking up the place! Lately, they don’t seem to care that I’ve sprayed…the night before! Newly discovered product is Deer Scram. It’s pricey but ‘supposed’ to be next big thing! Granular that you sprinkle around a specific plant or around the whole bed. Made from dried blood and ground meat meal that makes them sense DANGER..dead kin!! Smells like fertilizer to us. A recently read suggestion (garden blogger) said radio. Tune it to a talk channel and place in the garden. I’m trying that next. Probably go through alot of batteries but I’m game! Btw, the plant I think they like better than roses and hostas are daylilies!! Thanks for your nice comment on my blog…I’m twittering you too!

    JULY 12, 2009 3:38 AM


    Kathleen Krucoff said…
    Boy Linda, you have put forth the effort on the deer deterrents! They have yet to make it to my gardens, but I suspect it is because we are too exposed and the treed areas are a good 2+ miles away from us. I suspect that takes them too far away from their comfort zone.

    My biggest problem is with the 13 stripped ground squirrel. They burrow, eat young aspen roots, and seek out bulbs. I have a number of methods that reduce their populations, but won’t publish them here. I don’t like it, but it became war after they ate one too many aspen seedling. Although my female basset caught one of their babies last year and that was a bit of a surprise. She still thinks she can catch them which is quite funny to see her on the “hunt”. 😀

    Your gardening blog is such a delight to read. I’m so glad you’ve added this one, along with your glass blog. I so enjoy your writings.

    JULY 12, 2009 3:58 PM


    Linda S. said…
    Appreciate your input, Lynn, exactly what I was hoping for so others could learn from your experience! I saw an ad for Deer Scram & look forward to hearing how well it works!

    Kathleen I’ll watch for your garden blog discussing ground squirrel adventures! Watching wildlife is always fun until they start demolishing your garden, lol! As always, I appreciate your comments & am so happy you come back for more.

    JULY 12, 2009 4:52 PM


    flowergardengirl said…
    This was all amusing to read and I’m so sorry for the expense. I don’t have a remedy. I’ve had my hosta eaten too. Makes you want to put a bulls eye right between the cute little Bambi peepers. But then we aren’t hostile are we?

    JULY 12, 2009 6:50 PM


    Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said…
    I can so relate to your problem! I’m currently ‘experimenting’ and have used about 5 different products thus far. I just sprayed last evening, in fact! They destroy my phlox, lilies and hosta. Many of my deer-loving plants are in my backyard, fenced in, & so far haven’t been eaten; but deer are known to jump fences, so they still have time! arghh!

    JULY 13, 2009 6:07 AM


    LDWatkins said…
    You have a lovely garden! So sorry for your problem, but you’ve written an excellent post for any with that problem. And I fuss about slugs….never again. LOL I see you have a German Shepherd. We have one, Gus. Aren’t they wonderful animals? We’re friends somewhere, either FaceBook or LinkedIn. I’ve just found your blog and glad I did.

    JULY 13, 2009 3:27 PM


    Linda S. said…
    Thanks for joining me, Flowergardengirl, Jan & LD! It seems the best solution IS a fence if you don’t want to do battle!! Slugs are just as bad, but a slower process, lol. My sweet dog is a Belgian Tervuren, also in the herding family & very smart!

    Thank you everyone for following my garden blog. I am in the process of transferring it to WordPress. It will be the same blog, same title, but WordPress is easier for me to use and I can post larger photos. Will be making an announcement referring everyone to my new blog soon:

    I wish WP had a ‘follower’ section as that’s what I love about Blogger, but hopefully you can bookmark my blog, or check in frequently for updates at the new location!

    JULY 14, 2009 6:55 AM


    Please join me in gardening chit chat!

  2. Tatyana Says:

    Hi Linda! Thanks for your message on Blotanical! I was thinking of transferring my blog to WordPress, but decided to stay with Blogger. This post touched my nerve, because I have the same problem – the deer. Used Liquid fence once, time is coming to repeat the treatment. Hopefully, it’ll help. Good luck to you!

  3. ellen abbott Says:

    I don’t have a problem with deer, not in the city or the country house, for which I am grateful. Beautiful garden.

  4. Thanks for the comment Tatyana, LF is working for me, hope it works for you too!

  5. Lucky you, Ellen, thanks for the compliment!

  6. Holly Says:

    I’m wondering…and this is timely since I have a new garden plot in the back of my yard and the deer and RABBITS are just chewing the crap out of everything back there, even the Scotch Broom!

    I’ve sprinkled seven on my plants at times and that’s worked for a bit on the rabbits…I am not certain what to do with the deer…ARRRGGGGEEE!

  7. I’m here to tell ya…..Liquid Fence!

  8. Kristin Says:

    You’re hostas are making me sad 😦 But I’ve tried liquid fence and it worked for me too. Nothing like a little “putrid egg” and garlic mixture to stink up your yard!

  9. Holly Says:

    I left another message for you but I don’t remember if was actually here or on the odd anomaly of Networked blogs, but I’m lusting after your flat blue bottle garden edgers…. and I’m guessing one must have a kiln at their disposal to make such cool things. Is that correct? Oh, and your iridescent pavers? OMG! Last, please tell me how is it easiest to follow your blog now that it’s been moved and it doesn’t do followers? Thanks….

  10. Thanks Holly! I think you clicked & commented on the photo, previously…. but yes, you do need a kiln to flatten the bottles at 1500º, then control the cooling so they’re durable. And another excellent question, I think if you use ‘Networked Blogs’, you can follow me on WP. I hope one day WP WILL have a follower section, but don’t forget you can always bookmark this blog & check in from time to time to see what’s new!

  11. Candace Says:

    Well, it’s not a problem I’ll be facing here in Phoenix but I can imagine how frustrating it would be to have all your hard work trashed. It’s a shame, too, because deer are so pretty and it would just be nice if everything/one could co-habitate like in the Garden of Eden.

    On the radio the other day, they were talking about ways people could repel neighborhood cats from their yards and someone mentioned peeing in the yard and had asked her husband to do it, too. Don’t know if it worked or not.

    I’m glad you seem to have found a solution.

  12. For now anyway, lol! It seems to be a game of bait & switch. Switch frequently to keep them guessing!

  13. Sue Says:

    Living in the middle of a city we don’t see alot of wildlife. Oh how I would love to find a deer on my balcony. It could eat everything …
    Found you through Blotanical incidentally, and have left a message for you there too.

  14. Su Says:

    Nice blog with very nice pictures. Enjoyed going through it. keep it up the good work.

  15. Thanks Su & Sue! And Sue, I don’t know if you’d REALLY like it if the deer ate all the plants off your balcony, lol! Although starting over can be fun…..

  16. camille Paul Says:

    I guess my solution is Native plants and then also put up a big fence. And a big loud annoying barking dog.
    Love your blog. I found you on Blotanical.

  17. Thanks Rosey, good advice!

  18. Jeannie Says:

    one of the “Plants of the Month” at Annie’s Annuals in Richmond, CA is Delosperma nubigenum, supposedly a deer repeller…it’s one of the plants a gardener can win in my contest. 3 plants + free shipping. (as you can see, I’m working hard at this contest!!!). Jeannie

  19. Thanks for the comment Jeannie, great tie in! I’ll play & bookmarked Annies!!

  20. Some of your readers who are just experiencing problems with deer might like to read a page from my web site in which I describe deer control. As I indicate, we have been using Tree Guard for years. We have no ties to the company or the supplier that we use, Forestry Suppliers.

    Deer Control Ideas:

    George Africa
    The Vermont Gardener
    Vermont Flower Farm

  21. Thanks for the link to your post, & helpful info!

  22. Brad B Says:

    Barring a real fence, liquid fence is the only thing that works. God I hate the smell when I’m spraying, but it seems to keep them away for quite a while. And it seems to train them away from certain plants.

    Thanks for the welcome message on blotanical.

  23. nancy janson Says:

    Do you use the pre-mixed liquid fence, or the concentrate that you make yourself. I don’t think they have the same odor, and I wonder which one would be more effective. YOur thoughts?

  24. I use the concentrate because it’s more economical. Which do you think has the stronger odor? I think the stronger would be the more effective, but have no evidence of course.

  25. waldeneffect Says:

    I am totally in your camp. We live on two acres of veggie garden amid many, many acres of deer-travelled woods. For years, we lost our garden to the deer, especially in the fall when they moved in and started eating even the plants deer are supposed to hate.

    My husband really came through for me this year. He dreamed up a homemade deer deterrent that works on a combination of sound and motion. You can build it for pennies if you scrounge a bit, and it has been 100% effective! No need to keep reapplying over and over; just build it, plug it in, and watch your garden grow! We estimate that it costs us about $3.25 per year in electricity — our garden is totally worth that. Hope it works for you!

  26. Interesting concept, I’ll have to try it!

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