Oh, Deer!

Do you have pesky deer eating your beautiful hydrangeas or rose bushes – thorns and all?

Young Deer
Young Deer in Our Back Yard

Did you purchase deer “resistant” plants thinking the deer wouldn’t eat them?

Did you once love the sight of a precious fawn and now shudder each spring knowing your garden will be down to nubs within a few days?

I answer a resounding YES to all three.

We live in Sun City, TX, which is a 55+ community situated northwest of Georgetown. This scenic spot also marks the beginning of Texas Hill Country, meaning lots of critters hell bent on eating your shrubs, flowers and even grass. And Bambi along with his cohorts is the worse; rabbits score second place.

After the famous or infamous “February Freeze” destroyed most of our landscaping, except for the weeds of course, we needed to dig up, throw away, and buy new plants. Unfortunately, shrubs, flowers and so forth was in short supply and high demand because the freeze extended throughout most of the south. Even though it took a lot of time and money to buy the perfect plants for our yard, I persevered and by the end of May, the front bed was a beautiful mass of color.

Two days later—gone. In horror I stared at the bare branches of what had been a hardy Hibiscus. The two Lincoln Rose bushes were chewed nearly to the ground, as well as other flowering perennials.

I immediately did what any 21st century person would do: I Googled “How to keep deer away from plants.”

The first thing that popped up was the statement that “deer resistant” plants does not mean that deer won’t eat them. It just means those plants are on not first choice on the deer menu.

So, what works? Coffee grounds placed around the base of the plants should deter the munching. I guess deer are not coffee drinkers, so the odor keeps them away. Didn’t work.

Googled again. Aha! Moth balls. At first this seemed like good advice because everyone, except me, knows that deer dislike unpleasant odors. Well, that answered why the coffee grounds didn’t work. I quickly rejected the moth ball/crystal approach because on my black mulch it would look like a very discreet hailstorm had blown through.

The next recommendation was pee-you know…urine? It appears the scene in Doc Hollywood was correct. Urine, human or dog, will deter deer, at lease if their noses are close to the ground. This sounded like an incredible idea. And it was free. Plus, I knew Stephen, my husband, would be more than willing to stand out on the front porch and pee on the bushes. I mean, he and his dad did all the time off their back porch. The author’s final sentence, however, squashed my plan for a deer free yard. “Word of caution: the area of application may start smelling like a latrine.”

Damn. With hopes once again dashed, I tunneled deeper into the rabbit hole of deer deterrents. And then I found it: the mother lode of deer rid; it was a recipe: eggs, milk garlic and cayenne pepper with water, let ripen and voilà—a stinky spray that is sure to keep deer away. Probably humans too.

But it worked!! A few days after my first application I noticed leaves beginning to sprout on the nubs and then blossoms appeared. The only downside is that it smelled at first like the local garbage fill, but at least it’s not a latrine and I have my beautiful plants back. I am once again a happy gardener.

In case you want to brew up this concoction, here is the recipe, courtesy of DenGarden.com:
Blend together: 3 eggs, 3 Tbsp milk or yogurt, 3 or more garlic closes (the more the merrier), 3 Tbsp cayenne pepper, and 1 cup warm water. After blending, pour into gallon container and add more warm water to make a gallon. Then, set in garage or outside to ferment for few days. When good and stinky, strain (so sprayer nozzle doesn’t get clogged) into spray bottle and apply weekly and after heavy rain.

Enjoy your plants once again and toodles for now.