What deer will eat

February 2, 2009

Categories: Diseases and Pests, Snails, Deer and other Pests

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In a message dated 2/2/2009 4:50:05 PM Eastern Standard Time,  title= writes:

Do others of you know: is catmint a deterrent to deer? If so, I’ll plant tons of it since the deer eat everything in sight in my yard. Especially my daylilies and my hostas.

We’ve been getting reports from various parts of the country and what I am seeing is that under some conditions, deer will eat just about anything!
They might be deterred by a planting of catmint (or other things), but I would bet that when they’re really hungry, and the only thing they see to eat is surrounded by catmint, they will lean over or leap over the catmint to get at the goodies.
Has anyone tried taking a corner and planting nothing but deers’ favorite foods? Maybe it would keep them away from the things we don’t want them to eat. For a while, anyway, until they had eaten everything planted for them, invited all their cousins, and gone after the rest of the garden!
If you can’t fence them out, I think you have to learn to live with them.
Bill Lee

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One response to “What deer will eat”

  1. Debbie Green says:

    I’m not a daffodil expert, but I am somewhat expert about deer management issues, particularly in the southeastern USA.  I can affirm that deer will eat almost anything, especially if there are large numbers of deer and not enough preferred food to go around.  The frustration people have in trying to thwart deer browsing in the landscape is largely due to the fact that deer will sample the available plant material and what they continue to eat or prefer to eat depends in part on individual preferences.  The food that seems most palatable is also influenced by soil conditions (and how they affect the mineral and nutrient content of the plant) such that some plants that are rarely eaten in one location and be highly preferred in other locations.  Thus, it is practically impossible to come up with a list of things deer won’t eat, sorry to say. 


    Fencing is usually the best protection, but the fence needs to be pretty formidable (deer can leap 8 ft. fences if they have enough space on either side of the fence).  Electric fences can be effective as can the high net fences that are less visible.  Any fence must completely enclose the area to be protected and must be monitored for breaches where deer can squeeze under or through as well as get over or around. 


    If you live where deer are abundant, it really is imperative to adopt deer management plans as their indiscriminate browsing is not only aggravating to gardeners, it is disastrous for tree regeneration, native plants, song birds, and small mammal populations because of the changes in the type of plants that survive and disappearance of the understory in forested areas. 


    Deer do often have recognizable trails through the landscape and you can reduce damage by planting the things you most care about off their beaten paths.  You can also leave native plants that are desirable deer browse (these will vary from place to place).  Feeding deer is absolutely the wrong approach as it only increases the number of deer that can survive in the same area, and does nothing to reduce damage in the long term.  It is also illegal most places in the USA.


    Hope this is of some interest!


    Debbie Green in NC where I am now fortunate to live in an area where there are no deer in the immediate vicinity…only bears and turkeys to contend with in the garden!