“Deer are not going anywhere any time soon, so we may as well learn how to live around them.”
That’s how Jennifer Kolot with the Victoria Master Gardeners Association began a workshop in Oak Bay which offered tips and strategies on how to garden with deer.
Hosted by the Oak Bay Garden Club at the Monterey Recreation Centre, the workshop drew about 15 people Thursday.
According to Kolot, there are four ways to approach urban deer problems – barriers, scare tactics, repellents and deer-resistant plants. However, not all of these strategies are equally effective.
“When I first started gardening in Victoria, I resisted the deer like crazy, and I tried all the repellents and scare tactics; and finally I realized that unless I wanted to worry about it 24/7, the only two things that really worked are barriers and planting deer-resistant plants,” Kolot said.
Barrier options include fences, enclosures, wiring around tree bases and tall hedges.
“Deer are habitual travelers; if you can break their habitual path through a landscape they will be less likely to repeatedly come into your yard,” said Kolot, adding that some barrier options can be prohibitive due to local bylaws and cost.
Scare tactics include dogs, motion detector spray, scarecrows, and ultrasonic high-frequency noise emitters with motion detectors. Kolot points out that some of these tactics don’t always work, and that deer tend to be risk-takers.
“With scare tactics, what will work best is if you use more than one,” she said. “The best approach can be to use both a visual and auditory deterrent.”
Repellents include a mixture of fish meal, hot pepper, putrid eggs, dried blood and wintergreen oil, as well as commercial repellents such as Bobbex, Deer Scram and Deer Stopper.
Soap also works as a ground repellent. Soap bars can be hung from stakes at three-foot intervals, or shavings can be sprinkled on the ground. However, do not use a soap made with coconut oil as that is a deer attractant.
Kolot also points out that some repellents may cause respiratory allergies.
“And your neighbours may hate you,” she adds.
When it comes to deer-resistant plants, Kolot says there are a lot of things to consider, including the expense of buying new plants and changing the landscape.
“But if you can’t fence an area, this is the only way to truly ensure that your garden won’t be eaten.”
The most reliable deer-resistant plants are those with acrid sap like euphorbia; strongly scented foliage like lavender, sages and oregano; dry-loving plants like cistus and halimium; fuzzy leaf plants like stachys; and most plants with grey-silver foliage such as dusty millers.
For more information about deer-resistant plants, visit mgabc.org/content/deer-resistant-plants.