Q: Are deer repellents effective in keeping deer from browsing veggies and flowers?
A: It depends. Upon returning home after an instate trip, I discovered that five of my pots, planted with bush tomato plants and various flowers had been mowed off by my most unwelcome visitor. Reflecting upon all the products I’ve used over the years to protect my plants, and some of them were pretty creative, I’ve concluded that a multifaceted approach works best. (See last week’s post on deer for more ideas here.) For me that includes an 8-foot deer fence around the perimeter of my vegetable garden and other methods for those plants outside of the garden. These other methods include netting (not as unattractive as I first thought) and repellents.
I’ve tried several repellents, including Plantskydd and Liquid Fence, as well as a homemade concoction incorporating eggs and cayenne. Although it is inexpensive, using this last recipe becomes a nuisance after a while since it has to be reapplied frequently (after rain, etc). So I’ve decided that it is worth the extra cost to purchase a ready-made product that works.
I first heard about Plantskydd a couple of years ago and did some research on it. It is a natural organic product composed of bovine and porcine blood. My tests showed it to be effective in protecting perennials and annuals, and for the most part its effectiveness did not diminish after rain showers. But it still required reapplication every couple of months (although the manufacturer says that it is viable for up to 6 months). Developed for the Swedish forestry industry, it emits an odor associated with predator activity, although the smell is not detectable to me. I contacted the company, concerned that perhaps it would attract bears to our yard, but I was assured that that would not happen. It is also effective for repelling rabbits (and even moose, according to the product info on the package) and can be used around food crops. I recommend the granular form in a nifty shaker bag, rather than the soluble form, which I found repulsive (the smell is quite impressive).
Liquid Fence has also been an effective repellent for me for use on flowers and shrubs, not food crops. Its ingredients include garlic, whole egg, potassium sorbate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and xanthan cum. A caveat in using it is that it smells terrible (must be the garlic and egg!), so don’t plan an outdoor party within a couple of days of use. The odor does dissipate, though, but it will remain effective, although you must reapply it periodically.
A final suggestion is to rotate the products in your arsenal. It seems that deer will get used to any product and no plant is deer-proof, but the two products I mentioned have been effective for me and I recommend them. I only wish that I had taken my own advice and reapplied the Plantskydd to my tomato pots before going away last week.
Contributed by Susan Thomas, Certified Colorado Gardener
Image courtesy of plantskydd.com