Diggin’ In: Keep cute deer at bay with spray, plants

October 24, 2016

Walking quietly toward the edge of our yard, the mother and baby were cute — until they started chomping away on our hardy hibiscus shrubs that were so healthy and lush.

And, that’s how we were introduced to deer at our new yard.

For decades, I gardened without the threat of hungry deer decimating anything and everything. Now, I had to turn to the experts for advice on how to avoid the damage. A friend recommended I use Bobbex, a spray-on product that repels deer with a stinky odor that quickly offended my nose. In fact, the odor is so pungent I could not leave the container in the garage. After thoroughly spraying the two hibiscus bushes, I tucked the bottle under the grill cover. Liquid Fence and Deer Off are also deer-deterring products sold at garden centers and online, including

Bobbex smells terrible, and dissipates in 24 hours to humans, according to Greg Ecsedy, president of Bobbex. Animals, however, can still smell — and taste — the stuff. The product, which includes a special formula for roses, combines six scents, including rotten eggs, garlic, fish, clove oil and vinegar. It comes in ready-use and concentrated versions.

Best of all, Bobbex does not wash off in the rain, thanks to multiple sticking agents, so its impact lasts for 30 days, which I can attest to. For days, Ken and I sat at the windows, wondering happily why the deer did not return — although my four-year-old granddaughter, Mattie, was sad that they left. Soon, the hibiscus was lush and full again, and no sign of deer even 60 days later — after only one application of Bobbex.

Darl Fletcher, horticulture curator at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Va., offers these tips for dealing with deer:

— Sprinkle human hair around plants.

— Hang soap (preferably strong scented deodorant soap) near plants.

— Sprinkle ground hot pepper on and around the plants (reapply after rain).

— Spray fox or coyote urine (available from sporting goods/hunting departments) around plants.

— Spray deer repellant (can purchase from home stores or made at home) on and around plants.

— Hang reflective items — such as old cds/dvds — near plants.

— Install motion sensor lights near flower beds.

— Install fences around yard or garden.


Last, but most importantly, Fletcher suggests you plant deer-resistant plants, and here are five native species he recommends:

—Wild columbine, Aquilegia canadensis. Blooms April-June with profuse red-and-yellow dangling flowers. Grows one to three feet tall, likes sun-shade and average, well-drained soil that’s dry to medium-dry. Short-lived but self-seeds; tolerates drought, deadhead for second bloom. Benefits hummingbirds. Cold hardy zones 3-9.

—False aster, Boltonia asteroids. Blooms July-September with white daisy-like flower with a yellow center. Grows five to six feet tall, likes sun to part shade and average, well-drained soil that’s dry to wet. Profuse blooms nearly cover the plant in late summer and early fall. Benefits butterflies. Cold hardy zones 4-9.

—Threadleaf coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata Moonbeam. Blooms June-October with one-inch sulphur yellow daisies. Grows to two feet tall, likes sun and average-poor, well-drained, dry to medium soil. Keeps flowering until first frost in early to mid-November, makes excellent cut flowers. Benefits butterflies. Cold hardy zones 4-9.

—Clustered mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum. Blooms June-September with clusters of small white, feathery flowers that are not as showy as the surrounding silver, blue, grey bracts. Grows two to three feet tall, likes sun and average, well-drained, medium-wet soil. Fragrant foliage. Benefits butterflies. Cold hardy zones 4-9.

—Purple milkweed, Asclepias purpurascens. Blooms May-June with large round clusters of light to deep purple flowers. Grows two to three feet tall, likes sun and average to poor and well-drained dry soil. Showy flowers; orange aphids are common pests that can be dislodged with water sprays. Spreads with runners. Benefits butterflies, hosts monarchs. Cold hardy zones 3-9.




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