Deer Deterrents

October 28, 2008

A question on the recurring problem of hungry deer munching their way through our readers' gardens...

Kristin McCabe has written to me with the problem of deer eating her tomato crop...
Dear Diana
I love to have fresh home-grown tomatoes in the summer, and we used to be able to grow some great ones in our back yard. A few years ago, however, we started to deal with an invasion of deer in our neighborhood. They seem to be especially fond of green tomatoes, and it is impossible to grow them anymore. We have tried using the deer-repellent spray that has hot pepper, rotten egg whites and all in it, recommended by all of the garden centers locally and it worked, but only for a little while, as the deer seemed to get used to it. I kept it sprayed on, so it wasn't a matter of the ingredients losing potency. I tried a motion-activated noise maker, which only worked for a couple of weeks. Our neighbors had a motion-activated flood light which flashed on when the deer approached, but it only succeeded in waking her up so she got a clear view of the deer eating her tomatoes! I always put my tomatoes into metal tomato cages, and the deer bent them beyond recognition getting to the tomatoes. I am sure there must be some way to protect our tomatoes, but we have yet to find it.
Do you have any suggestions?

Hi Kristin,
Those gardeners who have a thieving deer problem know only too well how frustrating this situation can be.
I must say, I have never heard of tomato eating deer before – but they are no fools and you obviously grow very nice tomatoes!
I can only think of two helpful comments.
Is it possible togrow some extra tomatoesthat they can easily get at, and hope that they might leave your more protected ones alone? Or plant some deer foraging crops to distract them – here’s a website with some great tips and information for conservationalists:
Or, perhaps you couldsurround your tomatoes with other strongly scented plantswhich might fool the animals – particularly ordinary or garlic chives (which are reputed to keep food plants healthy anyway).
If anyone has any foolproof ideas, we’d love to hear them, deer although lovely and beautiful creatures are such pirates in the garden.
Here is another helpful web page - although geared towards hunters, these pages have some good information on what deer like to eat and some fencing tips.
As Always,
Happy Horticulture