Deer can eat most any plant (even some that would be poisonous for humans) and if you live in an area where there is a deer population, it is important to protect your plant from feeding damage. Deer pose a threat particularly to field crops since they will eat numerous field items, from hay to corn. There are chemical means to protect your plants from deer damage, but the natural means of deterring these cute, yet destructive animals far outweigh the downsides of chemical usage. A key fact to keep in mind: Deer will flee from any odor that is offensive to their sensitive snouts.
- Fencing—This may be the most obvious of non-chemical techniques in keeping deer away from your prized flora. Fencing is generally suggested for a large garden or crop that is highly valuable whether price-wise or sentimentally. Common materials used are polyurethanes (plastics) or steel (much like a chain-link fence). The poly-fencing is convenient since it is can be cut to size. Steel fencing is not as easy to modify but is heavy-duty. One factor to keep in mind with fencing is that it is always visible and is not necessarily designed for style.
- Urine—That's right, urine. Wild animals live by their sense of smell so applying urine to your plants can prove to be quite effective. The urine of a predator animal such as a coyote generally gives the best results but even human urine can show a noticeable improvement in deer infestation. Remember, though, that urine can cause discoloration and burning of your grass. Urine will also wash off with rain but since there is an abundance in each of us, it is readily available and at no cost.
- Hair—Hair is a long-known deterrent of deer. Again, hair has its own pheromone or smell so it has the ability of keeping deer away. You can take it out of your brush or use the excess after giving yourself a trim. Best results are usually seen by applying unwashed hair clippings directly on plants but it will blow off in wind and wash off in rain. You can gather hair in small mesh bags and hang them near your plants for good results. Hair will lose its smell, though, after time so it is important to replenish the supply in your garden.
- Foul Odors—Applying offensive smells directly on your plants seems to be one of the most effective methods of deterring deer. A mixture of garlic and chili peppers gives great results in keeping deer from your plants. All you have to do is crush these ingredients together, add some water and throw the concoction in a spray bottle. Mix in blood meal for added benefit. Deodorant soap is also suggested for its strong odor and you can either leave it in the package and hang it from a tree or cut the bar into smaller pieces and put them mesh bags.
- Deer Resistant Plants—For a list of deer resistant plants, visit http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/, but keep in mind that during the winter, when deer have nothing else to eat, the will feast on practically anything.