The recipes for natural deer repellents and the myths about deer repellent recipes abound. Some folks swear by them, others swear at them. Either way, science has been pursuing the fail safe combination of smells and taste deterrents for centuries with mixed results. The recipes usually consist of the same basic ingredients--human hair, garlic, pepper, strong smelling soaps such as Dial or Irish Spring, coyote urine, cat feces from large cats--such as tigers and other zoo animals, fertilizers, fabric softener, eggs and a variety of herbs, spices and vinegar. Taste deterrents include pepper, garlic and hot spices. Dozens, if not hundreds of recipes for both kinds of repellents can be found on the Internet or in popular gardening magazines. Commercial repellents of all natural ingredients can also be purchased.
The overall belief behind deer repellents that work are odor or contact/taste. The odor approach works by mimicking the smell of a human presence or creating an odor that offends or "repels" the deer and suggests that a common predator, such as coyote or dog, is nearby. Thus the use of urine. The contact or "taste" approach works by creating an unpleasant or painful taste that the deer encounters when eating the plant, flower or shrub you're trying to protect.
Deer are repelled by all their senses. Using a combination, such as taste and odor, or odor and sound--or any combination of sight, smell, sound, and taste--will work by being more intimidating to the deer. Including things like scarecrows, dogs, fences or horns will make your repellent even more effective.
Rain, time and humidity weaken any repellent. So, they must be replenished frequently. There are commercial dispensers made to efficiently replenish your deer repellent recipe, or you can make your own from nylon stockings, mesh or cheesecloth--any fabric that will allow the odor to permeate. Repellants based on a contact/taste approach, of course, are sprayed, or applied directly to the plant.
Tips on Using Your Recipe Effectively
- When using a deer repellent, start applying the repellent early in the Spring and continue the use throughout the fall. No matter what the recipe, reapply it every 2 to 3 months and be consistent when applying it.
- Change the recipe frequently. Determine what the active ingredient is, or what seems to be the most effective ingredient, and change it. Switch the ingredient with other effective ones. Deer, like people, become accustomed to the same things. Rotate the ingredient and the strength every season.
- Add naturally deer resistant plants, herbs and vegetables to the ones that tempt the deer to your garden or yard. Many of the best natural plant repellents are ones you may already grow. Deer resistant plants include chives, leeks, onions, asparagus, fennel, squash, basil, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme, potato and blueberries.
- Start your garden with deer resistant plants, herbs and vegetables. Once the deer get into the tasty ones, add your repellent recipe and then later add the rest of your plants.