By our location here at the foot of the Texas ‘Hill Country’ this is our most frequent topic of discussion, and most controversial subject.
Deer are really simple creatures; if they have never seen or smelled a certain plant before “how do it know” it’s not supposed to eat it! Pretty simple right. Good ol’ ‘Herbert’ (your neighbor’s pet deer, who they feed regularly) takes several bites of your new Yaupon Holly, clearly disregarding the nursery professional’s assurances that ‘Deer will never eat this!’ Shortly Herbert will develop a little bout of gastric reflux, telling him ‘Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea” and move off to the next newly planted morsel to do a little further sampling. Sure enough, Herbert is rarely alone…now his friends Stewart, Rudy, Steve, Contessa, here four cousins ‘just visiting’ from Hill Country Village for the past six months, and all their twin sets of offspring are going to follow right in line, follow-the-leader style. You’re “Guaranteed Deer Resistant” new shrub is now nothing more than a stick. Yup, I could have and would have told you… I’ve been doing this quite a while.
Step one, when choosing to try your luck (sounds a little like gambling doesn’t it?) with gardening (or landscaping- same word, just more labor and less fun) in areas previously/still occupied by deer consult with your local nursery staff for the best advice, Box-store-folk, as nice as they may be, aren’t your best go-to source of information. Choose those plants that they recommend, and follow the advice as lined out below.
*From this point forward we will make clear that any word/description that implies “deer” or “Herbert” is a referral to a White Tail Deer, NOT an AXIS, which over simplified is a two-hundred pound goat in a deer suit! Admittedly, a very tasty http://havespadewilltravel.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=27&action=editgoat!
* Step two, regardless of where you purchase your newest sacrificial lamb, spray it down with a deer repellant such as “Bobbex” or “Liquid fence” immediately after planting (unless it is the middle of the afternoon, then wait a while). Plants under nursery care do not have the same concentrations of “toxins” and alkaloids that will make them more distasteful once established. Also caging or use of a light-weight mesh draped over the new plants may also help. Our friend John Dromgoole also suggest the occasional late night application of recycled beverages, such as beer or better yet asparagus soup!
Step three, mulch immediately, water in well and regularly, and fertilize every other month with a good organic granular. This will help your new plants get established faster.
Remember my good friends, that in times of adverse weather…either too much, or more frequently not enough rain, natures creatures are going to be forced to feed on whatever is available. Whether do to overcrowding, loss of habitat or other increased environmental stresses or individual taste preferences from deer to deer aggressive tendencies vary considerably. Walk around your neighborhood and see what your neighbors are having success with. Nothing short of a well maintained eight foot fence will guarantee deer won’t eat your new plants.Hence, NO plant is 100% deer proof. I’ve met folks who say that deer have eaten rosemary, prickly pear cactus, even pyracantha when time are tough. So don’t despair, just prey for rain.