Gardening in Deer Country Sub Title Bob Nixon XX@sss.sls
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
How to Garden Successfullyin Deer Country Suggestions to help you grow vegetables, flowers, & other plants where deer eat just about everything
About this program This program is based on a voluntary survey of Howard County Master Gardeners and garden club members about gardening in deer country. It was researched and drafted by Bob Nixon, Howard County Master Gardener and revised for statewide distribution by Jonathan Kays, Extension Specialist, Natural Resources, University of Maryland
What we’re going to discuss • Facts about deer • Publications about deer & gardening • Deer & vegetables & small fruits • Deer & flowers (perennials) • Deer & shrubs & trees • 7-point summary
Maryland deer history • 1634: Fr. Andrew White, priest & journalist, wrote that deer were so plentiful “that they are rather an annoyance than an advantage.” Native Americans and colonists used deer for food & clothing, with increasing exports of venison & hides to Europe. • 1729: Legislature prohibited deer hunting between January 15 and July 31. Fine: 400 lbs of tobacco for each infraction. • 17th through 19th Centuries: Forests of eastern and central counties cleared for agriculture. Natural predators—wolves, mountain lions, bears—exterminated. No limits on deer killed.
Deer in the 20th Century • 1902: So few deer remained in Maryland that hunting prohibited • 1910 deer population (est.) • U.S.A., 500,000 • Maryland, <2000, nearly all in 4 western counties (Garrett, Allegany, Washington, & Frederick) • Howard County, zero to <100 • 1910s through 1930s: Deer imported from Michigan and Pennsylvania. Then the increasing local herds used to establish new herds around state. • 1927: Deer hunting resumes in Allegany County, with five bucks killed.
Deer now • 2009 to 2010 Maryland hunting season • 100,663 killed statewide • Current deer population (est.) • U.S.: >20 million • Maryland: <230,000
Detailed information • Maryland White-tailed Deer Plan 2009-2018, 83 pp: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Hunt_Trap/pdfs/2009-2018MarylandWTDeerPlan.pdf • Some Maryland counties have comprehensive deer management programs
How much do deer eat? • 3,000 lbs per year compared to 1,500 lbs per year for the average human • 7 lbs per day. A healthy deer density is 18 to 30 deer/square mile. Problem herds are 100 deer/sq. mi or more • Example: 100 deer X 7 lbs/day equals 4900 lbs/week, 21,000 lbs/month, and 255,500 lbs/year • This food is not available in small woodlots of suburbia, which is why lawns, hedges, and flower beds attract deer
Deer diet • January to March: Coniferous browse, deciduous bark & dry leaves, acorns and other nuts, winter fruits such as rose hips, sumac, & poison ivy (4 to 5 lbs/day). • April to June: Herbaceous plants & grasses followed by buds & shoots of shrubs & trees (7 to 10 lbs/day). • July & August: Herbaceous vegetation, young leaves, new growth of shrubs and trees, gardens. • September to December: Soft (fruits) & hard (nuts) mast. Acorns make up to 50% of diet. Bramble leaves, mushrooms, gardens.
Typical diet, but … “Deer will attempt to eat almost anything if their population is high and they are running out of food. That happens most often in times of drought or near the end of a colder-than-normal winter.” Scott Aker, horticulturist, U.S. National Arboretum.
Why do deer prefer tender grasses and herbaceous plants, buds, leaves, and new growth of shrubs and trees? Deer have incisors only on the bottom, so they pull/pinch rather than cut their forage. Their bottom incisors impact on upper pad of cartilage. They also recognize the nutritional value of fertilized vegetation.
Free publications: HGIC Fact Sheets 655 & 810 and Extension Bulletin 354C FS 655: Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage FS810: Using Commercial Repellants to Manage Deer Browsing in the Landscape EB354C: Options for managing deer damage: fencing, repellents, vegetation mgt, & population management http://extension.umd.edu/woodland/your-woodland/publications-library(tab for wildlife and insect damage)
Vegetables & small fruits deer don’t eat 1. “Can’t think of one” 2. Onions, garlic 3. Some herbs, such as parsley, fennel mints, sages
Recommendation 1 for protecting veggies & small fruits Fencing is best: 8 ft or higher fence of wire or plastic… Costly to install but low maintenance and effective Montgomery Co Master Gardeners References: Managing Deer Damage (EB354C)
More on fencing to protect veggies & small fruits Shorter fences and electric fences using baited electric polytape or wire are good for small areas Paul K. Lake Elkhorn Community Gardens References: Managing Deer Damage (EB354C)
Recommendation 2 for protecting veggies & small fruits Herding dog with “Invisible Fence” works well but dogs must be left out at night when deer feed Gromit Photos: Cindy M. Taunting Gromit References: Managing Deer Damage (EB354C)
Recommendation 3 for protecting veggies & small fruits Use netting on fruiting shrubs & trees, but it’s often hard to reuse. Kent Phillips’ blueberry cage
Recommendation 4 for protecting veggies & small fruits Repellent sprays containing ingredients that offend a deer’s sense of taste or smell (rotten eggs, fish or meat byproducts, bitter taste) work best. Few products are labeled for edible plants. Most are for ornamentals, so read labels carefully. Those labeled for edibles wash off during rain. You must reapply repellents periodically, especially after rains or when plants are putting out new growth. Reference: Using Comm. Deer Repell. (FS810)
Using commercial deer repellents (FS810) 1) If deer pressure very high, will not be effective. 2) What works in one area may not work in another. 3) Must be reapplied about every 6-8 weeks, possibly longer. 4) Change repellent & active ingredient annually. 5) Buy in concentrate form (usually from internet) to reduce cost. Ready-to-use formulations are expensive. 6) If deer are a long term problem, a fence may be a more permanent & economical solution.
Recommendation 5: Support managed deer hunts and community deer-harvest efforts 1) Too many deer is the problem. 2) Encourage HMO and local officials to work with wildlife professionals to harvest deer in your area. 3) Support managed hunts and bow hunting on small acreage properties. 4) Allowing high deer populations results in other safety & environmental problems, such as lyme disease, vehicle collisions, & damage to ecosystem.
Recommendations for protecting flowers 1. Plant resistant varieties (27 suggestions) 2. Have a good fence—or a deer-chasing dog 3. Plant in container on deck 4. Use repellent sprays 5. Learn to live with them but support population management efforts
N.B./Nota Bene/Please Note The following lists of deer-resistant plants are not definitive. They are based on the experience of 28 local gardeners, and those gardeners have not planted every kind of plant to determine whether it is deer-resistant. Also, deer diets differ from area to area. So please use these lists as a starting point for your personal experimentation. Study other lists. Ask other neighborhood gardeners about what works for them.
Remember! 1) Deer browsing resistance varies with changes in deer populations, availability of alternative foods, and environmental conditions. 2) Damage from browsing is most severe when snow cover or extreme cold reduces availability of other foods. Summer droughts can cause similar problems. 3) When deer get hungry enough they will eat anything.
27 Deer-resistant flowers 1. Daffodil 2. Bleeding Heart 3. Peony 4. Lily-of-the-Valley 5. Moss Phlox 6. Hardy Orchid 7. Garden Pinks 8. Stella d’Oro Daylily 9. Siberian Iris 10. Red Hot Poker 11. Lavender 12. Salvia 13. Beardtongue 14. Rose Campion 15. Daisy 16. Allium 17. Butterfly Weed 18. Blazingstar 19. Threadleaf Coreopsis 20. Blanket Flower 21. Lamb’s Ear 22. Yarrow 23. Russian Sage 24. Goldenrod 25. Spotted Mint 26. Sweet Autumn Clematis 27. Ornamental Grasses
Deer-resistant flower 1 Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 2 Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 3 Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)
Deer-resistant flower 4 Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Deer-resistant flower 5 Moss Phlox, Moss-Pink (Phlox subulata) “Pull & spit” Native* Native* = Listed in Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (2005 ed.)
Deer-resistant flower 6 Hardy Orchid, Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata)
Deer-resistant flower 7 Garden Pinks (Dianthus plumarius)
Deer-resistant flower 8 Stella d’Oro Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’) Deer eat most hybrid daylilies & all other lilies (Lilium spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 9 Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)
Deer-resistant flower 10 Red Hot Poker, Torch Lily, Tritoma (Kniphofia spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 11 Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 12 Salvia (Salvia spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 13 Beardtongue, Foxglove (Penstemon digitalis) Native
Deer-resistant flower 14 Rose Campion (Lychniscoronaria)
Deer-resistant flower 15 Daisy (Chrysanthemum spp.)
Deer-resistant flower 16 Allium (Allium spp.) Many colors and heights; mostly late-spring bloomers
Deer-resistant flower 17 Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) Native
Deer-resistant flower 18 Blazingstar, Gayfeather (Liatris spicata) Native
Deer-resistant flower 19 Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata) Native
Deer-resistant flower 20 Blanket flower (Gaillardia spp.)