How to protect your garden from becoming a deer's next meal

Posted at 10:49 AM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 18:43:05-04

LAKE COUNTY — A local horticulturist explains how to protect your garden and flowers from deer.

Craig Schrader is a horticulturist at Lantern Court, a 25-acre garden at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland.

"Here are all the stubs of the trillium, they ate it right down close,” Schrader said.

He's on the deer defensive no matter what time of year it is, but spring is his biggest challenge.

"Right now, they've just come through winter and they're hungry and they're going to eat whatever they can,” Schrader said.

Deer aren’t too picky about what they’ll eat when they’re hungry, but they do find certain foods tastier than others, so using different methods of protection is key to preserving your garden.

Annually, Schrader hosts a walk-through of Lantern Court to teach homeowners about the different tactics he uses to defend his plants against deer.

"I use a spray, a foliar spray on the plants I want to save that I know they're going to eat,” Schrader said.

"I put down a fertilizer called Milorganite and that's right on the ground and then they have to put their put their nose right in it to chew those new shoots. They won't do that with that stuff there."

There's also another smell they don't like that you can get right off the shelves at home and garden centers.

"A coyote urine where it's actually urine of their natural predator that you can go and you can add it to little applicator bottles, you hang them around your plants and that also gives off an odor to deter the deer,” Ken Zawicki, General Manager of Petitti Garden Centers, said.

If you've tried all that, there are mechanical options too like the Scarecrow – a sprinkler system.

"What it does is actually it's a type of motion activated sprinkler so you can kind of hook this up, stake it in your yard, and when the deer run through your yard it pretty much just turns on and makes a loud noise because you hear the water actually running and it will spray water on the deer and kind of startle them out of your yard,” Zawicki said.

But if you’d prefer to keep things quiet and the strong smells to a minimum, consider fencing your property or the most vulnerable of your plants.

Experts also suggest planting plants that deer don’t like to eat like peonies, daisies, or daffodils. They also stay away from any plants with fuzzy leaves.

Another option is to plant a patch of what deer like to eat (like white clover) in a different part of your yard far away from your garden.