Monday, April 7, 2014

Alternative Deer Repellents - DIY



I'd previously blogged about the challenges I had been having keeping the Damn Deer out of my garden.  I keep a fence that works very well. However, as I started the woodland restoration that now hugs their trail, my love-hate relationship with this plant predator has continued.

Bad smells keep Deer Away. 
Recently folks have suggested some alternatives to the chemical sprays I have been using. This spring as tulips, hostas, iris, and chokeberry are starting to come out. I'm trying these out - the more potential deterrents the better!  If I can make my precious bits of green plants taste and smell terrible - unless they are starving, the deer should just move on (to my neighbors yard!)  One downside of a treatment that relies on taste (like the pepper spray below) is that the deer must taste the plant to discover they don't really want to eat more.  So there will be some nibbling with this method along. Another reason I like using combos.

Just keep in mind that everything needs reapplication. Make sure to treat the plant completely! Rain and time take away the smell and taste. I do not put these treatments onto food crops by the way. My vegetable garden is safe inside a fence (mostly) - although the bunnies do make a mess. That's another blog. 


ROTTEN EGGS
This has got to be smell and taste. YUCK! A key ingredient in the commercial deer spray I buy is rotten eggs. University studies have shown that rotten eggs is one of the most effective components were those that contained putrescent (rotten) egg-based products While I can't imagine making this myself, it would be a great deal cheaper. Mix some eggs into water and let sit to ripen. One recipe I found was a combination of eggs and peppers - mixing 4 or 5 whole eggs with 4 tablespoons hot sauce to a gallon of water.  Plan to reapply every two weeks and/or after every rain. (Commercial products contain additives to "stick" the spray onto the plants longer.)

PEPPER SPRAY
This acts on the principle of bad taste. I learned from a fellow master gardener who uses this mixture on a school/community garden.  I'm starting with a pretty spicy mixture. It's spring and I want them to keep on walking by! I plan to reapply every 10 to 14 days.
  • His recipe was simple, just mix up a variety of hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero, others) with water and puree in a blender. Add a little vinegar (to make bring out the HOT!) and water.  Let the  mixture sit for a few days and then spray onto plants.  
  • Another suggestion was using commercial processed hot sauce diluted with water. (1/16 ratio) Stronger hot sauce and peppers makes a better deer-away spray.  
  • Most elaborate option - but well thought out is to take fresh peppers and run them through a food processor with water to create a pulpy liquid. Pour the liquid through a cheesecloth to remove seeds and large particles that could clog a sprayer. Put into a glass jar. Add 2 tablespoons of food-grade oil, a squirt of Elmer's glue and two drops of liquid dishwashing detergent. The latter two help make a stable emulsion of the particles. Use one part of this mixture to 10 parts water. Shake well and spray. This should discourage the bunnies too. 


"IRISH SPRING" SOAP
This acts on the principle of smell - and who can blame the deer. There is more fragrance in a bar of Irish Spring and almost any other soap. I created some little hangers to place the soap onto shrubs. In other cases I just put them onto the ground. I'll have to replace these at least once a month as water will wash it all away.  My friend Kevin swears by this although he said that some critters actually ate the soap! Raccoon will also move it around for you.

Irish Spring - it's not just for Showers. Here are hangers I made from produce
bags, and just placed on the ground near  emerging tulips

SCENTED DRYER SHEETS
This goes along the same lines as the soap option above. I love the smell of dryer sheets - and they can be made into strips and tied onto stakes or shrubs.  Most dryer sheets are synthetic non-wovens so they will not deteriorate which makes it easier to change them out when the scent is gone. This is weekly in my case. I don't think this will work well with heavy deer traffic - but I'll use in combination.

TRIP LINE
I'm not sure about this one - but it seems clever. Just string up heavy fishing line - like a trip line in the deer path or by the garden.  Put the line just 2 - 3 feet off the ground running it between a few stakes.  The deer can't see the line (and neither will you) and walk into it, get startled and run away. I could see this getting a bit messy actually. But I'll try it around the chokeberry bushes I put in last year. The deer seem to like these in particular and they need extra protection - and are off the beaten "Human" path through the garden. I marked the stakes with dryer sheet Pom-poms (option above.)  Keep in mind that deer have a long reach on them - so I strung the line a full five feet in front of and around the bushes I want to protect. 

URINE & POOP
Collect and spray (human, dog,...)... I won't venture if it's smell or taste on this technique :)   When my son was little it was very fun (and also a bit creepy) for him to pee all over Mom's garden!  Take it an extra step and put human poop in bags to keep the deer away. Here's my friend's blog on how to make-your-own deer poop bags.  

A drawback to some of these is potential impact on desirable pollinators, insects and birds. In general I have the biggest problem with deer in spring and fall before or after other food sources are available. So I try very hard to not just "spray" away all the time. 

Here are some ideas for controlling mosquitoes with plants and specialized container gardens. Much smaller pests - but still bothersome :)

If you need a good laugh about Damn Deer check out this YouTube song.

Happy Gardening.

Teresa Marie