Elisabeth C. Miller Library logo Miller Library Home UW Botanic Gardens Home UW Botanic Gardens Home book graphic

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195 | (206) 543 0415 | Open: | Library Schedule

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Control of wildlife pests, Deer

How can I keep deer out of my garden? Something is eating my plants, and I think it's deer. Do they like dahlias? Those are my favorite, and they seem to be especially hard hit. They don't seem to like it when we water, so maybe we could do something with that?


Deer are very hard to repel. Information about managing deer around your home and garden is available at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife site, Living with Wildlife. (There are no guaranteed or complete repellents. As the link above mentions, some of the repellents may be toxic to plants, and may not be effective for very long. Furthermore, some of the predator urine repellents may not be humanely produced.)

First, you should identify which plants are being eaten; rodents and rabbits make a clean cut, while deer leave a jagged edge. And, of course, the browse marks are higher up on the plants if deer are the culprits. Fortunately, most native plants can survive some browsing. Unfortunately, deer do eat dahlias.

Once you determine which plants the deer is eating, you can often protect just those plants with a 4-6 foot circular fence just around the base of the plant. If you are trying to protect a small vegetable garden, you might be able to fence and cover it (suspending netting or chicken wire from the tops of the fence posts) as well. Fencing material can be made of woven wire or rigid polypropylene mesh.

You might consider motion-sensitive sprinklers, lights, or a radio--you did say that water scared off the deer. Some people have used blinking lights with success, strung so that they cast many shadows.

Some home remedies will work some of the time, though none work all of the time. And, they all have to be replenished after a good rain or watering. Here are some anecdotal examples of things that have worked (taken from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Russell Link's book, Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, 1999):

  1. Keeping dogs near the plants (for instance, installing their run near the garden).
  2. Human hair, strong-smelling soap, or blood meal placed in stockings or cheesecloth bags and hung near the plants.
  3. Several old eggs blended in a gallon of water and placed in vented containers, hanging near the plants.

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website includes Link's list of plants that are at least somewhat deer-resistant. There are lists from Oregon State University and the King County Native Plant Guide, too.

While you may have to put up with some damage, I hope the ideas above will give you some places to start.

Date 2018-03-01
Link to this record only (permalink)

Didn't find an answer to your question? Ask us directly!

Browse keywords

Search Again:

May 16 2018 11:15:37