Dealing with deer is a fact of life in many rural and suburban areas. Deer lose their fear of people when they get hungry enough, making their way into homeowners’ backyards, where food is plentiful.
If this sounds familiar to you, you may be wondering, “How can I have a beautiful landscape and keep it off the menu?”
One thing you can do is to plant Trees in your deer proof landscape. Trees have an advantage over shrubs and perennials in deer-prone areas, because they carry their buds and foliage high in the air. Many can be limbed up to put a potential dinner out of reach. At the same time, many Trees do provide food for other types of wildlife, like birds, squirrels, bees, and butterflies, as well flowers, fall color, and shade for you and your family.
There are certain deer resistant Trees that Bambi doesn’t like to eat even when they are at grazing height. If they’re truly starving, of course, almost any plant is fair game, but in general, here are some deer resistant trees:
If you live in deer country, you may have to protect young Trees from “deer rub” in the fall and winter. During “rutting season,” male deer scrape their antlers on young trunks, leaving their calling card (scent) for other deer. They prefer smooth-barked Trees with around a two-inch caliper for this, although once in a while large bucks will rub larger Trees.
Tree trunks can be protected from deer rub in the rutting season with plastic Tree wraps or chicken wire. Once the Tree reaches six inches or so in diameter, it will lose much of its appeal to bucks and may no longer need wrapping.
Homeowners employ a variety of other tactics to prevent deer damage in the landscape. Certain smells and flavors repel deer. Store-bought or homemade concoctions applied to foliage can be effective, although they need to be re-applied frequently. Strong-smelling soap hung from the branches works for us at the nursery—we go through 10,000 bars a year!
Devices that attempt to startle deer with loud sounds, flashes of light, or blasts of water, however, are usually only short-lived solutions. They’ll fall for it a few times, but will eventually learn to ignore the distraction.
Large-scale perimeter fencing is an ideal solution for some homeowners, but it’s expensive and not permissible in all neighborhoods. It must be taller than typical fences, too. Deer are legendary jumpers, and a fence must be at least eight feet tall to keep them out.
A family dog can be one of the best deer deterrents you can find. Its barking will scare them off when they approach, and the scent it leaves around the yard will help repel them even when it’s not outside.
… And then there are those people who want none of these tactics—they enjoy watching the deer in their backyard! If you are happy to share your space with deer, you can make it more appealing to them by planting Apples, Crabapples, Plums, Oaks, Mountain Ash, and Eastern Arborvitae.
Love ’em or leave ’em, in many parts of the country deer are here to stay. Whichever approach you take, we hope that planting Trees is a part of your plan!