Farm Horizons, June 2012

Landscape plants for deer country

By Dave Schwartz, Certified crop advisor, Gold Country Seed

My wife and I live in the country in an area with a large deer population. It is not unusual to see a herd of 50 to 100 deer toward spring when they leave their wintering grounds. It’s not uncommon to find several deer in our yard in the evening feeding on our lawn, apple trees, or plants in our gardens.

We fence-in the vegetable garden with a 4-foot fence and this keeps most of the deer out. Five-foot tall tomato cages surround my young apple trees, when they are not being used during the summer months in the vegetable garden.

Someone told me recently about a motion camera that triggers a radio to begin playing as a means to keep deer away.

One other method to prevent feeding damage by deer is to plant landscape plants that deer normally avoid. The following list comes from an extension publication put out by the University of Wisconsin titled, “Plants Not Favored by Deer,” #A3727

As far as deciduous trees to plant in areas with high deer populations, the following are recommended: paper birch, river birch, green and white ash.

If you are thinking about planting evergreens, consider white fir (concolor), Norway spruce, Colorado spruce, red pine, and Norway pine. For shrubs, Japanese barberry, potentilla, and common lilac are recommended. If you are looking for spreading-type perennials, the old fashioned lily of the valley is a good choice.

It seems some plants are like candy to deer. My list of plants to be sure to avoid includes apple trees, white pine, and, in the garden; beets, peas, and broccoli. Deer will feed on these plants and pass up lush stands of alfalfa and clover.

If winter deals us an unusual amount of snow and ice, deer become desperate and may feed on plants they normally ignore. This is understandable. I have seen shrubs planted around farm homes, chewed down to the snow line in tough winters. If you live in deer country, I hope you find this information helpful. I would be interested in hearing from readers about other tried-and-proven methods that lessen damage to the yard and garden.

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