Most food gardeners know there is no such thing as a deer-proof plant – if hungry enough, deer will eat anything – but over the years I’ve learned that certain veggies and herbs are less palatable.
My own 2000 square foot garden is now surrounded by an electric deer fence, but for almost 20 years, I relied on deer resistant edibles and simple plastic netting to protect my crops, with varied success. I learned early on which crops were highly deer resistant, which were occasionally deer resistant, and which were deer candy (peas and beans).
Deer Resistant Edibles
Through trial and much error, I discovered that generally deer won’t eat edibles that are smelly, strong-flavoured, prickly, toxic or hiding beneath the earth (roots & tubers). You can even pair these less palatable crops with deer candy veggies to (hopefully) deter the deer from grazing on your prized pole beans.
Related Post: How to Control Squash Bugs Organically
Smelly Edibles Deer Don’t Like
Deer do not like pungent smells, so make friends with aromatic edibles like garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, fennel, chives, and garlic chives. Fragrant herbs like mint (only grow in a pot!), dill, rosemary, chamomile, basil, and oregano are also less appetizing to deer.
Strong Flavoured Edibles Deer Don’t Like
Vegetables and herbs with strong tastes are not as tempting to deer as tender lettuce, chard and baby kale. Fawns that don’t know better may take an experimental bite, but typically deer won’t eat edibles like, parsley, thyme, sage, lemon balm, lavender, and cilantro so these are safe to grow in deer country.
Deer Avoid Prickly Vegetables
I certainly wouldn’t want to eat prickly or sharp leaves, and deer usually feel the same way, shunning plants like squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, globe artichokes and cardoon. That’s not to say that I haven’t seen the occasional bite out of my cucumber or squash fruits, but once the leaves are growing thick, the deer seem to pass them by. Another trick is to grow vining squash and cucumbers vertically on A-frame trellises. The shape of the trellis means most fruits will grow inside the ‘A’ of the structure, sheltering them from marauding deer.
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Toxic Vegetables That Deer Avoid
Deer are ruminants, which means they ferment food in their stomachs and can digest a very wide range of plants. Yet, there are still plants that are toxic to them. This list of deer resistant edibles includes rhubarb and members of the tomato family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants). That said, there have been numerous years that deer have devastated my newly planted tomato beds, nipping the tops off the young plants. However, generally deer will avoid these edibles, especially once the plants have reached a mature size. My rhubarb has never been touched by deer.
Related Post: Building Sturdy Tomato Cages
Roots & Tubers: Vegetables Deer Can’t Eat
Because of their subterranean location, root and tuberous crops are often protected from deer grazing. That said, deer do love to munch on the tops of root veggies like carrots, beets, radishes and potatoes, which can stunt their growth. I find that floating deer netting on top of mini hoops will exclude the deer and give your root veggies the time they need to mature.
More Info About Preventing Garden Pests:
- A Six-Step Approach to Organic Gardening Pest Control
- How to Use Beneficial Nematodes for Organic Pest Control in Your Garden
- Using Ladybugs for Organic Pest Control in the Home Garden
- Avoiding the Dreaded Iris Borer
To learn more about how to prevent garden pests, click here… Tips for preventing garden pests
How do you deal with deer in your vegetable garden? Leave a comment below and share your trials and tribulations.
This is a guest post by Niki Jabbour. Niki is the award-winning and best-selling author of Groundbreaking Food Gardens and The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award). She also makes up one-quarter of the team behind Savvy Gardening, the popular website with four organic gardeners from four geographic areas, representing four gardening zones. Each expert at Savvy Gardening has a unique knowledge base, a passionate voice, and a weighted opinion. Find out more about Niki at http://nikijabbour.com/
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