As majestic as deer are, they are a nuisance in the garden. Their voracious appetites from late fall to early spring will quickly damage and destroy a garden making it impossible to harvest. Although a deer-proof fence is the best insurance against deer damage, landscaping with deer-resistant plants is a more aesthetically pleasing alternative.
Why Deer Don’t Like Certain Plants
Deer eat a variety of vegetation including woody plants, grasses, fruits, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and garden vegetables. What they normally avoid are root vegetables (which require digging) and prickly vegetables such as cucumbers and squashes with hairy leaves. Certain plants, such as rhubarb, are toxic to deer. Sharply-odored cultivars like onions, garlic and fennel are not palatable to deer also. Similarly, strongly-scented marigolds and herbs can direct deer away from favored munching plants. Deer do not like plants that are prickly such as watermelon, squash, and cucumbers.
Vegetables to Plant
Most deer will bypass the following vegetables and herbs:
Some other moderately safe plants for deer-resistant gardens are:
Chard (safest in summer when the deer have other food choices)
Potatoes (reports of deer eating “toxic” potato leaves are becoming common)
For a complete list of vegetables and herbs that are deer-resistant, click here.
Bear in mind that when food sources are low, deer will “browse” on anything. Further, a large deer population can create competition for food, causing deer to eat many plants they normally wouldn’t. As an added measure, spraying your garden with a deer repellent will also help to keep them from browsing your garden.
Keep these vegetable and herb suggestions in mind when you are planting a garden that may be exposed to deer. This way, you can feel more secure knowing that your vegetables and herbs are not the main course for a browsing deer.