5 Smart Ways to Deer-Proof Your Garden

Each summer we get questions from exasperated gardeners asking, “What can I plant that the deer won’t eat?” It’s a complicated subject, since what works for one gardener might not work for another. However, there are a few smart garden strategies that you can try that may make your garden less attractive to deer.

Your first line of defense is always to make smart plant choices. Be aware of plants deer favor, and make sure you’re not stocking your garden with a buffet of their favorites! Armed with a little information, you may be able to plant your solution to the deer problem and discourage them naturally.

Deer tend to like plants that are smooth, tender, and flavorful. Plants such as arborvitae, tulips, hosta, daylilies, and roses are favorites. What they do not like are plants that are highly aromatic, prickly, thorny, fuzzy, or plants that contain a milky sap like milkweed. They also naturally avoid plants that are toxic such as foxglove, daffodils and poppies.

So, what types of plants are deer resistant? Some good shrub choices are: Holly, Barberry, Spirea, Boxwood, and Lilac. For the herb and vegetable garden try: onions, garlic, sage, tarragon, lavender, mint, and rosemary. Deer-resistant flowering plants include: Peony, Marigolds, Forget-me-not, Bee Balm, and Iris. Ornamental grasses in general are not a favorite of deer, but within that category try planting Blue Fescue, Golden Hakone grass, or a Black Mondo grass

As for that elusive deer-proof plant — there is no single plant that is guaranteed to be completely “deer proof!” As Dr. James Klett, Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Colorado State University states, “Deer — if they’re hungry enough — are going to eat anything. If there is a completely deer-resistant plant out there, I don’t know what it is.”

If you think in terms of which plants deer do and don’t prefer, you can begin to plan your garden with a bit more foresight and strategy. Since deer tend to be skittish about coming in close to a living area & would rather remain near the safety of the forest, try planting your deer-favorite plants (like tulips and roses) close to the house. Also, planting less-preferred plants in a protective ring around those that are more desirable can be an effective strategy.

Try planting confusing combinations of plants. “I was sure there were daylilies in there somewhere”, Bambi complains, “but all I could smell was garlic!

Another deer-repelling strategy you can try is to “foul the fringes” — that is, line the perimeter of your property with unpalatable plants. Strategically placed hedges or thorny shrubs can serve as a natural way to redirect the deer and discourage lingering to feed on more attractive plants nearer to your home. Clever!

Deer don’t go past anything they can’t see through or over. You can make that work in your favor. Use solid hedges of pungent junipers or form trellises with fragrant morning glories. If deer can’t see what’s inside, they’re less likely to take that leap of faith onto your property.

Try working with their favorite plants combined with their desire to stay near the safety of their forest home. Plant things they DO like well away from your garden. A feast of their favorite flowers (delphinium, phlox, hosta and pansy) may have them nibbling, then heading safely back into the forest. It can be your sacrificial garden. The idea is to leave them thinking, “Why brave the garden close to the house, when the good stuff is planted all the way out here?

Keep in mind that deer are like people, and what deters one won’t always deter another, but trying several of these strategies can help. With a little careful planning, and a few tricks here and there, it may be possible for your garden to coexist peacefully with these beautiful creatures!

Above and Beyond: Best Annuals for High-Altitude Gardening

Mountain gardeners know that everything is a little bit different up high: light level, flower colors, rate of growth, and additional challenges with overwintering all make mountain gardening an adventure. Selecting annuals that will tolerate cooler evening temperatures can help to extend that short gardening season and keep the color rolling all summer long. In order to choose wisely, it’s important to know which annuals are very-hardy, hardy, half-hardy, and tender.

You will also need to know your hardiness zone. Here at Echter’s, our lowest evening temps are between -20 and -10, which puts us in Zone 5. Evening temperatures from -30 to -20 are Zone 4, and if you are way, way up, you might be Zone 3 (-40 to -30).
Very-Hardy annuals are unfazed by early frosts and night temperatures of 25 degrees. These plants will continue to grow at the same rate in cool weather and they will flower on their normal schedule. These are the first annuals you will see out on the benches here at Echter’s. Very-hardy annual plants include:

• Alyssum
• Pansies
• Snapdragons
• Dusty Miller
• Ornamental Cabbage/Kalekale

Hardy annuals can take night temperatures of 28, but may experience slower growth and flowering. In the big picture, that’s not a problem— just a delay. Waiting a week or two to plant this group will prevent freezing and let them get started.

• Bacopa
• Calendula
• Carnation
• LobeliaLobelia_026
• Nemesia
• Osteospermum

Half-Hardy annuals

• Angelonia
• Calibrachoa
• California Poppy
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• Datura
• Dichondra
• Gazania
• Gerbera
• Gomphrena
• Lotus VineLotus_berthelotii_IMGP5869

• Pennisetum
• Petunia
• Regal geranium
• Sanvitalia
• Stock
• Strawflower
• Trifolium

Tender annuals essentially includes everything else you may find in the annuals house. In the Metro Denver area, tender annuals would be planted around Mother’s day. At higher elevation