The Q&A Archives: Large garden, too many deer!

Question: I have just purchase a cottage, in the middle of farm land, with a two and a half acre garden. there are some plants but I would like add several more perennials and shrubs. My main concern is Deer! I love color. What suggestions do you have? Ginnie Kagan

Answer: Congratulations on your new cottage, it sounds lovely! Having lived in a similar deer prone rural area myself, I can tell you that deer are a true challenge.
It is nearly impossible to give you a reliable listing of plants that deer will or will not eat -- I have seen our own local deer eat many things listed as supposedly unattractive to deer. Unfortunately, these are adaptable animals and they will learn to eat new plants when there is a harsh winter or a food shortage or when new things are planted along their usual browse path. So a list from one area will not necessarily be applicable to another.

The best you can hope to do is check with local neighboring gardeners and find out what the local deer population already recognizes as edible, which plants they are having the best and worst luck with, and plant accordingly. (Your local county extension may also have some suggestions.) It is also worth mentioning that deer can do almost as much damage by trampling as by eating and since they are creatures of habit, if they already dine at your house they will continue to come onto your property to do so if at all possible. In my own sad experience, a tall fence is the only reliable long term defense against these creatures, especially in an area where the pressure is severe. Repellents may also be effective if consistently applied and reapplied according to the label instructions, but this is a lot of work if your plantings are extensive.

Having said all that, here are some lists.

Enjoy your new home and garden!

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