Deer eating my hostas, help!

irishdancersgram(SW Pa)September 23, 2009

I've never had this problem before but sure enough, the deer are snacking on my hostas....

Is there anything I can put on them or around them to keep the 4 legged friends away?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

a 10 foot fence.. or armed guards ...

or try the search function


    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 4:41PM
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plant plastic flowers.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 6:59PM
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If you can't fence, cover the plant beds with bird netting until frost. Right now there is less and less nature food for them to eat so they will be invading the gardens.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 7:23PM
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I live in zone 3b,northern MN. on a lake, in the woods. So I know about deer and the nuisance they can be.There are at least 10 plus deer living in a 2 mile area around me.
I have luck with a product called DEER OUT. SO far this season I have not had any deer munch on my hosta. I have only sprayed twice since spring.
I buy the product online. It smells minty so it is not obnoxious and it also lasts through rain. Give it a try.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:01PM
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dhaven(z5 IA)

Your main problem here isn't actually the damage the deer are doing this fall. The problem is that deer are creatures of habit, and if they are allowed to continue to treat your garden as a hosta buffet this year, you can bet that they will be back first thing next spring to nip off all those tender, tasty hosta shoots. So you definitely want to stop the munching this fall if possible.

Liquid Fence is very effective. You will need two applications about a week apart, and then it should last through the fall. It comes either in concentrate or premixed form, and the premixed bottle has it's own sprayer. The smell is horrendous for about 24 hours, then you won't notice it, but the deer definitely will. This is the most effective method for a larger garden.

You can also take a bottle of Tabasco sauce, pour it in a microwaveable bowl and microwave it on high for one minute twice (don't do it for 2 minutes, it may 'pop'), and let it cool to room temperature. Once it is cool, add an egg white, mix thoroughly, and spray or dab it on your hostas. Use a spray bottle or brush that you are willing to throw away afterwards, because unless you clean it immediately and really thoroughly, it will be permanently ruined. This mixture won't hurt the plants, and once it dries it's effective for 4-6 weeks, depending on the weather. The microwaving hyperactivates the capsicum in the Tabasco, making it very hot, and the egg white is used to make the pepper sauce stick to the plants. This will also keep the rabbits from nibbling. For a smaller garden, this is very effective and easy. If you want to try this on a larger garden, it is possible to buy quart and half gallon bottles of hot pepper sauce for a very reasonable price at most oriental food stores. Do the microwaving in small batches, then add as many egg whites as necessary for the amount of pepper sauce used.

Other deer deterrents include slivers of Irish Spring or any strongly scented soap scattered around the hostas. Use a vegetable peeler or a grater to get small pieces. Human or dog hair scattered in the area, wind chimes, Fortress deer repellant stakes, human or canine urine, and blood meal will also work. Most of these things are effective for a a couple of weeks up to about 6 months, then the deer acclimate and ignore them. Liquid Fence and the Tabasco mixture both work for years, with the deer never acclimating to either one.

An eight foot fence is the most effective deterrent, but it has to be rather sturdy and built with wire that does not allow the deer to put their heads through the mesh. A large, sincere dog, or a small, noisy, determined dog will also work well. The best, or at least the funniest, anti-deer system that I've heard of is someone who put in a motion sensor and a self aiming water cannon!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:13PM
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Dhaven, you are right, they are creatures of habit. But you don't need an 8ft fence. You just need an obstacle to change their browsing path. We have 4ft chicken wire fence along the property line. The deer don't jump fences unless they are being chased. They just walk around the fence through the neighbor's yards. At night I just stretch it across the driveways to close them off too.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:40PM
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tracyvine(6 NE Ohio)

We have deer that regularly travel through our yard. They used to leave it alone until I put in a new bed in the far portion of our yard. They took a liking to it last spring and decimated my lilies. I sprayed with Deer OFF and they left it alone from that point on through most of the summer and then came back in late August to snack on the echinaceas. I reapplied and they have since left the plants alone. I now treat the bed 2-3 times per season as a precaution/deterrent.

Deer OFF is available at home improvement stores. Mine was a large gallon sprayer that came pre mixed, the price was around $26. Very handy for the large garden I was spraying. I have heard wonderful stories of the home made mixtures but they will need to be reapplied after rains.

Our deer habitually have travel through our yard to visit a neighbor's yard that has a massive vegetable garden. A few weeks ago one came through with it's fawn. They both cleared a 3 1/2 foot fence plus higher shrubs to reach this garden. A simple leap and they were up and over without being at a run. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Keep in mind that this is a garden that the deer have been visting for years. Now this mother was showing her young where to graze. It is a problem that will continue if not deterred right away.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 12:03AM
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dhaven(z5 IA)

Woodthrush--Although your urban deer may not jump a 4 foot fence, the deer in my area have been casually leaping over 6 foot fences for years. I'm in a very agricultural area with lots of cattle fencing, so they are used to having to jump 4-5 foot fences on a daily basis. My 6 foot tall chain link kennel panels don't even slow them down. I've seen a 3 legged deer clear a 5 foot fence, and a mature adult can easily clear 7 feet. One of my shorter fence lines has an open 10 foot wide gate about 2/3 of the way down the line, and the deer never bother to use the gate, they prefer to jump the fence, which is 4 1/2 feet in that area. Deer that are wandering through a new area may avoid a 4 foot fence, but resident deer with well established routes will not.

I agree that deer that are being chased will jump a fence that's less than 8 feet. They will also make repeated attempts to jump through a fence that is 8 feet tall, usually to the detriment of the fence.

Tracyvine is right--a doe will show her fawns where the best browsing is to be found, and the fawns will add that location to their menu. It is important to try to stop this before your garden becomes an established dinner stop. Summer and fall damage is bad enough, but the amount of damage one hungry deer can do in the spring is truly appalling. And keep in mind that deer travel in herds, except for bucks during the rutting season.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 9:00AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

dhaven is right! Deer will easily jump fences even if they are high when they are made out of chicken wire or anything that allows them to see what is on the other side, but they won't jump a 6' solid fence that they can't see over/through.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 9:24AM
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Sure they can and will jump a fence, but not if they don't have to.
I am in the woods, no hunting allowed, deer population is our development is over 500. lol - and I'm sure, they can see all the hosta in my yard and smell the oriental lilies through the chicken wire fence. All I'm saying is you can break their browsing habit. Even Tracy is breaking the browsing habit by using the spray. They find nothing to eat in her yard so they move on.
Before we fenced, we'd have deer in the yard in the winter, that would stand on their hind legs to eat the tips of the lilacs and paw the snow to eat an entire holly or azalea bush right down to the ground.
Now, this guy, he doesn't jump the fence, he just knocks it down and walks right over it.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 10:02AM
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manyhosta(z4b MN)

My neighbors just erected a 7-foot wire fence on the back yard section of our property line (only), since there is a deer path through my garden to their yard. Their vegetable garden is surrounded by a 3.5 foot chicken wire fence that the deer ignore, lean over, and munch. This morning I watched a doe and her fawn grazing on the neighbors' veggies. When they had their fill of herbs and wanted to come into my yard to eat the coleus they walked up the neighbors' 5-foot timbered terrace, crossed my terrace garden, jumped down my 5-foot rock wall and waltzed into my yard. I'm pretty unconvinced that just interrupting their path is more than a detour.

I've had them come onto my front porch to eat sweet potato vine and petunias from pots. Oddly, they leave almost all of my hostas alone except for the lancifoliia in spring, which they eat like lettuce.

Fayemo, I just had to laugh when I read that "in the woods ... there are at least 10 plus deer living in a 2 mile area around me." I live about a mile and a half from Minneapolis and have counted more than 30 deer at one time in my suburban yard and neighboring lots (maybe an acre and a half area total) one day late last fall. Must have been a convention.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 10:25AM
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tracyvine(6 NE Ohio)

Pam, I'm thinking that a concrete wall wouldn't slow down that big boy too much. LOL! Did you end up finding any bear repellent for when you're out in the yard with him skulking about?

OP, The point made by all of us, use whichever methods work best for you to deter the deer and break their grazing habits in your gardens. There are a lot of good suggestions here. Personally, I can't convince hubby to put fencing around the yard so that isn't an option for me. The Deer Off works well, doesn't smell so good when it's wet but is odorless when dry so it is a good solution for me.

Break their habits and you will have happy plants for years to come. Be vigilant about reapplication if you choose to go this route. Do not run out and scare them off though, this time of year brings out some of the deers more aggressive traits.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 4:27PM
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irishdancersgram(SW Pa)

WOW, you all have great stories to tell...I sure wouldn't like to have that bear visiting my garden....

Thank you all for the great information...I did put old net curtains over some of the hostas until I'm able to get some Deer Gone....

I love to see the deer, just not having a picnic in my garden...

Thanks again.....

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 5:06PM
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gardengirl_nancy(Z5 Midwest)

What worked for us this year was "Melorganite", not sure if that's how it is spelled, but that is how it sounds. A friend told us about it and we tried it, it works great. We put it in flowerbeds and all around the many hostas we have. The deer left everything alone, this has worked better than anything we have ever tried. Believe me we have tried it all. It's a fertilizer, but works as a deer repellent, we'll use it again next year. We did spread it around 3-4 times this year. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 8:14PM
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hostamanfred(5 Ohio)

I tried Liquid fence. Beside the expense, there is one other problem. Everytime another half dozen hostas bite the dust, I would remember to spray. I tried Green Screen with similar results. For the last 3 years I was using cotton balls, saturated with cuyote urine in plastic film capsles, hanging from trees. This year it did not seem to make a difference. My own concoction, 1 tbsp each of ground red pepper, garlic powder, vinegar, Murphies Oil Soap, 1-2 eggs mixed in a blender, add 2 cups of human urine, add enough water to fill a 2 gal pressure sprayer. I know it works, because these creatures would find each and every leaf, which did not get hit by the spray. My DIL recommendet Irish Spring Soap. I cut up 10 cakes of soap and hung them from low tree branches, using nylon socks. Now she informed me I have to change the brand of soap every 3-4 weeks. I read in other places that deer will put up with most things, but they don't like surprises. I live on a corner lot bu a neighbor 2 years away, wtches them every day. He feels, they a skiddish. That let me to a little experiment.
On the back of my garage I have a motion controlled outdoor light, one sensor with 2 flood light bulbs. I took out on bulb, and replaced it with a screw in receptacle plug, connected a kitched extention cord, to supply power to a radio inside a plastic shopping bag, a strome light and and a string of 4-color streaming lights. I placed the string of lights in the grass. This area was now bordered by the garage to west, the drive way to the south a dense pricket hedge to the east, and the shed to the north. In the gap between the shed and the garage was the string with the lights. All was dark and peaceful. I secured a can of my favorite beer and retreated to the rear of the property. No more the 10 min later all hell broke lose, the radio blasting, strobe light and streaming lights blinking, and in the light beam near the shed recognized a doe, about 2 feet off the ground. I can't say how long she remained in this position. But moments later a heard a loud thump, as the animal plowed into an Amish built rocking bench by the shed. This was followed by a loud rustling sound during the next agonizing 5 seconds, as the poor creature was trying to find an opening in the hedge.
I recounted the events to my neighbor, who assured me, that the animal would not be back soon. Just as reminder I still play the radio day and night, supplemented by a timer controlled strobe light or insect light during the night. I have not seen a deer in my yard for about 6 weeks, and I am sure all the little fawns and the other does got the message "don't go there, this place is scary".

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 8:00PM
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