woke up to find the deer ate my plants - what to do?

tinarb(z8 OR)June 8, 2008

I've never had deer in my yard here, but judging by the tracks and how they ate the tops off every single one of my tomato plants save one, it sure seems like they are the culprit. We've had an awful, cold spring, so my plants were already not taking off. (They were grown by a friend, though, and she got them to a beautiful start, and some had blossoms). Now the top of the stem is gone, as are the blossoms - they've lost about half of their growth. It's June 8 and we have a short growing season here. Besides deer-proofing with fencing, what do I do? Hope the tomatoes come back enough to produce? Or go to a nursery and buy bigger plants to replace them? Leaning towards the latter, as this is the first year I've been able to garden in the ground (finally, no containers) and after fighting blackberries for two years, I really just want to have some homegrown veggies beyond a handful. Sniff.

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anney(Georgia 8)

If they don't come back for a second meal and your plants are indeterminates, they will continue to grow from side-shoots and produce.

As for the deer, I haven't had that problem YET, but my garden area is a cleared space with woods all around, so it could happen.

The link below has a serious discussion about keeping deer out of the garden with some innovative solutions that posters say have worked for them. Maybe you'll find a solution that works for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fencing the garden

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 11:00AM
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I've lost 40 wonderful plants due to deer, I feel the pain. Try deer repelant, hot pepper, garlic spray or/and hang soap around. I'm also trying bloodmeal to deter them. They will come back to finish because they are creatures of habit.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 5:31PM
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yes now that you have that garden spot ready it is time to fence, it is such a good investment of time and (unfortunately) money, out of all the things i have done for the veggy gardens fencing them has given me the most produce. many animals can destroy months of work in minutes. the minimum i use is 24 inches of 1" mesh chicken wire (for ducklings,rabbits, dogs,toddlers) and 5 to 6 ft of fish net above that. the net will keep out the deer around here but deer in some areas will push their way through light stock fencing, not much will eat tomatoes so i doubt it will go on their favourite list, summer isn't even here yet,the tomatoes will probably make a comeback, if you can still buy nice seedlings you may want to hedge your chances. I don't like deer in my garden but i sure like them in a black bean sauce.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 9:25PM
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~~~ I don't like deer in my garden but i sure like them in a black bean sauce. ~~~

Never tried that but the loins kept whole, cut in 6" lengths, rubbed with olive oil and stone ground mustard, not over cooked on the grill.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 9:50PM
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timmy1(6a ri)

Saute some onions, green peppers, butter and brown sugar in a large skillet. Then, add the loins...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 10:00PM
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A nice blackberry or raspberry sauce w/ a backstrap 'roast' (quicker cookin' the better, very hot oven)......Tasty..

You're zone 8? You must be on the west side, never have had a problem w/ blacktails (we call them suitcase deer), or mule deer on the otherside........Now, tulips, mule deer would run 5 miles and ford two ragin' rivers to get to...sheesh....The house we bought here has about 150-200 (rough guess) tulips in one area.......never so much as a hoof print....

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 11:14PM
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It was when I lost tomatoes, peppers, squash, the whole garden to deer that the deer fence went in. I've tried all kinds of repellants but once they've developed a taste for veggies, nothing deters them.
This morning I noted that they had browsed back the wild hemlock up by the mail box It's poisonous but I don't think that will stop them. They've cut a path around the fence on the outside and are circling the property looking for a break in the fence.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 9:09AM
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danincv(z9 CA Mtry Bay)

I use a temporary electric fence with fiberglass 42" tall "step in" posts and 2 rows of 1/2" poly tape. It takes about a half hour every year to set up and keeps the deer out. They could easily jump the fence but don't because the would be landing on tomato cages, trellises of various kinds and bean pole netting- deer jump fences but are careful about where they land.

My biggest problem this year is gophers. Previous 4 years in this spot the gophers never really bothered tomato plants- this year they pulled down 7 plants. This weekend I just got through digging up 30 plants (have been in the ground 4 weeks), putting in hardware cloth gopher baskets and replanting. Hope they all make it. Next year raised beds with wire under the frames. Little blighters (not my first choice of words but this is a family forum.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 11:06AM
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They got my watermelons last night, plus the leaves on two young apple trees and a peach tree. Stripped them up as high as they could reach. I have my tomatoes and other vegetables inside a high fence but didn't have room for the watermelons. They are nuisance around here there are so many. In season you are allowed two a day here in Southeast Alabama. Hunters can take two does or a buck and a doe per day of deer season, November to the end of January. Farmers are allowed special permits out of season to try and protect crops. We've not had rain for better than a month now and I suspect that's affecting their browse. The fall is usually when they try and raid my garden.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 7:39AM
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wvtomatoman(z6 WV)

The first thing you have to do is find a way to keep them from doing more damage. They will be back. Some deterrents work sometimes for some deer. One person I know uses gasoline on a rag on each of the 4 corners of his garden. Of course he has to apply the gas every day and gas is getting expensive so even a small amount like that can get pricey. Another person that lives 10 miles away tried the same tactic and it didn't work. See what I mean about deterrents? The bottom line is it is a dice roll. If nothing else deer netting around cages or deer netting drapped over the stakes if you steak might be a good temporary solution.

Depending on how badly damaged the plants are (how much was removed) and how big they were when damaged will go a long way in deciding whether to replace or not. Good strong healthy plants will grow back, but they will be slowed in their development.

As you say fencing is probably your best solution, but you need time to determine the type you want to use.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 4:26PM
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I am using a single stran, baited electric wire 30 inches off the ground for the first time and it has worked, so far.

If you google: electric wire, deer and peanut butter, you will get explanations.

The wire does not enclose your garden but it attractes deer with peanut butter baited strips of alum. foil
giving them a shock.

The equiptment is available at most Farm and Home stores.
It is an electric fence system designed to fence cattle and horses.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 5:10PM
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Since I've moved the gardens closer to the house inside of motion detector light coverage, other than a few squash blossoms last yr. the night time culprits have left the veggies alone. If I see them in the lights they are always moving on rather than staying to eat.

Might try that. They have solar powered, motion sensored spotlights now so you wouldn't even have to run any wire if not convenient.

Deer aren't very fond of dogs if you needed an excuse.

If you're having deer troubles, you'll likely have squirrel troubles too. A lead injection and a frying pan is the only thing I've found that actually works on them.

Its miserable to think of your work and hopes they ruined in just a couple nights.

Hope you are able to salvage your season.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 5:31PM
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drtomato(5 Ortonville MI)

I like to use a .50 cal with 100 grains of black powder. Usually takes them right off their feet.
Woke up to this Sunday morning. Click on link below.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 11:43AM
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