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Oh, Deer! How Can I Prevent Deer Browse Damage?

Posted by: Nick DiBenedetto on November 1, 2019

There has been an explosion of white-tailed deer here in New England.  These beautiful creatures can be extraordinary pests in the winter.  There are certain plants that deer simply love to eat.  They are especially fond of yews, arborvitae, azaleas and rhododendrons, both large and small leafed as a food source.  If you have these plants in your landscape, you are or will likely be seeing browse damage. 

Protecting Plants From Deer Browse

There are two main ways to keep deer from feasting on their highly preferred ornamental plant material.  Barriers of various types are one way and repellents are a second option.

  • Barriers are physical hindrances that prevent the deer from gaining access to the plant material. Common materials used are burlap, netting, and fencing.  Burlap and netting are typically tied around individual shrubs or perhaps a hedgerow.  Fencing is usually installed around an area such a stand of fruit trees or a grove of susceptible shrubs.  It is almost always a temporary arrangement that is removed in spring once the danger of winter browsing has passed.  Keep in mind, deer can jump quite high and can also work their way under a fence.  So, a fence should be at least 8 feet high and it needs to be inspected regularly for integrity. 
  • Repellents are some type of chemical, natural or manmade, that serves to repel animals to reduce or eliminate feeding damage. Repellents function either as scent or taste deterrents.  Scent deterrents may or may not be noticeable to humans after they have dried.  Scent decanters of commercially available predator urine may also repel humans. 

Deer Resistant Plants

While deer can decimate an arborvitae hedge or leave nothing but bare sticks on your yews, there are some plants that deer will not eat.  This can be your best defense against these four-legged shrub pruners.  While changing over your entire landscape to deer resistant plants may not be economically feasible for you, a few strategic plant replacements could help salvage your home’s curb appeal.  Replacing your front foundation rhododendrons and azaleas with andromedas and boxwoods can be a simple fix to keeping deer damage to a minimum in the front of your home. 

If you don’t want to invest in replacing mature shrubs with young trees, consider inter-planting some naturally deer repellent plants.  These plants are usually very aromatic when crushed or stepped on.  This odor, while pleasant to most humans, is quite offensive to deer and can help keep them out of your plantings. Also try placing deer food away from your ornamentals to draw them away from the plants you want to protect.

Get More Info From The Pros!

Looking for more information on plant health care or just ready to let the professionals take over your plant and lawn care needs? The Grassmaster Plus team is ready and willing to answer any questions you have and can provide you a free quote on your lawn care services for the season. Contact our local office today!