While fun to watch from a distance, deer and rodents are no friends of the garden. In fact, they can wreak havoc on your carefully tended plants and veggies. But there are natural (and safe) ways to deter them from coming into your garden in the first place.
We did a lot of research into what works best for deterring deer and rodents from our beloved plants. We don’t like using strong or dangerous chemicals, so we were happy to find some natural solutions that work just as well – even if they do smell horrible.
First, let’s talk about what deer and rodents actually eat in the garden. Deer will eat just about anything, but their favorite plants are usually broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons, hollies, and azaleas. They also love herbaceous perennials like hostas and daylilies. As for rodents, they’re mostly interested in seeds, fruits, and vegetables. But they will also gnaw on tree bark, garden hose, and just about anything else they can get their teeth on! (Yes, chipmunks and squirrels are considered rodents).
What kinds of repellents are there for deer and rodents?
There are two types of repellents available (odor and taste). Odor repellents are also known as “area repellents“, and they deter deer and rodents from your garden by using scents. Taste repellents (also known as “contact repellents“) work by using an offensive taste. The deer or rodent will take a bite of your plant, and the bad taste will deter them from eating any more. So, you may see a bit of chewing damage before the product begins to work.
There are also physical barriers you can put in place, like fences or netting. These are usually the most effective methods, but they can also be the most expensive and time-consuming.
If you’re heading to the store and looking for a good product for deterring deer, look for something with a high concentration of putrescent egg solids. This is the most effective ingredient for deterring deer (though it does smell terrible).
Let’s talk about some natural methods for deterring these critters from your garden!
Deterring Rodents and Deer From Your Garden (Naturally!)
1. Hot pepper powder
While we love hot pepper powder, it works as a great deterrent for a variety of animals in the garden (including rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and deer). We like to make our own spicy pepper powder by dehydrating the pods and grinding them ourselves. You can also buy a large bulk bag of powder from the store. The reason the hot pepper powder works is due to the capsaicin in hot peppers which is what makes them spicy. The easiest way to use powder is to simply sprinkle it around your garden beds. You can also make a spray by steeping the powder. Keep in mind you will need to reapply after heavy rains.
2. Human hair or dog fur
This may seem strange or gross, but the natural scent of humans and dogs can actually deter deer from coming into your garden. You can cut and sprinkle the hair/fur around the perimeter of your garden, or put it in small mesh bags or cheesecloth and hang them from trees or fence posts. Having a long-haired dog pays off! Another good idea is to mix the hair with bloodmeal, which is the next natural tip I’m going to discuss.
If you have an issue with rabbits, bloodmeal is a great natural deterrent. While typically used as a high-nitrogen fertilizer, it has a strong scent that is associated with predators. Deer and rabbits will avoid areas where they think predators have been. You can sprinkle bloodmeal around your garden beds and reapply after it rains. Keep it mind, the scent is very strong. I would advise you wear gloves! There are products that are derived from bloodmeal as well if you are looking for a spray-on option.
Rodents hate the smell of mint, making it a great natural option for keeping them out of your garden. You can grow mint in pots and place them around the perimeter of your garden, or make a mint spray by steeping mint leaves in water and spraying it around the garden. We like making a natural spray of rosemary and peppermint oil for mice around the perimeter of our home. Keep in mind that mint is very invasive, so think twice before planting it directly in your garden.
While there haven’t been many studies regarding the use of garlic in the garden to deter pests, many of our friends and family swear by it. You can either plant garlic cloves around the perimeter of your garden, or make a garlic spray by steeping cloves in water and spraying it on your plants. Be sure to reapply after rain.
Those are our favorite natural methods for deterring these critters in the garden. If you have any additional recommendations, leave a comment below and share the knowledge! It’s worth noting that some methods of deterring rodents and deer are not effective. Statues of predatory animals, shiny objects, and items that make noise may seem like a simple fix, but they simply don’t work. The animals just get used these items and find their way to your plants anyways! So save yourself the money and time and stick to other natural methods. Your plants will thank you!
𝐒𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐬:
Meyer, R. T., & Cox, J. A. (n.d.). Capsaicin as a tool for repelling southern flying squirrels from red-cockaded woodpecker cavities.
Baylis, S. M., Cassey, P., & Hauber, M. E. (n.d.). Capsaicin as a deterrent against introduced mammalian nest predators.
Conover, M. R., & Kania, G. S. (n.d.). EFFECTIVENESS OF HUMAN HAIR, BGR, AND A MIXTURE OF BLOOD MEAL AND PEPPERCORNS IN REDUCING DEER DAMAGE TO YOUNG APPLE TREES . University Of Nebraska.
Williams, S. C., & Short, M. R. (n.d.). Evaluation of eight repellents in deterring eastern cottontail herbivory in Connecticut. CORE.