Northwestern Press

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORNThe eaten-away bottom portions are typical of deer damage to arborvitae. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORNThe eaten-away bottom portions are typical of deer damage to arborvitae.

Growing Green: Prevent deer from eating your trees, shrubs, flowers, garden

Friday, October 19, 2018 by LEHIGH COUNTY EXTENSION Special to The Press in Focus

The deer population in Pennsylvania is on the rise, and as land development increases, deer are frequently found in areas densely populated by humans.

Deer control is now one of the biggest challenges for home gardeners. Deer are North America’s largest garden pest and they can wreak havoc in the garden.

Deer feast on vegetable gardens, flowerbeds, shrubs and trees. They will graze on leaves, grass, bark, acorns, fruits, nuts, berries, lichens and fungi.

On average, a single deer can consume 5 to 10 pounds of plant material a day. They are efficient and clever at accessing food sources. Some of their favorites include apples, yews, rhododendrons, roses and hostas.

Deer tend to feed at night and usually remain awake until dawn. When confronted, deer will typically bolt if they sense danger. Yet, they can grow at ease with people, pets, and cars that appear as no threat.

Many gardeners resort to various methods to keep deer from decimating the garden. One effective way to keep deer from eating your harvest is to install a fence. Deer can sometimes leap over an eight-foot barrier, so non-electrified fences will need to be at least that high.

There are deer repellent sprays and granules on the market. The deer repellents available at most garden centers use natural ingredients that are offensive to the deer’s sense of smell and taste. They are often safe to use on shrubs and flowers when applied according to label instructions.

For food crops, be sure to select and purchase a product that is labeled safe for use on fruits and vegetables. Many products claim to not wash off after rainstorms. Rotate the use of the various repellents for maximum protection.

Highly-scented deer-resistant plants, including boxwood, rosemary and lemon thyme can be planted among plants that deer like.

Other deterrents include a homemade spray made of a beaten egg, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, dish soap and cooking oil mixed in water. The foliage of the plants must be sprayed every couple of weeks, and, if it rains, the substance must be reapplied.

There are plants that deer generally do not eat. Try planting annuals such as marigolds, sweet alyssum and salvia.

Perennials that deer tend not to eat include daffodils, hyacinths, columbine, ferns, yarrow, foxglove, lavender, peonies and iris. Tree and shrubs that deer usually avoid include bottlebrush buckeye, sweetshrub, Virginia sweetspire, Japanese kerria, and rugosa rose.

Almost all flower and vegetable plants can fall prey to deer. Whether or not a particular plant species will be eaten depends on the deer’s previous experience, nutritional needs, plant palatability, seasonal factors, weather conditions,and the availability of alternative foods.

Deer are creatures of habit and they have good memories and learn from each other. Their movement patterns and prior-foraging can predict where damage may occur.

By carefully planning your garden, selecting those plants least desirable to deer and the use of physical deterrents, you can enjoy your garden along with the deer that inhabit the area.

Spotted Lanternfly update: Adult spotted lanternflys (SLF) have emerged. Check the following Penn State website for information on what you can do to help stop the spread of this destructive pest:

For more information about SLF or to report finding SLF outside of the quarantined area, call Penn State Extension: 1-888-4BADFLY (1-888-422-3359).

“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.