Gardening in Deer Country

This was my first ‘article’ written to be distributed at a ‘Ladies Night’ speech I was asked to do about gardening with deer, which is quite an issue around waterfront in Muskoka and Haliburton.

The topic was to be about ‘Deer Proofing’  but ‘proofing’ is practically impossible because deer are an inherent part of the ecosystems here that we have to live with.  Ah, the White-tailed deer.  Cute, doe-eyed, nibbling herds of destruction that love exotic and imported landscaping plants from southern suppliers for more than one reason: 1.  These nursery plants are well watered with well water from sedimentary bedrock, 2. because of the different soils they hold different nutrients ie. more calcium, so they’re like a vitamin booster,  3. the irrigated plants are, of course, more succulent, and 4. they just simply taste different.

This was one of my first public presentations representing BarK.  This presentation got us our first annual maintenance client fifteen years ago, and here’s why: I recommended during the speech that dogs and their urine are the best deer deterrent, but lacking one of those, the women of the house could just ask their men to pee around the yard a bit more.  So the next day, this client’s maintenance man phoned me up and said his wife told him that I was just ‘crazy enough’ to work with this client as her groundskeeper!

We have a much deeper understanding about these ungulates through experience in the field since this article was written/ compiled in 2003.  We wanted to pull from the book that was out at the time (Deer-Proofing Your Yard and Garden from the States) and make it fit Muskoka, listing the ‘deer proof’ plants that could possibly grow here.

It’s not a great compilation, and we have many more tricks up our sleeves at this point in our career, but it is a good primer to start with.   Here is a deer deterrent watering recipe we’ve used that was passed down to us by our Garden Mother and we’ve adapted it further with essential oils.  Good luck!

Botanigals Deer Deterrent Formula

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Ivory or Irish Spring soap
  • 1-2 cups of water 
  • (Optional)  Geranium and/ or Clary Sage essential oils

Blend together egg, water and soap flakes to emulsify.   Pour mixture into a container for the garden.

Whisk in essential oils.

Add the mix to watering can and then fill to agitate the mix.

Apply to susceptible areas of the garden and, if possible, to main deer pathways which access your yard.

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May the forest be with you.


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