Skip to Content

How To Prevent Winter Deer Damage To Your Plants & Landscape

Searching for an effective way to prevent deer from damaging your plants and landscape this winter?

Deer can wreak havoc on trees, shrubs and flowerbeds at any point of the year. But in the winter, as food becomes more scarce, they can become especially problematic.

Since there is little in the way of fresh growth through winter, deer instead turn to chewing off bark, or munching on the foliage of bushes and perennials. Sometimes, all the way down to the ground!

Unfortunately, an attack on any plant or tree in the cold, harsh winter months can be deadly. With little opportunity to repair damage with new growth, they can easily freeze out completely as they sit dormant.

prevent winter deer damage
As winter settles in, it can be harder and harder for deer to find reliable food sources. When this happens, they often turn to landscape plants as an alternative.

The good news is that there are some pretty effective defenses for stopping winter deer attacks. But the key to success all lies in getting them in place early before damage can occur. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the best methods to keep deer out of your yard and away from your plants.

How To Prevent Wintertime Damage From Deer

Netting / Wrapping Plants

When it comes to protecting young trees, small bushes, or perennial plants in flowerbeds from deer, covering them with netting or burlap can be a huge weapon of defense.

For small saplings and bushes, use a fine mesh netting to cover the trunks, branches and stems. For best results, wrap several layers loosely around each plant. By layering, it makes it nearly impossible for deer to chew through and reach the plant.

netting to protect plants
Mesh netting is highly effective at keeping deer away from plants. When using, make sure it covers the plant high enough that deer can not eat over top of it.

At around $20 for 100’ x 7’ roll, netting is one of the most economical solutions around. It is easy to install, and can also be re-used year after year. Even better, it can be used in the summer to protect vegetable plants and fruit trees from bird and animal damage. Product link : Feitore Deer Fence Netting, 7′ x 100′

For large trees and bushes, use a few stakes on either side to support the netting. Wrap the netting loosely around the stakes to make it difficult for deer to reach the plants.

For flowerbeds and small shrubs, simply cover the area and zip tie to a small branch, or secure with a few small stakes.

Burlap – How To Prevent Winter Deer Damage

Burlap is an excellent choice for using to wrap larger trees or upright shrubs. Taller plants such as these can have their bark and foliage damaged from chewing and scraping.

burlap to wrap trees
Burlap is a great choice to wrap upright evergreens and larger trees. It can keep deer from going through the mesh to get at the foliage.

Unfortunately, mesh sometimes is not hard enough to deter the scraping of bark. In addition, the wispy foliage of evergreen shrubs such as Arborvitaes can still poke through the mesh, making it easy for deer to chew at will.

The key to wrapping with burlap is to take it high enough up the trunk high enough so that deer cannot reach any part of the plant.

Using Sprays To Deter Deer – How To Prevent Winter Deer Damage

Deterrent sprays (homemade or commercial options) are another option to protect trunks, branches and plant foliage. There are several natural substances that deer tend to avoid. Two of the best are egg-spray and hot pepper spray.

To make the egg spray, mix six fresh eggs with one gallon of water. Use a blender to completely incorporate the two ingredients together.

The spray can be applied with a pump sprayer to coat the branches and foliage of plants. Be sure to spray high enough (six to eight feet will work) to keep them from foraging the top of plants. Deer just do not like the smell or taste, and it usually will have them moving on.

Hot Pepper Spray

Homemade hot pepper spray is another well-known and effective deterrent for deer as well. The hot residue is usually more than enough to keep them away from nibbling more than just a few bites.

podcast banner ad
Listen In Below To This Week’s New Episode!

To make, use one cup of freshly blended hot peppers (habanero & cayenne are good options) along with 8 cups of water. Allow the mixture to sit for a few days to absorb the heat.

Next, strain the mixture and apply with a pump sprayer – just exactly like the egg wash. With hot pepper spray, always use both goggles and gloves when making and applying for personal protection. See : How To Make & Use Hot Pepper Spray

Commercial products often come with a spray nozzle in place. You simply hook to a hose and spray. It can be a quick solution to protect plants from deer and other pests. With all sprays, remember to re-apply after rain or snow to keep an effective barrier on foliage and branches.

Fencing – How To Prevent Winter Deer Damage

It goes without saying that the most effective deterrent of all for stopping deer is a fence. In fact, fencing is the only tried and true method to stop deer completely. But it certainly can be costly.

Unfortunately, to provide total protection, it has to be tall enough to keep them away from your plants. And that can sometimes be prohibitively expensive. Especially for large gardens or yards where deer can enter from many directions.

deer fencing
A fence is by far the most effective way to stop deer. But in order to work, it must be tall enough to keep them from jumping over!

Deer fencing needs to be a minimum of 8’ high for maximum effectiveness. Smaller fencing will keep some deer at bay, but with their ability to jump, the higher the better.

Deer fencing does not have to be permanent. It can be easily installed using large wood or metal stakes and secured with a few zip ties. It can also be re-used from year to year.

With that said, for small vegetable and flower gardens, a simple metal post and wire fence 5 to 6′ tall can be fairly protective. But the key is it has to be a small space. Deer do not like to jump into confined spaces. And if the space is small enough, a smaller fence will work.

Plant Smart From The Start – How To Prevent Winter Deer Damage

Last but not least, planting smart from the start is one of the best ways to keep winter deer damage to a minimum.

feeding deer - preventing winter deer damage
Although it may seem like a good alternative for deer, leaving feed out is a bad idea. Not only will it bring more deer to your property, it also brings them closer to the plants you are trying to protect.

In fact, planting deer-resistant varieties helps not only in the winter, but all year long! Ornamental grass varieties are a great example. Not only will deer ignore them, but they also help to hide plants that deer love in the summer as well.

When you do plant deer favorites, plant in areas close to the house, or that are easy to protect with a net or simple deer fence. Here is to protecting your plants this winter from deer damage!

This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, for gardeners. We publish two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. Sign up today to follow via email, or follow along on Facebook here : This Is My Garden. This article may contain affiliate links.