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How To Prevent Deer From Damaging Plants In The Winter

Looking for a few effective methods to prevent deer from damaging your plants, shrubs, bushes and trees through the long winter months?

Although deer can dine on plants in the spring, summer and fall – it is in the wintertime that they become much more aggressive in attacking plants. The reason? There simply aren’t enough food sources to go around. Especially if you happen to live in an area where the deer population is out of control.

Since there is little in the way of fresh growth through winter, deer turn their hungry appetites elsewhere. That can include chewing the limbs and bark off of trees, or devouring the foliage of small bushes and perennial plants.

protect plants from deer
Deer will attack the plants they love any time of the year, but they become especially aggressive when the cold weather creates a shortage of food.

Unfortunately, if a plant is damaged in the winter, it can cause major long term health issues. In fact, quite often, it can be deadly. When a plant is dormant, it has zero ability to repair damage. And as winter’s fury lets loose, it can easily freeze or kill the plant off.

Short of installing an 8′ fence around your property, it can seem a daunting task to stop hungry deer. But the good news is there are a few defensive methods that are quite effective when it comes to stopping winter deer attacks.

How To Prevent Deer From Damaging Plants

More than anything else, the key to success for stopping winter deer damage is to get your defenses in place early! Waiting until winter arrives not only puts your plants at risk of an early attack, but it can also make it extremely difficult for you to work out in the elements.

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the best methods to employ to keep deer out of your yard – and how to put them in place before the damage begins!

Using Burlap To Protect Shrubs & Trees – How To Prevent Deer From Damaging Plants

If you have small trees or shrubs, they are a prime target for deer! The tender young bark and branches make for an easy snack. Especially for young deer looking for a quick meal. And that is exactly where burlap can save the day!

prevent deer damage - burlap
Burlap is one of the best coverings to protect tender trunks from deer damage. It is breathable, allowing both moisture and air through while keeping deer from getting at the bark.

Burlap is an excellent choice for using to wrap the bark on bushes and trees. Deer love to scrape and chew off the bark, and if the damage is severe enough, it can kill the tree or bush.

Burlap works well because it still allows the plant to breath, but makes getting at the bark or branch impossible for the deer. Unfortunately, plastic mesh covers are often not fine or hard enough to deter the scraping of bark.

In addition, the wispy foliage of evergreen shrubs such as Arborvitaes can still poke through mesh, making it easy for deer to chew at will. But a covering of burlap keeps everything out of sight, and out of a deer’s mouth.

When wrapping with burlap, the secret to success is to take it high enough up the trunk or bush so that deer cannot reach any part of the plant. If they can reach it, they will eat it! Look for burlap in rolls that can be wrapped or cut to size. Product Link : 15′ Burlap Rolls

Netting / Wrapping Smaller Plants – How To Prevent Deer From Damaging Plants

When it comes to protecting perennial plants in flowerbeds from deer, covering them with a fine-mesh netting is the best way to go.

For best results, wrap several layers loosely around each plant. By layering, it makes it nearly impossible for deer to chew through the mesh to reach the plant. At around $20 for 100’ x 7’ roll, netting is one of the most economical solutions around. Product Link : Fine Mesh Netting 100′ Roll

Poultry or fine mesh netting is excellent for wrapping loosely around plants. It also happens to be extremely inexpensive.

Even better, it is easy to install with simple zip ties and can be re-used year after year. That same mesh netting is also wonderful for using in the summer to protect vegetable plants and fruit trees from bird and animal damage.

If covering 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.

Homemade Egg / Hot Pepper Spray To Deter Deer – How To Prevent Deer From Damaging Plants

Homemade egg spray is another great option for protecting trunks, branches and plant foliage. There are several natural substances that deer tend to avoid, and two of the best just happen to be eggs and hot peppesr. When you combine the two, they make a surprisingly good deterrent!

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

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In a separate pan, place one cup of freshly blended hot peppers (habanero & cayenne are good options) along with 8 cups of water. Place on a stove and bring to medium heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for 3 minutes to incorporate into the water. Allow the mixture to cool.

When working with hot peppers or any hot pepper spray, always remember to use both goggles and gloves. They can be quite the skin and eye irritant if you don’t protect yourself. Next, strain the hot peppers away and add the hot pepper infused water to the egg mixture. You now have two gallons of deer repellent spray!

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 simply do not like the smell or taste, and it usually will have them moving on after a little nibble.

As with all sprays, remember to re-apply after a rain or snow event to keep an effective barrier on foliage and branches in place.

Fencing – How To Prevent Deer From Damaging Plants

If you simply are overrun with deer, fencing may be the only true option to keep from losing your plants. It goes without saying that the most effective deterrent of all for stopping deer is a fence. But it certainly can be costly.

Unfortunately, to provide total protection, a deer fence needs to be tall enough to keep them away from your plants. That type of fencing can often be prohibitively expensive. Especially for large gardens or yards where deer can enter from many directions.

A fence of 8′ or more is the only 100 percent effective way to keep deer out.

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. This can be quite effective and more cost effective for protecting small areas.

For a small vegetable or flower garden area, 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 compact enough, a smaller fence will work.

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

Finally, one of the biggest keys to success for preventing deer damage is to plant varieties that they simply don’t like.

liriope - best ornamental grasses
Liriope works well in the fight against deer. It is one plant that they simply don’t like to dine on.

Planting deer-resistant varieties helps not only in the winter, but all year round. 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. See: The Best Ornamental Grass Varieties To Plant For Easy Care & Big Interest!

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. It will go a long way in keeping deer damage – and you frustration levels down!

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