Help the deer are eating my tomato plants and other veggies

Chesapeake, VA

Anyone know of something that really works other than an 8' fence around my plants? I feel bad for the deer, but I also would like to have a few tomatoes to enjoy. They have eaten all the tomatoes off the plants and have succumbed to eating the branches as well. I have them staked; my in-laws next door have theirs caged, but the deer still manage to get their snouts between the slots. I've put every peice of lawn furniture, a scarecrow, wind chimes, and extra stuff in the garden and move it around every two nights. I am so frustrated--I have been in tears over this because my plants were about 3' tall and full of green tomatoes. The plants are now about 12 inches tall and look as if they may be dying. I haven't reaped one tomato yet. Oh, they also ate all my blue lake bush beans and cucumber plants.

I hate that the deer are losing their food supply and cover due to development, but even more I hate that I put a lot of hard work and sweat into my first veggie garden and they are reaping the benefit. My husband said he could solve the problem, but deer season doesn't start until October 1st and it's not permitted in this portion of the city. : /

Anyone have another recommendation for a product that will deter them or a way to inexpensively cordon off my tomatoes from them? Any ideas greatly appreciated.

Chesapeake, VA

I should have read the post below about the rabbits/squirrels I'm off to find some liquid fence. It's worth a shot!

Gregory, MI

I'm having the same problem with my garden.
Here's some Home remedies you could try, I'm having decent success with them - and I'm in the country where the buggers have plenty of other things to choose from for food!
They key is to switch up what your using every now and then - otherwise they get too used to something and then it isn't effective.

Chunks of soap in little mesh bags tied on the plants, supposedly they don't care for the smell - I'm using Dove right now, but also heard they don't care for Irish Spring. The effectiveness of the Dove has about worn out, they are eating the top off my small maple tree despite the bag of soap.

Cayenne Pepper - sprinkled on/around the plants - mostly for Bunnies, but I'm sure after one nibble the deer won't want to try the plants anymore either

Homemade repellent spray - smells nasty:
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 Tablespoon detergent
mix with 1 gallon water and put in a spray bottle - apply as needed.
It smells really really gross after it sets for a day or two in the hot garage in the bottle - apply in evening, it may burn the leaves if applied in direct sun. The detergent also helps remove insect pests.

I'm gathering a collection of recipes since I'm on a really really tight budget right now and have to use what I have on hand.

Sydney, Australia

What about a strong chillie spray....I am so sorry you upsetting for of luck with whatever you do.

Mays Landing, NJ(Zone 7a)

Be careful about spraying/sprinkling chillie/cayenne pepper on your plants. You won't be able to work around your plants without being really careful about not getting it on yourself. :(

One year I grew tall marigolds and interplanted them witht my tomatos. The deer ate them both. I had a flimsy wire fence around the garden that I barricated with everything I could round up to make it taller & wider. The deer got in anyway. In exasperation, I hung a KEEP OUT sign at the garden entry.

Since then, I've discovered liquid fence, but since I don't grow veggies anymore (don't cook either), I can't say how well it works for them. It's not cheap. Rotating your repellents also improves their effectivness. I had heard that certain strong smelling soap works so I designed a package for them that helps the soap smell longer so they work better. Here is the recipe for my stink bells posted on another thread:

Deer Repellent Stink Bells: I use 12 oz. plastic cups, Irish Spring soap bars cut in half. Some say Lifeboy works too. To assemble, put 1/2 soap bar in cup, slip nylon knee-hi over cup and tie tightly at the top. Hang cup upside down, tie to a stick or stake, deer nose high, with remaining knee-hi. The cup keeps the soap dry and the stocking keeps it from falling out. During the summer, I also spray the "tastiest" plants with Liquid Fence. In the winter, I use garlic clips.

Chesapeake, VA

Thanks for your suggestions . . . I have located the Liquid Fence, just couldn't get there today. I will tomorrow though.

For tonight, I just emptied a jar of cayenne on and around the tomato plants. I figure with only a few blossoms left and no fruit the cayenne will be long gone when I am ready to pick fruit if they bear any more since being hacked down.

Oh, and I like the bar soap idea and may rotate between that liquid fence and the other recipe. I'll let you know what happens.

Mooresville, NC(Zone 7b)

Don't think I'm a nut for saying this, but pee in your yard. Pee everywhere around your garden. Of course this is much easier if your a man. My husband started doing this and it sure got rid of our deer problem. You could also collect your urine and then spread it around. Hey its free and worth a try.

Mays Landing, NJ(Zone 7a)

Actually, her husband needs to pee all over the yard!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Someone from the USA said to me that you can send away for lion dung/manure and it keeps everything away, Im in Uk with a huge deer prob at the moment as 2 stag are ripping my garden to shreads to impress the ladies, or become top man as they say in deer speak, I can see in our climate of terrorists, not being allowed to ship in buckets of lion poo, and my husband refuses to drive miles to our nearet zoo, (thats his card marked and a few points removed from his marrage licence hehehe, I have tried hanging old CDs on string to swirl around in the breeze, no good, tried kids windmill toys, no good, tried to blast them with hosepipe, too fast, knocked on the windows as they come right up against my house, they looked, saw the door closed and carried on like I was trying to invite them in. so cant help, but will be watching this thread with my deer-stalker hat on just incase you come up with the goods, cant shoot them either, too much like a coward and the little bambies are all out just now, how would you like someone to shoot your daddy eh. good luck, OH electric low voltage fence meant to work,WEeNel.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Ha Ha WeeNel - I had the same experience. Knocked on the windows and shook my fist and they came right to the window with a mouthful of coneflower (which by the way are deer resistant) .. I wish I could entice the deer to eat a good rabbit stew....

My neighbor has a system where instead of a light coming on to frighten the deer as they approach her entranceway and trip an electronic 'eye' --a water sprinkler/hose system squirts them!!. After a month of surprise baths. ... the deer brought lawn umbrellas/chairs and sunscreen and then used her bars of hanging soap deterrent to wash up.

In NC - I have neighbors who say that unless the garden is reeeal small - the fence needs to be 10-12 feet.

All kidding aside, we have tried it all - soap, pee, etc. etc. the only thing that works is an outside dog or a strong deer spray - but that requires a certain amount of upkeep since the rains do impact it. I think perhaps if the job is manageable you could use the type of wire fencing that the snouts won't fit through.

If you are sucessful with anything - please post! Good Luck

This message was edited Jul 14, 2007 2:08 PM

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

the only sucess for me so far has been to throw that fine fleece over the veg at night, the deer seem to be unsure as to how deep the footing will be under it, but it is a fart to take off in the morning and redo it at night, but cabbage sprouts and cauli all seen to be ok as these were first to have this trial, I just lay a few stone on it to keep it in place and allow room for it to blow in the wind to help it ripple, the deer so far have looked, but left well alone, I will try next year to stitch some together to make larger covers as the size I can get aint wide/deep enough, worth a try, set up a frame around the bed and place it over, who knows, might be the cheepest way to date, so far the only plant in my garden they NEVER eat is Rhododendrons, yet they eat the azalias, gee little buggers, a friend who bread Rhodi's said it is the oil in the foliage they dont like, now if I could make that oil, I might be a milionare soon hehehe, will keep trying and let you know how it all goes with the fleece, my husband says it is like watching Yogi Bare and Mr Ranger when I try set thing up to outdo these buggers, me hiding behind the drapes and the deer peeking at the window to see if I am ready. ha ha ha. Good luck, WeeNel.

Mays Landing, NJ(Zone 7a)

I have also used the "scarecrows" as they are called. They are impulse sprinklers mounted on a housing with an motion detector. They do work really well but...1) thay ain't cheap, last time I bought a new one it was about $80, 2) They need to be connected by hose to a faucet, not good if your garden isn't close to one, 3) they only work when the water is on and the batteries are good.

They only use 2 cups water every time that are activcated, although it seems like 2 gallons when I'd forget to turn them off before walking in front of one. They will cover a distance of about 10 feet at whatever radius you set, but not good for a large garden. They will also be activated by anything blowing in the wind, low flying birds and the mailman. You cannot use them in cold weather, so have your winter deterent ready the day you put them away for the season or stand aside for the stampede for your garden!

Gregory, MI

I have heard peeing around the flowerbeds works (I wouldn't want pee in and around my veggies, seems a little unsanitary to me), my aunt sends my uncle out every night after dark to pee around her hostas - a deer delicacy. So far this summer, she has managed to keep her hostas!

See what was sleeping in my yard this morning - saw them just after 7 am . . .

Thumbnail by wildgardengirl
Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Oh how cute, these are the fawns, so lovable and funny with their little lankey legged walk and frolicking around, well now you understand why I have not been able to get rid of my bambies, the mums just bring the kids around and know I am a sucker for it all, kidding appart though, as far as I know, you can get a low volyage wire to place at a hight the deer will come into contact with and as it is just low voltage, they run like hell, dont know the cost, dont know who sells it and dont know if it is battery, wired to home electric or what, in fact, bet if you asked the deer, the would know all about it as they prob know who has it, thats why they are around your place, he he he soon as I find out anything, you will know all about it as I will be a millionare before these deer get a call from Santa. good luck, WeeNel.

Gregory, MI

WeeNell, they get used to low-voltage wire and figure out how to work around that too, the buggers. The low-voltage wire would be the same as what is used for fencing in cattle pastures I would assume - generally farmers use just one strand, which is set about waist high. I've seen deer jump over, or scootch under, such fences. Its pretty amusing to see them suddenly duck down at a dead run to get under. If they do run into them, they usually just keep on going forward. My neighbor uses a fine wire for his pasture, so that the deer just break thorugh it. If it is a heavier gauge wire though, well, we just won't discuss what could happen to the poor deer.

Despite those adorable children, and all their extended family hanging about in my yard (there's about 30 of them, at last count), my plants are doing pretty well. Only the one Maple seedling keeps getting tasted. Soap baggies, ground cayenne and the nasty milk/egg spray seem to be discouraging them. Either that or the alfalfa and clover in the hayfields is plentiful right now, so they just aren't bothering. :)

Zephyrhills, FL

I have a deer problem as well. Jerry Baker just came out with a new book on garden pests and claims to have a "fence" to keep the deer out. Just wondering if anyone had seen the book and what this "fence" is.

Londontowne, MD

I wish they would eat my Hostas and leave my tomatoes, strawberries, and beans alone!

Standish, MI

Moth balls hung in some type of mesh works for some types of animals but I don't know if they work on deer. I guess I would give it a try. The idea is to attach these mesh bags at the top of the stake. Again I'm not sure if it will work for deer but it may be worth a try.

I like the idea of putting your lawn furniture in the garden. It gives the deer a place to lounge while enjoying your tomatoes. Sorry about that I know you are frustrated but I couldn't help it.

I have also heard that some people use fabric softener dryer sheets on smaller rodents like mice, etc. Probably the deer would only eat these also.

WeeNel the lion manure would keep me away also.

This message was edited Jun 21, 2012 11:40 AM

Russell, KY(Zone 6b)

I use deer sticks and they work quite well-

Lewiston, ME(Zone 5a)

I use a spray-on product called "Repels-All". It's probably the vilest, nastiest smelling stuff I've ever worked with. It's made from dried animal blood, eggs, and garlic oil, so one can easily imagine just how foul the odor is. But, it's cheap and it works, and not just for deer. My problem is groundhogs. So far, they've left everything alone. On the downside, it needs to be reapplied after significant new growth, or at least monthly.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I have heard that lion dung is the best but to be honest, where do you buy that, I've been told you get it on line but as there are no lions wandering the country here, maybe you guy's have a supplier.
Let me know what really works as I've tried countles stuff to no avail, I just run out very early morning like a banshee and they move on, (very slowly) that are not scared of me, I actually think it's a game to them now, they just look at me and walk very slowly onto another area but, I do love it when they bring the little Bambi's to the house and I watch them jumping and chasing each other about, so cute for the first few weeks then after that their parents have told them what plants taste the best, Roses, Day Lilies etc, all the stuff you wish to admire in flower but they get chewed to little stumps. OH well we can always dream eh.

Good Luck, WeeNel.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Have any of ya tried white plastic bags tied all aroun the garden? Deer know how hi they can jump, you don' t build a deer fence up, you build it out and up like a row of bayonets set to repel. Deer are flight animals- I think WeeNel, you have definitely made them consider you as another deer instead of an enemy - tho fall when the rut starts and hormones rage will change all bets on deer thinkin

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Nothing scarier when "Bill" looks at you like you are "Barb" and gives a great big snort and shows you his rack!

Standish, MI

Blood Meal spread around the plants will repel both deer and rabbits. We use it around the outside of the garden and it has worked in keeping these critters out.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I think I'm going to try the bloodmeal. However next year I am going to fence my flower garden, no matter how unsightly it may be.
I would just love to be able to grow sunflowers, hollyhocks, and for that matter just to have my glad flowers last more than one day would be nice.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Bloodmeal, on the other hand can draw animals that like blood and will eat the dirt to get it- find a way to sprinkl just enough, or make a spot for the ones it will draw to head for spots away from the garden

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

If you have dogs (or neighbor's dogs that could get in your yard) I wouldn't use blood meal--it seems to be an irresistible attraction to them. All three dogs that I've ever owned have had zero interest in doing anything in the garden besides eat grass, but the second I put down organic fertilizer that has blood or bone meal they would go crazy and dig, try to eat the dirt, etc.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

I use & swear by LIQUID FENCE and have been using it for years. I started out with the small spray bottle just to try it, eventually went to the gallon-size, then found the concentrate much more economical. The concentrate will make 4-gallons. I mix one-gallon at a time in one of the old gallon jugs that I saved, then pour some into a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle. One bottle of concentrate lasts me at least a couple years (or more). Depending on how much of an area you spray it may last you more or less time.

You only need a very fine spray so refilling one spray bottle pretty much takes care of all my flower beds. The instructions say to use it once-a-week for 3 weeks then once-a-month to "train" the animals, however during the growing season I usually spray it once every week to week-and-a-half to make sure to get new growth and blooms. I also spray after a very heavy rain although a light rain won't wash it off.

You want the one for Deer & Rabbits (it will also keep other critters like chipmunks away).

You'll generally find the best prices at home center stores or the super-center grocery stores Meijer's. Nurseries tend to charge more. It's best to shop around and check prices. . .or you can buy it online from their website, but you'll pay shipping.

It's safe to use on vegetable crops like tomatoes (says so right on the container). When I first called them to ask about it years ago, they said it won't hurt you, but it's best to stop spraying about two weeks before harvesting to make sure there's no remaining smell or taste. Remember, deer and other animals have a much more highly developed sense of smell than we do (their lives depend on it) so they'll still smell it even though we won't. I love that it's safe and won't hurt the critters should they decide to try a "bite".

For those of you that think spending a few minutes spraying every week or two is a takes less time than weeding, fertilizing...or stressing over losing all the plants that you worked so hard on.

And, no, I don't work for the Liquid Fence company. It was recommended to me years ago by a lady in a local nursery.

Standish, MI

It's curious but we have not had any problems using the blood meal but that is not to say that you might not have trouble using it. We sprinkle a small quantity around the perimeter of the garden and have not had any returning varmints nor any other problem [SO FAR] . We have an over population of cats and dogs in our area but have not had trouble with them yet either.

I would guess if you use too much you would probably attract more animals to the area but with limited use you may not have trouble.

Hastings, MN

My daughter owns a hair salon and she saves the hair from cuts for me.
I have at least sixteen deer living in the woods behind my house and they
used to eat everything I loved in my yard. Now they don't go near anything
that has human hair within about 10 feet of it. It really works!!
She saves hair for a number of local gardeners that ask for it regularly.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I like that suggestion. It certainly is an "easy" answer. I cut my husbands hair at home . . . I'll try it next haircut.
Beats having him pee all over the yard, that just wasn't going to happen, LOL.

Ozone, AR(Zone 6a)

We used 2 strands of electric fencing around our garden. Worked great. One strand was about 18 inches above the ground, the other was about 3 feet. They got a pretty good wallup.

Niles, MI(Zone 5a)

Each year I extend the electric fence from the horse corral to also go around the garden, one layer of wire at 10 inches above the ground and the other 24 inches high, work like a charm. Stops everything, including my DH if he forgets!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Warminster, PA

Hello, I feel your pain. Deer definitely eat roses and tomatoes! The Japanese beetles were severe this summer, so I went to the fabric store, bought 9 yards of inexpensive dark green netting and covered the plants. Worked great!

Then, after the beetle barrage was done for the summer, last week, I took off all the netting....we could enjoy seeing the plants in all their glory. Last night, deer came and ate all the roses and buds and ate 1/2 of a huge 4" diameter green tomato.....AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The netting will go up AGAIN today......You can also use regular black bird netting from Home Depot, etc. Hope this helps, as it really will work. Joanie

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I gave up on roses years ago, at least unfenced roses. Every year I would get to see the first blooms and then all of sudden they would all just disappear and that would be it for the year. I like the electric fence idea, seems my daughter used that for her little corn patch she planted years' back.

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

For deer I put deer fencing around my toms. Deer also eat Sunflower leaves and heads.

Ontario, Canada

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Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

My daughter in CoSpgs works at a nursery - she uses these 'blood meal' things that are on wire sticks, places them around her ornamentals, herbs and veggies at her home. They have deer in town, a LOT.

There's also a motion sensing water sprinkler that might work.

as mentioned, i expect rotating defenses will be necessary.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Oh watch out for that motion sensor water squirter.
One day I'm walking through the back yard and one of the bugs that hangs out around your ears was buzzing me and I was cursing at it and waving my hand around my ear, when bam, that water device got me square in the ear. What a shock, I think it took out the bug though.

It does make for good stories. I remember looking out my window and seeing my daughter sending one of the neighborhood boys in the direction of the evil water device.

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