Deer repellents that work

A product used on giraffes at Disneyworld and kangaroos in Australia is offering new hope to gardeners and Christmas tree growers in Canada. Deer find the tender new growth of evergreens and a wide range of plants in my garden irresistible. As a Master Gardener, I have quite a selection of prized perennials and shrubs. But lately my city garden has been plagued by an invasion of deer and rabbits that treat my collection of hostas, rhododendrons and roses like an exotic salad bar.

In desperation, I’ve tried everything from Irish Spring soap to decorating my trees with shiny CDs that are supposed to mimic the eyes of a predator at night. I’ve even sprayed select shrubs with coyote urine – coyotes being one of the deer’s natural predators. While this worked well against deer it did nothing to scare away the rabbits, and the frequent applications were a bit too messy and “holdyour- nose” smelly. You have to wonder about the collection process as well.

Most successful to date was my homemade spray of one part raw egg to 10 parts water. This has worked very well and didn’t even smell, but it only lasted about three weeks, or less if it rained a lot. This apparently works because deer and rabbits are herbivores and don’t like the taste of the protein in eggs.

But now a new, more effective deer repellent is available on the Canadian market. Made by Plantskydd, this easy-to-use spray is made from dried bloodmeal mixed with a vegetable binder that helps it stick to plants. It frightens away deer and rabbits by making them think a predator has been in the area because of its smell.

The makers claim that the smell is not offensive to humans, but I found it mildly objectionable. I used the spray on a sunny fall day and found that the initial unpleasant odour faded after about 10 minutes to something that reminded me of strong red wine vinegar. After 15 minutes the smell was
completely gone.

The liquid spray must be applied when temperatures are above freezing. And I would strongly suggest spraying only when there is no wind or you’ll end up smelling like a butcher. Two squirts of a fine mist on the leaves and stems of plants susceptible to browsing are sufficient. The makers claim the all-natural and environmentally friendly spray is effective up to six months, even in winter, and actually contributes to plant growth when used as a foliar spray.

The product was developed in Sweden to help the forest industry protect young trees from deer and moose. Widely used in the United States for the last 10 years, it has only recently been approved by the Canadian Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency for use in Canada’s tree farms and gardens.

I’m looking forward to a winter without the ravages of sharp-toothed rabbits and browsing deer in my garden. Bambi and Peter Cottontail are certainly cute to look at, but the cost of replacing my expensive plant collection called for action. Maybe now I’ll actually get to see some blooms on my prized native shrubs this spring

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