They are truly beautiful and a delight to observe, but the damage they can cause to the gardens at the cottage while you are busy at your city home make these darling Muskoka deer Public Enemy #1. Don’t be fooled by that docile “who me?” look as you pull up the drive on a Friday afternoon and catch a glimpse of mamma and her spotted fawn. This isn’t a Disney movie; Bambi wants dinner, your garden is a free buffet and he’s not making reservations.
Every spring when deer come out of their wintering areas, they come looking for young, tender grass or herbaceous greenery. You can bet your Muskoka cottage garden will be one of their first stops. Come summer, your garden offers gourmet delights aplenty; daylilies, hostas, impatiens and just about every green or blooming thing you value. And if you’re trying to grow a cottage veggie or herb garden, you can count on it that a four-legged connoisseur would love to nibble away at the choicest morsels long before you get to enjoy a single salad.
To save your beautiful garden from this treachery, you’ll need to wage war on these four-legged beauties. You need to tell them the “buck” stops here. We have a very high local deer population in this wonderful region, and they can easily devastate weeks of hard work and in a few short hours munch their way through all the money you invested in plants. Here are some tips for cultivating a garden that the deer will not want to eat.
Consider planting deer-resistant plants. Spring is the perfect time to get started. Plant them amongst the other plants you love to help deter the deer. The plants listed below (taken from the Plantskyyd website) can provide you with some ideas. Although not all are native to the Muskoka area, many will do well here.
Generally speaking, plants that have fuzzy leaves, intense fragrance, bitter taste or thorny texture will be less attractive to deer. Most ornamental grasses are also not palatable to deer as they “tickle” their tongue.
Maples, Honey Locust, Hawthorne, Oak, Birch, Ash, Douglas Fir, Bristlecone Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce, Austrian Pine, Mugo Pine, Canada Hemlock, Engelman Spruce
Barberry, Juniper, Lilac, Rugosa Rose, Mugo Pine, Potentilla, Rubber Rabbitbrush, Spirea, Red Osier Dogwood, Mock Orange, Fragrant Sumac, Common Buckthorn, Buffalo berry, Bridalwreath, Viburnum, Chokecherry, Currant, Elderberry, Gooseberry, Caragana
Vines, Bittersweet, Baltic Ivy, Clematis, Honeysuckle
Ornamental Grasses, Columbine, Astilbe, Tickseed, Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, Bleeding Heart, Campanula, Catmint, Purple Coneflower, Gaillardia, Gayfeather, Bluestem Joe-Pye-Weed, Cranesbill Geranium, Foxglove, Dianthus, Hellebore, Bugbane, Sunflower, Candytuft, Iris, Japanese Anemone, Lavender, Lupine, Monkshood, Pearly Everlasting, Penstemon, Peony, Poppy, Lungwort, Daffodil, Goldenrod, Speedwell, Yucca, Yarrow, Salvia, Russian Sage, Sedum, Shasta Daisy
Carpet Bugle, Lily of the Valley, Periwinkle, Pachysandra, Lamb’s Ears, Lamium, “Silver Brocade”, Artemisia, Snow in Summer, Thyme, Dead Nettle
Homemade Deer Repellant Spray
Another great way to go is to prepare a homemade spray to coat your plants with. It can be a more economical approach than changing the plants in your garden. Keep in mind that the spray must be reapplied frequently as plants grow or rain washes it away. Here is a home remedy found on-line:
- 3 large eggs, shells included
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 2 cups of fresh green onion tops
- 2 cups of water
Put everything into a blender and liquefy for 2 minutes. Add this mixture to a pail containing 2 quarts of warm water and melted deodorant soap such as “Dial”. Stir together, then add 2 tablespoons of chili powder or cayenne pepper and mix well. Splash, spray, drip or paint the mixture on the plants. Be sure to get egg shells on the leaves. When used every two weeks it is effective year-round. Save some of each batch to “ripen” the next batch. If making up this stinky remedy is not appealing, commercially-prepared repellants such as “Plantskydd” also work well.
Many experts recommend rotating your repellents and combining them with other tools or scare tactics such as a surprise burst of water, a loud noise or even a good old fashioned scarecrow.
Plan early so that in the summer, you can enjoy your Muskoka cottage gardens green and lush!