Multi-deer-mentional and Bambi-dextrous (not tonight deer)

It’s the animals with healthy diets that create problems for me. The ones that eat vegetation. As people we are told to have a healthy diet we should eat more plants. For some animals that’s all they eat, and our yards are one big delicious buffet. It’s the healthy vegetarians that drive me crazy…Deer, Rabbits, Woodchucks. Even the possums are a problem with their healthy diet choices as they munch on my grapes and terrorize my neighbor’s protein rich chickens. I live on the lakeshore and the animals with junk food trashy diets don’t cause me much trouble. The seagulls love French fries though their food of choice is Doritos. The raccoon’s entrée of choice is the garbage can and the skunks stick to lawn insects like grubs.

Lately it seems the deer are numerous, emboldened and less picky about where and when they dine. It seems where ever you live now more than ever. Their only natural predators seem to be cars, trucks and November. When I bought my house on the lakeshore I heard about the deer pressure and “gangs” of incorrigible “Bambi-tarians.” When I saw them eating stringy tasteless tough Yucca plants I learned what my neighbors were talking about. No longer satisfied with just Tulips or Hosta, the deer have become “Bambi-dextrous.” Their taste buds now “multi-deer-mentional.” The deer have become a cause celebre in my neighborhood and seem to have the upper hand. In my neighborhood have that look in their eyes like, “what’s your problem” when you get close.

Oh deer! You better be looking over your shoulder!

The tough part is not incorporating resistant plants. You can find them. I have had some success coexisting with deer using “deer resistant” plants. Not tonight deer. The tough part is accepting the fact that “deer resistance” is relative. Just because it is labeled deer resistant means it is not a deer’s favorite food and DOES NOT MEAN IT IS DEER PROOF. The tough part is you may have to abstain from certain cherished plants like tulips that deer and other herbivores simply find irresistible. With the European blood running through my veins I find it hard to kick my tulip habit so I resort to spraying repellents from the time they pop their head out of the ground until they have completed blooming.

So removing deer candy like tulips, hosta, daylily, arborvitae, tomatoes and roses may be necessary where you live. Yes I said tomatoes. The deer eat mine to the ground only to have them recover and be eaten to a nub again a month later. Where I live I have come to realize that truly the only way we can co-exist is a physical deterrent as in a tall fence making my growing area look like a Beverly Hills gated compound.

Whenever you can afford them buy big plants. Deer and rabbits prefer small plants with tender growth compared to larger plants with fibrous growth. Larger plants recover better also from browsing.

I also use a variety of repellents. Mix it up on them. And even though I don’t have scientific evidence I have personally found using Milorganite fertilizer (Milwaukee sewage) to make my lawn and plants happy and provide some sensitive deterrence to four-legged foragers.

If it helps at all here are a few of the deer “resistant” plants (see disclaimer note above) that I have had great success with in my yard (In no particular order but by the seat of my plants off the top of my head…….

  • Ornamental grasses
  • Opuntia
  • Hellebores
  • Narcissus
  • Alliums and Ornamental Chives
  • Nepeta
  • Agastache
  • Lavender
  • Spruce (Bird’s Nest Spruce as an example)
  • Lambs Ear
  • Echinacea
  • Baptisia
  • Lamium
  • Buddleia
  • Viburnum
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Gomphrena
  • Pulmonaria
  • Russian Sage
  • Iris
  • Witch Hazel
  • Climbing Hydrangea
  • Boxwood
  • Carex
  • Sedums
  • Ferns


The lengths to which people will go to coexist with deer can get rather humorous. When you are willing to live with hair stuffed pantyhose hanging around the yard enhanced with soap shavings from a cheese grater you’re engaged in some rather serious deer diplomacy. Aluminum pie pans strung on wires and sweaty clothing strewn on shrubbery is enough to give your neighbors concern. When you take it to the strobe light and loud music with motion activated sprinklers level you are apt to have the police knock on your door. Predator urine, blood meal, rotten eggs and open wet bags of Milorganite, an organic sewage fertilizer from Milwaukee, with a dash of garlic and red pepper might work for a while but you’ve surrendered your surroundings to the beast. The pantyhose thing is just a little too kinky for the average neighborhood. Maybe I’ll just stick some pink flamingos in the lawn and go inside. I’ll deal with it another day. Not tonight deer, I’ve got a headache.

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