During these long winters deer can damage home landscapes by feeding on garden and landscape plants. The urban environment can provide a natural refuge for deer. Deer have a tendency to gather in large numbers in the winter months in areas where there is shelter and a food supply. In this situation the home landscape can be a major food supply.
There are several options that can reduce this feeding damage. Growing plants that deer find unattractive is a start, but high numbers of deer that are stressed will eat almost any plant. Searching the Internet you will find many lists of plants that are claimed to be less popular with visiting deer.
The problem is that these lists may not be completely accurate for our area. Personal experience is good guide when selecting plants. For example Scotch pine is a conifer that is readily eaten by deer in our area, but is on some lists as a plant that is not preferred.
Mike Rose serves as North Dakota State University Extension Service agent for Ward County.
Deer repellents are advertised as a method to prevent deer browsing. A study conducted in Connecticut and published by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, tested six repellents. The results ranged from 15 percent to 46 percent effective. Testimonials from homeowners on a variety of home-brewed repellants have stressed success with their products. Once again personal experience is a guide. Use what works for you. If using a repellent it must be used regularly. The night that the repellent is not used could be the night the plant is damaged.
A variety of barriers can be used. If a deer fence is used around a garden it should be at least 7-1/2 feet high. Most local hardware stores sell a light deer netting. This netting can be used to wrap around trees or shrubs that are susceptible to deer.
Alarms or devices that make noise are not effective for protecting home landscapes.
Also, male deer damage young trees by rubbing and scraping against them during the fall mating season. This rubbing can tear off the bark of a tree and severely damage it. Plastic tubes on the trunk of tree can help protect it from deer in the fall and mice during the winter. An individual cage or fence may be the best way to protect the tree, all season long.