October 04, 2022
Columns | Kendall County Now

Down the Garden Path: Guest columnist series--Coming to peace with deer in your yard

Some gardeners have dealt with deer in their yards enough, so chance sightings are no longer welcome ones. The sight of light brown fur is cause for alarm, knowing that hosta beds are now under threat. Yes, there are repelling sprays that work, assuming you can stomach the smell applying them, and you could always build a fence if you don’t mind the look of living in an impound lot. There is, however, a third option, to plan a garden with deer in mind.

Executing this strategy is more that just selecting plants from one of the many “deer proof” plant lists. Instead, incorporate numerous elements into your yard to make deer damage tolerable. The plant lists are a bit deceiving, as very few plants are truly deer proof. If hungry enough, deer will eat almost any plant. These plants are those that deer don’t favor and tend to tolerate being munched on.

By adjusting your expectations and favoring plants with attractive foliage over abundant flowers, you are more likely to be satisfied. Creating a mixture of these plants will encourage deer not to stay in one place too long and rather graze through, spreading the damage and minimizing the impact. Your plant choices do not need to be limited to those on plant lists. Deer seem to have some local tastes, as well, so look at yards in the area, noting what plants do not show much damage.

More structural changes to the yard can further discourage and distract deer. First, note any pathways they tend to favor and steer clear of many plantings in that area. Hardscaping can help by acting as an obstacle for deer and as an aesthetic element to distract the eye from damage in particular areas.

Also, fencing need not look unattractive. Many trellises, obelisks and other yard art can be effective in blocking plants from deer or making the area difficult to walk in. Living obstacles also are an option. Creating barriers with thorny hedges or thick, woody plantings can encourage deer to travel in a different direction.

We all have an image of our ideal yard, but as always, nature has its own plan. Coming to terms with deer early means putting a strategy in place to deliver enjoyable results with less stress and fussing. In time, you might appreciate the beauty of deer in your yard ... as they walk by on their way to someone else’s.

• Have questions for the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners? You can call, email, or visit during the growing season. Learn more about connecting with the Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk at go.illinois.edu/HelpDeskMGdkk, or call or visit during office hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823 or at 7775-B, Route 47, Yorkville.