Beyond the fact that doing this blog thing actually takes some work (work which I have not had time for the last few days) this topic is a big one. I'm finding it hard to put all the information I have into one semi-normal sized blog post.
If you've been following along, we are up to #2 on our top 5 gardening questions list. Why do the deer eat everything in my yard and leave my neighbors yard alone? Ahhh... the glories of living in the Northeast. It's kind of like "if you build it, they will come" a la Field of Dreams. Your yard looks like an all you can eat buffet, and the deer are really, really hungry. Understanding deer feeding habits does shed some light on the situation. Deer will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough. Even plants sold as "Deer Resistant" are at risk, unless they are poisonous. Deer tend to take a bite of a plant they like, then take a step, take another bite, and keep moving on in a set path every day. They rarely defoliate a plant all at once, but over the course of a week or two can really destroy one or your whole garden. They are creatures of habit, and only change their feeding path once a year. Unless you get in there and make things unpalatable to them, then they will move on (to your neighbor, perhaps?)
Short of putting up a seven foot high fence around your entire property, which doesn't always keep them out anyway, there are several easy steps you can take to reduce deer damage in your yard. Using all three is the most effective way, doing just one is probably not enough.
1) Repel, repel, repel
3)Don't plant deer candy
Okay one, repellants do work, and I mean certain repellants aka really smelly ones. Deer do not like things that smell really strong. Here is the trick to using them however, you have to change it up, and follow the reapplication directions. If you use the same repellant for the entire season, they'll get used to it and start to ignore it. So buy 2 or 3 different repellants at the beginning of the season and switch off. You can also add things like hot sauce to the repellants for a little more kick!
I've been using companion planting for a couple of years with a lot of success. Although Hydrangea macrophylla (the big beautiful hydrangeas that everyone envies) do appear on some deer proof lists, I can tell you from personal experience that they are not. I underplant them with lavender, and catmint (not catnip, different plant) and voila! No more deer browsing at all, the deer walk right past them, and eat other plants that I haven't protected. Hey, I'm not perfect, just because I know how to get it done doesn't mean I actually get it done all of the time. Because deer do not like strong smells, underplanting with any herbs, culinary or otherwise will be a deterrent. Even if you are in a heavily infested area the combination of companion planting and repellants should make a big difference.
The most important thing however, is do not put in plants that attract deer to your garden. Some of the most common suburban landscape plants give deer the message that you actually want them to stop in for a bite. Hostas, sorry, I know you've got shade, but this one is out. Also on the list are tulips, arborvitae, euonymous, hybrid tea roses, and yew. Better yet, plant things that they do not eat foxglove, lamb's ear, hellebores, vinca, viburnums, and many more. Pictured below is Agastache or perennial hyssop, favorite of butterflies, but detested by deer.