Asiatic lilies in mixed bouquetI can live with the adorable little deer eating my apple trees. Well, I can tolerate it because there’s not any practical way to protect the orchard, short of a ten-foot-high electric fence (not practical) — but when it comes to the flower garden, the deer had better keep off!

My pride and joy (and the result of a heck of a lot of digging and weeding) is a 40-foot mixed perennial garden bed. The deer seem to feel that this lovely garden is a buffet table, laid out for their browsing pleasure.

Asiatic lilies don’t stand a chance. Every year I get all excited to see my gorgeous exotic lilies budding up, and then comes a night when the deer tiptoe in and work their systematic way down the length of the border, eating off the top half of every single lily.

This year, even the delphineum plants have been thoroughly browsed, and the heuchera, and the lavatera. The deer have even been eating my daylilies, and I just gave up on growing hosta plants some years ago… It wouldn’t surprise me to go out some morning and find the prickly Scottish thistles eaten down to the ground.

It would break a gardener’s heart.

deer ate delphineum

You know those lists of garden plants that are supposed to be “deer resistant”?  Don’t believe a word of it!  If there are enough deer in an area, they’ll start to eat almost any plant they find.

Adventures with Deer Repellents

There’s no point in using one of the bad-tasting deer repellent products, because the deer have to actually eat the plant in order to know that it won’t taste good. So you’ve still lost the flowers…
Fortunately, there are options.

Now, if I weren’t too disorganized to get myself to the garden centre early in the growing season, and invest in a bottle of Plantskydd, my garden might survive. Because that stuff is one deer repellent that actually works. But you do have to actually have some Plantskydd on hand… and I always seem to be fresh out, when the deer come around.

My Fight Against Plant-Eating Deer

In the absence of Plantskydd, my methods seem to be a combination of:

(a) wishful thinking that maybe this year the deer will find something else to eat;

(b) fingers crossed for good luck, and

(c) desperate attempts to encourage my male dogs to piddle near (but not actually on) my prized flower garden.

The deer around here have gotten wise, though — in a landscape amply supplied with deer-hunting coyotes, Bambi is none too frightened of a few domestic dogs who are kept indoors at night!

(Speaking of coyotes, they say that coyote urine and fox urine can be an effective deer repellent. I just want to know how to get a fox to pee in a bottle, that’s all.)

I’ve been known to run out of the house at night in my rubber boots and dressing gown, waving my arms at the deer and shouting, “I eat venison, you know!” That works for, like, half an hour. The deer just wait for the crazy lady to go to bed. I haven’t asked the neighbours what their impressions are…

I’ve also been known to spray a particularly repulsive no-name highly scented air freshener at the edge of the flower bed. It did seem to keep the deer away, but the smell was so offensive to me that I couldn’t bear to go near the garden until we had a few heavy rain showers to dilute the odor!

So much for that plan…

I wrapped a battery-powered radio in weatherproof plastic and tuned it to an obnoxious talk radio station, and placed it in the garden. After two nights, the deer just tuned it out.

My amazingly life-like scarecrow also worked for about two nights, until the deer realized that this was just another cheap trick.

So, last week, in absolute desperation, I mixed up a batch of my grandmother’s rotten egg deer repellent. Do you know that recipe? It’s one of those hardy pioneer-woman type potions that makes your kitchen smell bad for hours, but it does seem to keep the deer away…

Homemade Deer Repellent with Eggs


Boil up a few garlic cloves in a cup of water, let it cool, take out the cloves (and throw them into the garden), and blend in a couple of eggs. Mix a cup of skim milk powder into this egg-garlic-water mixture, and stir to dissolve. Pour it into a gallon jug and top up with more water.

Now you’ve got to let the mixture sit in the sun for a day or so, to get really rancid. Pour some into a spray bottle — and I really must recommend using gloves, because you’ll never get the rotten-egg smell off your hands if you slop it onto yourself when pouring! — and spray it lightly onto your vulnerable garden plants.

You’ll be relieved to know that the rotten-egg smell goes away when the liquid dries — at least, humans can’t smell it any more. But the deer can still smell the repellent, and they don’t like it one bit!

Yes, it’s pretty horrible. If your garden is under attack by hordes of hungry deer, however, a half-hour or so of rotten egg smell is a small price to pay for saving the flowers you’ve poured your heart into nurturing and growing…

(So then you can cut them to make a nice bouquet. Life is all about the irony, isn’t it?)

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Bosephus

    This doesn’t work real well. The egg solidifies if you keep the bottle for more than one application, and clogs up the spray pickup tube and nozzle.

  2. Micah

    The best way to keep the Deer Off your Land is to have a Bowhunter to take care of it . Deer are very domestic now .and the ones who are doing it are the Does . i have people ask me to help out with the deer all the time but only in season and i use tags . More or less it’s going to be the Doe’s that i take because i use it for food no waste and i share the meat to .. well hope this was some info for everyone..

  3. domestika

    @Brenda, thanks! I’d forgotten all about this one – strong-scented deodorant soap (Irish Spring brand gets mentioned a lot ) does work well, but you may find (as we did) that the deer get used to it in about a week. I’m beginning to believe that the key is rotating through different methods every couple of days, to keep the deer guessing!

    @Gary, what a great name for a product! I’ll definitely try something called “This One Works”! My mother also recommends Plantskyd, and I don’t mind the odour of blood meal too much myself – my issue is that it attracts all the barn cats (not to mention foxes and coyotes and other predators) to the garden – and they do just as much damage with their digging as the deer do with their nibbling… “This One Works” sounds like its worth a try, however – and thanks for the tip on diluting it! With a couple of rural acres to protect, I’d probably go broke before I even got out of the store!! But still, to keep even just those precious Asiatic lilies safe, I think it would be okay to splurge!

  4. gary lubbes

    there is a topical product that does work called “this one works”. it must be reapplied after every rain or sprinkling, but if you have plants you really love, you will add it to your daily regenime.

    i have used it along with plantsykd in the past, but the dried blood order of plantskyd is quite repulsive.

    i would recommend “this one works” but go ahead and dilute it at 1 to 1 or you will go broke in the process. daily applications at 1 to1 1 dilution will do the trick.

  5. brenda

    I use a scented bar of soap inside a knee-high stocking. I just hang it it up. The deer hate the smell

  6. domestika

    Thanks, Olivia. All info is welcome, as we begin to head towards spring once more and the deer are starting to come out of the winter deer-yards in the deep woods…

    Just last night, I heard a dreadful ruckus of coyotes hunting in the woods across the road – for sure they were after a deer. Deer drive me nuts in the garden and orchard, but they are such beautiful animals… it’s bone-chilling to hear the coyotes in full pack howl, chasing a deer, and then that sudden total silence…

  7. Olivia

    If you want to see some more recipes and charts of deer resistant plants, check out my site. I am ading to it every day.

  8. domestika

    @kellypea, I wish your sister good luck with her beautiful Bambi beasts!

    @Chico, it couldn’t smell any worse than a chemical, could it? Seriously, though… My little spray bottle doesn’t hold the smell after washing it out, but I would think that it would depend how soon and how thoroughly you cleaned out your spra yer after use. I’ve never owned a backpack sprayer so couldn’t say for 100% sure one way or another, not from personal experience…

  9. Chico

    I have a solo backpack sprayer; you think the eggy concoction would make the sprayer smell bad forever and ever?

  10. kellypea

    I love the deer stories. My sister just moved to VA and is loving her deer. Of course, she hasn’t begun to slave in the yard yet, and isn’t into some of the very lovely flowers you’ve described here. I’ll pass on the recipe just in case!

  11. domestika

    Fresh cow manure might freak out a suburban deer, for sure! We’re in a dairy farming area and the deer hang out with the cows quite often, so not sure that would work for us… My garden has been safe from deer the past 3 days because a coyote killed a rabbit in the yard one night and left disgusting entrails all over the place. Talk about off-putting! My dogs are the only ones who think this is remotely cool… think I’m going to stick with the rotten egg spray, which seemed to be working well before The Night of Carnage.

  12. L. Shepard

    I hear cow manure, as a mulch repels them. Not horse manure, just cow manure. I think I read about it in I’m a city girl, so I haven’t put it to the test.

  13. domestika

    I swear, Neena, after the rotten-egg potion dries you really can’t smell a thing – just the pretty flowers!

  14. Neena

    I am having a deer issue at my house as well. All my research points to similar nasty egg concoctions but I have been afraid to try them – it seems like it would repel people, too. Maybe now I will give it a try. Thanks for the recipe.

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