Deer Repellent (Deer Away, Tree Guard) – One Gardener’s Experiences and Evaluation

Deer can cause a LOT of damage to a landscape in winter. With their normal green food gone, your shrubbery and pansies look pretty inviting to deer….even when it is close to the house.

I have no magic bullet repellent to recommend, but a local gardener contacted me to extol the virtues of the repellents she was using.

Here are her comments, trials and results:

September 25
I’m sure you are familiar with these products already, but I have only been using them for a short time and I am delighted with them. They are 100% effective and last for three or four months. Both of them are quite reasonably priced. Deer Away deposits an odor that the deer don’t like and Tree Guard deposits a dreadful taste. It is the only thing (except a chicken wire fence over the sides and tops of my azaleas) that has discouraged them from dining in my yard.

I’ve been using the DeerAway for about four years. I get the kind that you mix yourself, although they have it ready to spray. I tried the TreeGuard on the recommendation of the company about two years ago and will not ever use anything else. It does not require saturation spraying although I am generous with it (just in case). I spray either in October or early November, depending on when I find deer tracks. The protection lasts for three or four months. Along about February or March, I begin watching for nibbles and as soon as I see some, I spray again. It is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

If there is new growth (as in roses or springtime azaleas), the deer will get the new leaves. I don’t do a good job of policing my dogwoods and roses (I lost one whole crop of roses blooming because the deer got the buds), but if I am conscientious in spraying new growth, I have no problems. I got some of the TreeGuard on my hand early this summer and somehow managed to get a finger in my mouth later that day. The taste lingered for a long time and that was just with my tongue grazing my finger (nasty taste). It was also after having undoubtedly washed my hands (with soap) half a dozen times. Neither of the products is poisonous.

The company I get my deer repellent from is Forestry Suppliers in Jackson, Mississippi. According to the people there, the product was developed by Weyerhauser to protect their forests out west. The elk, moose, and deer would browse through their newly planted evergreens and nip the terminal bud which made the seedling useless for lumber. The last gallon of Tree Guard that I bought was about $35.00 and the Deer Away was about the same.

Oct 02
Seven of the scoundrels were in my yard this morning (my all time record was thirteen). I have a little over five acres and my azaleas cover maybe a half acre of that. My son tells me that I am just providing dessert for all the deer in the county.

I sprayed the TreeGuard on my azaleas, camellias, and dogwoods today. I discovered that the deer had already been snacking on some of the azalea leaves. I’ve noticed that in the fall they seem to “pick” leaves from the same plant or shrub until it is bare. In the
spring they tend to nip the new growth buds. (I use the liquid DeerAway in the spring because of the new growth.) I have an evil grin on my face thinking about how surprised the deer will be when they chomp down on the azalea leaves.

02 November
Deer wander through the yard morning and afternoon. There seem to be several shifts operating. I haven’t seen more than three in a group, but I know there are more than that. The reason I know is that I have found twigs from azaleas and dogwoods that have been bitten off and spit out. Assuming these dunderheads have average intelligence for deer, one bite of a sprayed shrub is enough to convince them not to taste again. (The spray has a marker scent to remind them that sampling the leaves is not a smooth move.) I am thinking that some new ones come through regularly and haven’t learned their lesson.

Before I got around to spraying, the deer had stripped leaves on a few of the higher growth on the azaleas. That has come to a screeching halt. The fact that I have found a few twigs (about five or six) tells me that the spray is doing its job. I have between a half acre and three quarters of an acre in one bed and three other small beds closer to the house. Some of the bushes are taller than I am, so these predators can dine in comfort if I don’t spray.

17 November
Deer evidently are still taking off a leaf now and then; it’s hard to tell with the dry, cold weather. I have seen only one twig bitten off in the last week. It is about time for them to be shifting their grazing territory before long so I probably won’t be having much trouble until the end of December.

Jan 2
The deer have returned from their hiatus. My roses have put out a few new leaves and they have been chewed off. One small azalea that I thought was dying and skipped when spraying has been chewed down to the ground. I think I’ll go ahead and spray again although the TreeGuard is still effective.

The episodes of warm weather are causing azalea buds to swell and they may not have enough of the spray left on them to discourage the voracious appetites. The deer have not eaten any of the sprayed azaleas except as previously noted. There are some good-sized hoofprints in the soft soil showing that they have investigated the possibilities, but I don’t see any missing limbs or shoots. This stuff is good.

Jan 11
I spoke too soon. I was piddling in the yard yesterday and discovered that the deer had eaten the top shoots of a small gardenia bush. I guess it is time to reapply the spray indeed.

July 5
The deer are back: They defoliated two of my oak leaf hydrangeas, one of my small peach trees, and it looks like they munched here and there on azaleas. I have seen tracks around the outside of my little tomato, cucumber, okra patch (more like a beaten path), but they haven’t tried the fence yet.

I will be spraying with Tree Guard tomorrow morning — too hot this afternoon. I have been gifted with some marigold and zinnia plants (and tomato and basil plants) but I’m not going to transplant them until I’ve discouraged the deadbeats.

As many dead deer (I call them buzzard banquets) as there are on the roads around here, it looks like there ought to be a reduction in numbers. The neighbors’ dogs all leave their territorial markers in the driveway and along the edges of the flower beds, but the deer evidently pay them no mind. Those dogs aren’t earning their upkeep. Maybe I’ll throw out some mothballs to see if it will discourage the dogs.

I also have at least one big black snake; I walked up on it just about dusk one evening and nearly had heart failure. I thought at first glance it was a venomous snake (heavy through the middle) but after I got nerve enough to examine it a little closer, I say that it had big bumps all down its length from neck to tail. I’m guessing he/she had been dining on either the neighbors’ eggs or had found some small animals nest to swallow the offspring.

I don’t know whether I told you or not, but I have foiled the squirrel. The painter nailed a piece of 1 x 4 over the area and evidently frustrated the beast. I saw him sidling along the side of the house a time or two and I heard a few gnawing sounds, but I think that problem is solved. I also fire off the 22 any time I can get a bead on him, but the rascal is speedy when he hears the screen door start opening.

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