One of the joys of a well laid out garden is that it will attract wildlife, and if you are very lucky you will occasionally be visited by wild deer. However, you can have too much of a good thing so here’s some suggestions of what you can do to ensure that you can enjoy both the deer and your garden.
There are six species of wild deer in the UK varying both in size and habits, one of the smallest, the Chinese Water Deer, is of a very localised distribution and is usually found on open arable land or in reed beds, it is the one least likely to be seen in a garden. Of the others the largest herding species, Red, Sika and Fallow are most often found in the more rural areas and are less likely to be found in a suburban garden although they do occasionally turn up in unusual places. The smaller native Roe and the alien Muntjac are the two most likely to be found in a garden.
So how do you know that the deer are present? They are mostly dawn or dusk feeders, Muntjac can feed through the night and you may see chewed off plants and not know quite who the culprit is. Neatly bitten off stems similar to a cut from a sharp secateurs is indicative of a rodent attack, squirrels, rabbits or hares. If the stem is cut on to one side and torn off the other this is more typical of deer.
So what can you do to prevent this damage?
Planting things that deer don’t like to eat can be helpful such as Camellia, Rhododendron or Hydrangea, the RHS produces a comprehensive list of suitable plants.
Tree guards and shelters are a wise precaution, particularly with new plantings. These will protect against both small and large herbivores, and to some extent carelessly used strimmers!
Fencing off the most vulnerable areas such as vegetable, fruit and roses gardens may be necessary, especially in areas where there are high numbers of deer. Stock fencing up to 6’/1.8m high is ideal, reinforced with 3”/75mm squared netting if Muntjac are present. Make sure the bottom wire is well secured to the ground as deer are known to push up under such fencing. A strand of the highly visible electric fencing tape used to contain horses on the outside of the fence can also be useful. Avoid using double strands of barbed on top of stock netting, deer are prone to getting caught up in this and suffer painful fatal injuries.
Repellents such as lion dung, ultrasonic screeching devices and flashing lights have all been mooted as deer deterrents but in reality their effect is short lived and the deer soon learn to ignore them.