Though deer are notorious foragers and can wreak havoc on a vegetable garden if they are hungry in your yard, there are a few plants they definitely will ignore. Whether it’s the taste or the smell, some vegetables are not very appealing to deer. It’s not perfectly fool-proof as a starving deer will eat just about anything when they have to, these are plants known to be left alone by casual deer browsing. Dealing with deer? Try these plants to stay on the safe side.
Due to their pungent taste and aroma, deer are seldom seen nibbling on onion tops. And that includes close relations in the same allium family. So adding more onions, chives, garlic and leeks can make deer think twice about venturing into your garden. Roses grow well as a companion to garlic, so you can protect your roses at the same time with a few garlic plants tucked in the flower bed.
Herbs for the kitchen are often left alone by deer because of their scents and strongly flavored leaves. There is a pretty long list of herbs that fall into this category, such as dill, basil, marjoram, thyme, mint, sage and oregano just to name a few. If you plant these in and around more vulnerable plants, you take advantage of their repelling properties. Lavender isn’t really an herb but it fits into this group as well.
The nightshade family includes a few common vegetables, not just the toxic plants of the same name. Tomatoes, potatoes and peppers are all related and are often avoided by deer. Potatoes will get nibbled on sometimes, especially when the plants are in full leaf, but not if there are more attractive plants nearby.
With artichokes, it’s more about the leaf texture than the smells. The plant is quite tough and very spiky, making it a lot less appealing compared to more tender greens that a deer could find. If you leave a couple of them to go to flower, you’ll bring lots of bees and pollinators to your garden, which is an added bonus.
Even with its huge wide leaves, rhubarb is usually left alone by the deer. Harvest the stalks for pies or jam, it’s an easy perennial for any gardener who enjoys having edible ornamentals.
Figs and Olives
Both of these fruit-bearing trees are uncommon in northern climates, but if you live in the warmer south, they can be very nice deer-resistant additions to the yard. Figs have very waxy leaves, and the deer don’t like the taste of olives either.
Lastly, we have one fruit bush on our list. Currents are hardy and easy to grow, producing a large crop of bright red berries. The berries can be quite tart and deer seldom bother with these plants. They may take off some of the top new leaves without doing much permanent harm.