Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Lawn Problems

Deer Repellent
This deer may look cute, but it's a nuisance in the garden.
This deer may look cute, but it's a lawn problem.

While deer might be exciting visitors to your lawn, they will eat many of your plants and grasses. Deer are voracious vegetarians and will make short work of the lawn you've taken so long to perfect. There are many methods useful to repel deer.

Use bags of soap or human hair to repel deer. They seem to enjoy dining on cultivated plants and are worst in the winter, gobbling evergreens when their native food supply dwindles.

But they are also a problem in spring and summer, when they like to munch tender flowers and new growth. In fall, males rub their antlers on wood and can damage small trees and shrubs.

Deer don't enjoy strong-smelling soaps and human hair so this is one way to repel them. Simply stuff powerfully scented soap in a mesh bag and dangle it from branches about 3 feet high. You also can set soap bars directly on the ground. Replenish the soap supply frequently so it won't dissolve away or lose its smell.

You can also fill mesh bags with human hair. Hang them outside (like a furry scarecrow) so deer wonder if you are hiding in the garden. Refill bags as soon as you pull another handful from your hairbrush. If deer are a chronic problem, consider spraying plants with deterrents or erecting a fence.

Some Plants Preferred by Deer
Based on Cornell Cooperative Extension Service research, deer are particularly interesting in the following plants:
  • Apples
  • Arborvitaes
  • European mountain ash
  • Asters
  • Evergreen azaleas
  • Cherries
  • Clematis
  • Fraser and balsam firs
  • Hostas
  • English ivy
  • Norway maple
  • Phlox
  • Plums
  • Lilies
  • Redbud
  • Rhododendrons
  • Hybrid tea rose
  • Tulips
  • Winged euonymus
  • Wintercreeper
  • Yews
  • Daylilies

If despite your best efforts, you're still having problems with lawn pests, take a look at the charts on the last pages of this article to help you identify the most common pests of lawns and ground covers. If you feel uncertain about what is causing symptoms of damage, take a sample to your local garden center or your county Cooperative Extension office to have it identified.

Once you've identified the cause of the problem, you'll need to know how to control it. A change in cultural maintenance -- less water for instance -- may be the best control. Next, try organic controls.

If all else fails, the use of chemicals may be necessary to be rid of pesky lawn pests. See the next section for tips on safely using pesticides.

On the next page, you'll learn about lawn pesticides.

For more information on lawn care and related topics, try these: