ShadyGardens Blog

January 18, 2009

Deer-Proof Gardening in the South

Filed under: Daphne, Deer, deterrant, ga, garden, Hellebore, repellant, resistant, rohdea, rosemary, South — shadygardens @ 8:14 pm

As a nursery owner, I’m often asked how I keep deer from eating the plants. Well, actually I use a number of methods, none of them expensive. Deer fencing is not an option for us, since a fence must surround the whole garden and be 10 feet tall to keep out deer. And it would be impossible for us to spray our whole garden with deer repellent after every rain or watering.

Our large black lab Shadow used to keep the deer away from everything, but now that she’s getting older, she seems to have befriended some of them, lying down with them as they eat.

The best thing to do, since as gardeners, you’ll be planting anyway, is to choose plants deer won’t eat.

A good plant type to use are those with prickly leaves or thorny branches, but deer do have the ability to pick berries and roses in spite of the thorns. I’ve even found where they’ve tasted of my holly shrubs and pyracantha, if you can believe it!

And although it’s true that deer seem to know what is poisonous to them, some plants that are poisonous to us are not so to deer, such as rhododendron and azaleas, for instance.

I hope to share with you some of our experience with this short list of plants that have proved to be not quite so tasty to the deer in our garden:

  • Acuba
  • Aspidistra
  • Barberry
  • Boxwood
  • Daffodil
  • Daphne odora
  • Dusty Miller
  • Fatsia Japanica
  • Hellebore, Helleborus
  • Loropetalum
  • Oleander
  • Osmanthus
  • Rohdea
  • Viburnum
  • Yaupon Holly

Also, all aromatic herbs, with the exception of basil, are detested by deer. And the fragrance of rosemary, which is very pleasing to us, seems to have a repellant effect on deer, causing them to go elsewhere in their search of food.

For a list of native plants that aren’t usually food for deer, please visit our other site, Plant Native.

February 3, 2008

Wood Ashes Lower Garden Soil Acidity

Filed under: acid, acidity, alkaline, ash, ashes, deterrant, garden, lilac, lilacs, peonies, peony, repellant, rosemary, sample, slug, snail, soil, Wood — shadygardens @ 2:08 pm

I don’t know about you, but during the winter, I just cannot get warm without a fire! Every time I build a new fire however, something must be done with the ashes from the previous one. Well, we try to recycle as much as we can, and I just abhor waste. What can we do with those wood ashes?

A great way to use them is to apply them to the garden. Before we do that, we must decide which garden area would benefit from wood ashes. Ashes from hardwood trees make great soil amendment for certain types of plants. They contain nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and other elements that will promote bloom and strengthen roots on plants such as lilacs, rosemary, and peonies, as well as certain vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collards. Don’t use ashes from charcoal fires or from treated lumber, because they contain chemicals that would be harmful to plants.

The addition of wood ashes can be of great help to you when growing plants that prefer ‘sweet’ or alkaline soil, especially if your soil is very acidic. The wood ashes will sweeten the soil, making it less acidic. You must be careful where you deposit the wood ashes, because plants like blueberries, camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons all need acid soil, and will perish if you apply wood ashes around them.

To find out what kind of soil you have, you can take a soil sample to your local County Extension Service for evaluation. They’ll have to send it off for testing, and for more information, go to: or just call your local county extension office.

Also, as with most fertilizers, a little of the wood ashes goes a long way. Apply no more than 20 pounds per 1000 square feet per year.

Plus, wood ashes should never be applied too close to tender roots of newly planted seedlings, so it’s best to apply them to the soil well in advance of planting time. Wood ashes are also beneficial to lawns if applied very sparingly and watered in well.

In addition to soil benefits, wood ashes are a natural slug repellant—just encircle the vulnerable plant with a ring of ashes and the snail/slug will not cross the line! Since ashes won’t be as plentiful this summer when snails are munching, you might want to save some for later in a galvanized bucket.

October 28, 2007

Deer Proof Your Garden the Easy Way

Filed under: eucalyptus, herb, Herbs, native azalea, native plant, nursery, plants, rosemary, tree — shadygardens @ 6:33 pm

Since opening the nursery, I’ve been asked many times, “How do you keep deer from eating your plants?” Well, I have several suggestions that worked for me, and they are surprisingly simple.
1. The 1st recommendation is obvious–plant things the deer don’t like! Deer prefer nice tasty leaves, and not leaves with fuzz or strong odors. Deer love hosta, pansies, and daylilies–if it’s edible for people, deer like it too! They don’t like herbs, except for basil. There are many desirable plants the deer will not eat. For instance, anything poisonous, such as Foxgloves, Florida Anise, or Daffodils. Other deer-resistant plants are: Ageratum, Iris, Barberry (they usually won’t eat anything with thorns), Buddleia, Mock Orange, Spirea, Lilacs, Dogwood, Magnolia, Boxwood, Holly, Leucothoe, Pieris, and Yucca. See, there are many plants deer won’t eat–although when they get truly hungry, they’ll taste of anything!
2. I know you also want to grow many plants that deer do like; as gardeners, we don’t want to limit ourselves to the few plants deer won’t eat. Deer will eat just about anything, when they are truly hungry. So go ahead and plant what you like, even if the deer like it too, and do what we did…Several years ago, my husband planted our first weeping willow tree. The deer just would not leave it alone! Every time the little tree managed to grow a new little shoot, the deer gobbled it right up. The poor little tree just couldn’t get ahead! Until I encircled it with a few aromatic herbs that the deer find distasteful: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, and lots of Chrysanthemums. The deer then decided to move on to other plants! That little tree has grown to supply me with many new trees to sell at my nursery!
3. Build a tall fence. Deer can jump very high, so your fence would need to be at least 10 feet tall. This can get pricey, especially if your garden is large.
4. My final and most successful recommendation is this: Get a big dog! A little cute dog won’t work, but a big dog that loves to chase wildlife will keep the deer from eating your prized plants. You want one of those playful, hunting dog types–ours is a big black Lab.
She works herself to death keeping the squirrels off the birdfeeders and the deer from my garden. Of course she does a little damage–she tramples plants sometimes, and she digs a hole when she believes a chipmunk would be tasty, or when she smells a rat. And when she was a puppy she chewed a little bit, but she never did as much damage as a family of deer can do in a single night!
I don’t recommend those expensive, smelly deer-proofing products. I have been told that they really work, but they are expensive! You’ll be planting anyway–and everyone needs some aromatic plants like Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Thyme, Oregano, and of course, Mums! So plant aromatic plants all around your garden, and then start looking for a great big dog. Go to the pound and ask them, “Who’s the friskiest dog you have?” (That’s the kind you need–a playful hunter with a loud bark!) Take him home and love him. By the way, the big dog will eat alot, but I believe feeding him will still be cheaper than buying all that Deer-repellant spray!
By following my suggestion, you will have done 2 wonderful things: (1) Saved a dog’s life, and (2) Saved your garden

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