Planting a garden is a fun activity to do as a family and a good way to bring spring’s bounty a little closer to home. Asparagus, which seems like such a novelty, is actually a fairly easy plant to grow, but unfortunately may become fodder for deer before it ever reaches your table. If you want to keep these hungry herbivores away, there are a few tricks you can try.
1. Asparagus Deer Resistance
Known for the tender spears it produces in springtime, asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a perennial vegetable in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10. Although it is a human delicacy, asparagus often goes untroubled by deer, only seldom or occasionally browsed. When deer are hungry, however, many things they might ordinarily avoid become food, so keep an eye on your yard to figure out if deer are visiting.
2. Signs of Deer Damage
Deer are nocturnal, which means you often won’t see them while they are destroying your plants. Watch for their cloven hoof prints and their piles of dark droppings, as well as telltale scratches in tree bark where antlers may have rubbed. Look at the damage on stems and leaves. If it is clipped neatly and is close to the ground, a rabbit is likely responsible. If the damage is higher up and jagged, a deer’s blunt teeth most likely made it.
3. Repelling Strategies
Several deer remedies are available on the market, including chemical repellants that when sprayed onto plants make flowers and foliage taste bad to deer. You can also hang up bags of strong-smelling soap or human hair, which may deter deer or apply lion urine (available commercially or from zoos) around the area. The best method, however, is to build a fence at least 7 feet tall to prevent the deer from jumping over. If your garden sets at the bottom of a hill that could help deer jump the fence, build it higher, 10 or 11 feet.
Never try to trap or kill deer in order to keep them out of the garden. Not only is it illegal in most parts of the United States, but it could be dangerous for pets and small children who also live on the property. Instead, try the several repelling strategies, both homemade and commercially available. Beware that most chemical repellents, however, are not intended for plants you plan to eat. If you are going to harvest vegetables, herbs or flowers for consumption, do not use chemical repellents on them.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Asparagus Officinalis "Jersey Knight"
- Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance
- Michigan State University Extension: Deer Resistant Plants for Homeowners
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Deer
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Rabbits
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images