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How do you keep deer out of your garden in Alberta?

Alberta gardening experts share their thoughts and advice on keeping deer out of your garden this season.

According to Alberta gardening experts, keeping deer out of your garden is tricky, but not impossible.

Planting certain flowers can help keep deer at bay, according to Katrina Diebel, owner of Vale's Greenhouse in Diamond Valley. 

"For perennials, we always recommend peonies," she said. "They don't eat peonies, and they don't eat nepeta (catnip), and for annual, they really don't eat snapdragons or dusty miller.

"Sometimes it's about putting those things that are bright and shiny up where they can't get them, and putting things they don't don't like down in the gardens."

While there are many plants that deer don't like, there are even more they find irresistible. The Sheep River Library found that out the hard way when junipers were planted outside the building.

"They probably didn't even last an hour," said Diebel. "So junipers are terrible. They eat them so fast... you can plant them in the afternoon and they'll be gone."

According to Okotoks Garden Club president Sue Russell, plants alone may not be enough to prevent deer from wreaking havoc on a garden.

"If they're hungry, they will eat anything, and if they haven't tried something before, they'll come in and have a taste of it, and even then they might decide they don't like it," said Russell.

"But they have four great big feet, so while having a little taste which might not do that much harm, their big feet do a great deal of harm."

Many gardeners are primarily focusing on preventing deer from grazing in their gardens, and as a result they may forget the damage that can be done by them stepping on and destroying plants.

"They do a lot of their damage in the winter time because they're just trampling through the snow," she added.

Diebel and Russell both agree the only effective way to keep deer out of gardens is high fencing.

She added that she has had success deterring deer with motion-sensing sprinklers, which spray deer with water, and repellent spray that keeps deer from eating plants.

These methods are imperfect though.

"[Sprinklers are] great if you live in an acreage," said Russell. "But my front yard probably is only, I don't know, maybe 25 feet long, if you're lucky, which means that every car going by, every lovely neighbour walking a dog gets sprayed, which is not a very neighbourly thing to do to all these people that you live beside.

"It's quite effective at keeping the deer out, but in a suburban front yard, you're wasting a lot of water and you're squirting every car, every person, everything, so that's the downside of it."

Diebel said that "fencing is the only real strategy that does not wash off in the rain," as the spray repels deer but is not entirely weather-resistant.

She added that a major part of the problem is people deliberately feeding deer

"These are not pets, these are wild animals," Russell said. "I have always thought that if you really loved nature and animals... you don't feed any of them."

Amir Said

About the Author: Amir Said

Amir Said is a reporter and photographer with the Western Wheel covering local news in Okotoks and Foothills County. For story tips or questions about his articles, Amir can be reached at [email protected].
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