The unseasonably cold start to the season combined with a decent snowfall has forced the deer into our gardens. In my case, they've been feasting on azaleas, rhododendrons and knocking the top off the bird feeder. It might be a long winter for the deer and if they get hungry enough, they will eat just about anything.
There are three basic techniques I use to keep my plants safe.
The first is a physical barrier, usually in the form of deer netting. It's cheap, easy to apply and it works. Sometimes it mean fencing in an area, other times it's just throwing it over a plant. I worried that the netting would be ugly, but it's invisible out in the landscape.
Secondly, I use commercial deterrents both liquid and granular. Using lots of different products keeps the deer guessing and off our treasured plants. I like Bobex, Plantskydd, Deer Stopper, Liquid Fence, Deer Scram, Deer Off and Scoot. I know that seems like a lot of different things to use, but mixing things up really works for me. I've never had luck with human hair, soap and many homemade recipes. Here's a link though to one that works if you've got the time to make it. It's made with onions, garlic and hot Hungarian paprika.
Here's another one you can make at home by combining two commercial products. It comes from a gardener who saw it used with much success at a daylily farm. Since I first gave the formula out, I've heard from lots of people who now swear by it.
The Bitter Apple is available at pet stores and is used to keep puppies from chewing things. The Wilt Pruf can be found at local nurseries adding it to the Bitter Apple gets it to stick to the plants.
The Bitter Apple can be bought in bigger containers to cover more area too and the combination is much cheaper than commercial repellents.
My most effective deterrent is Max the Wonder Dog who chases big bucks out of the garden. I can't understand how a little mutt like Max can threaten the deer but still be afraid of the cat!