When I think of deer-resistant vegetables, it’s usually a cartoon that comes to mind. I can picture little veggies with shields and swords trying to ward off a herd of hungry deer, mouths drooling, hooves stamping, and a little fire in their eyes. The vegetables are tenacious and scrappy, maybe leeks, banding together behind Sgt. Garlic and Captain Onion.
Obviously, that’s not what happens. It’s more likely the vegetables would all cower in fear, since deer are known to decimate gardens. They’ll eat almost anything, even if they don’t like it, just to make sure it doesn’t belong on the menu.
But there are some deer-resistant vegetables that you can plant around more delicate vegetables as a way to limit the destruction.
Deer-resistant vegetables and herbs that belong in your garden
Unless you live in an urban area or have a good fence, chances are you may have deer checking out your garden. They live across the U.S., and though they prefer wooded areas, it’s not out of the question to find them in the suburbs. Deer are ruminants, meaning they have a four-chambered stomach. In short, this means they can digest a lot of different plant materials. They eat twigs, shrubs, plants, berries, chestnuts, acorns, plums, apples, pears, mushrooms, and almost anything in your garden.
That said, there is a small number of at least somewhat deer-resistant vegetables and herbs. You can grow these as a border to protect your more vulnerable plants, or use them in conjunction with fencing to try and keep deer out of your garden.
- Onions. Onions are fairly easy to grow, there are a number of different varieties, and neither deer nor rabbits enjoy these.
- Garlic. Another easy-to-grow vegetable that repels deer, rabbits and a variety of other pests is garlic. And you can never really have too much garlic.
- Chives. Like onions and garlic, the fast-growing chive plant is not a favorite of deer or rabbits. Additionally, the chive flower attracts pollinators.
- Fennel. Fennel grows easily in most gardens, tastes great in a stew, and smells lovely. Deer, however, don’t like it.
- Dill. If you’re starting to think that deer-resistant vegetables and herbs all have a strong scent, you’re mostly right. Deer generally avoid these flavors, but they do love basil (I can’t really fault them for that, either).
- Eggplant. The prickly vines of the eggplant help deter deer. Additionally, there is some evidence that plants in the nightshade family, like eggplant, are toxic to deer.
- Sage. This perennial herb is easy to grow, adds an earthy aroma to a variety of dishes, and is unpopular with deer.
- Hot pepper. It’s probably easy enough to understand why deer don’t like these very much.
- Cantaloupe. While deer may munch on the vines of the cantaloupe, the thick rind protects the melon itself.
- Rhubarb. There are some mixed messages around whether or not rhubarb should be included in a list of deer-resistant vegetables. However, rhubarb is easy to grow, and the stalks are wonderfully delicious, so it’s worth trying.
The fact is, if they’re hungry enough, deer will eat darn near anything. To really limit their impact on your garden, you may need to take more drastic measures, such as fencing or covers. You could also try motion-sensor sprinklers, wind chimes, or garden decorations that move with the breeze.
Or you could just plant some extra veggies for your wildlife neighbors.
What plants do you grow in your garden that keep deer away? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments section.