Deer Resistant Vegetables and Herbs
A Gardener's Guide

by nw farms and food  -  Permalink
August 8, 2011

deer

A deer bypasses a tomato plant to look for more palatable fare.

If you want to minimize deer damage in an open garden, its best to start with plants that deer don’t like. Deer will “browse” on most anything when wild food sources are low. Some garden edibles, however, are less attractive to these voracious munchers than others.


Certain plants, such as rhubarb, are toxic to deer. Deer usually also avoid root vegetables (which require digging) and prickly vegetables such as cucumbers and squashes with hairy leaves. Sharply-odored cultivars like onions, garlic and fennel are not palatable to deer. Similarly, strongly-scented marigolds and herbs can direct deer away from favored munching plants.


Please regard the following list of deer-resistant garden plants as a general guide. Hungry deer are unpredictable and at times may eat even the most “deer-resistant” fare!

Deer-Resistant Garden Plants

Except in areas of high deer pressure, deer will usually bypass these garden vegetables and herbs.

tomatoes

Tomatoes

Asparagus
Carrots
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Globe Artichokes
Leeks
Peppers
Rhubarb
Tomatoes
Onions



chives

Chives

Chives
Dill
Lavender
Lemon Balm
Mint
Parsley
Rosemary
Sage
Tarragon
Thyme



lavender

Lavender

sage

Sage

parsley

Parsley





Moderately Deer-Resistant

These plants are moderately safe, however, deer may turn to this group of veggies and herbs when favorites are not available. Take care to protect the young shoots, which are always tender and delicious!

chard

Rainbow chard with deer damage. Chard is most vulnerable to browsing deer in the fall and spring when other food is not available.

Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Chard (safest in summer when the deer have other food choices)
Corn
Kale
Melons
Potatoes (reports of deer eating “toxic” potato leaves are becoming common)
Rutabagas
Summer Squash
Winter Squash
basil

Basil


Basil
Cilantro






Deer Favorites

Deer love to munch on peas and beans. The also enjoy tree fruit and most berries. If you’re looking to attract deer to your garden, try planting some of these:

pea plant

Pea shoots are a favorite meal for deer.

Apples
Beans
Berries (most kinds)
Lettuce & Leafy Greens (although red lettuces appear to be less palatable to deer)
Peas
Pears
Plums
Strawberries





If planting resistant vegetables does not deter deer from your garden, you may need to consider more serious deer defenses such as barriers and fencing. Whatever you plant or whatever measures you take, one thing is certain, the struggle between determined gardeners and determined browsing deer will continue!

deer



More articles:
Deer Defenses: Low-Cost Ways to Deer Proof Your Garden
Get to Know the Good Bugs: Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden
What Weeds Can Tell Us About the Soil

18 Responses leave one →
  1. 2012 April 29
    Laura permalink

    I find this article interesting but not particularly useful, or in my experience, accurate. Last year I had more beans than I knew how to use, but no tomatoes because the deer ate everything but the stems of the tomato plants and left the beans, of which I had planted extra in anticipation of losing some to the critters, untouched.

    • 2013 April 21
      Stephanie permalink

      Although I don’t plant beans, I have a small garden with tomatoes. The deer were knocking down my “deer fence” to get at my plants. I now have an electric fence around my 5×8 garden! If the plants grow above the fence, and deer are able to get at the tomatoes they will indulge!

  2. 2012 June 3
    brett permalink

    Where I live, Eugene, the South Hills deer have a reputation for not reading these kinds of lists. They seem willing to try everything. Fencing is the way to go down here. With that said, my neighborhood deer avoid the lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme. They also go after figs. That’s very strange. I hadn’t considered putting squash out. I may have to give that a try.

  3. 2012 August 21
    Carole permalink

    Our deer don’t read these lists either (I live in the mid Willamette Valley). As a gardener of many years, I can tell you that our deer eat cucumbers, squash, and tomato plants without fail. We’ve had to build 2×4 wood and wire cages around every one of our raised beds (and we have used motion activated ‘deer sprinklers’ in the yard as well). They will also eat many of the ‘deer resistant’ varieties of flowers, including daylilies.

    Although planting resistant varieties may help to some extent, sooner or later deer will eat whatever they want to eat.

  4. 2013 February 1
    Tom Von Bokern permalink

    Here in southwestern ohio, deer like to eat beans and tomatoes (plants and tomatoes). They have not bothered asparagus.

  5. 2013 April 10
    Mary Fay permalink

    Here in rural Piedmont NC deer do not eat my peppers, mustard, kale, broccoli rape, onions, garlic, most herbs. They may nibble but don’t eat it after finding it not to their taste. They ate tomatoes, squash, okra, cucumbers…well, something ate it but it could have been bunnies!

  6. 2013 April 17
    Bill H permalink

    I have been fairly lucky with deer in Illinois. They are over populated, but usually they only bother my herbs and beans. I have a nasty woodchuck that likes to destroy my strawberries, melons, peppers, tomatoes, and just about anything else he can get his paws on though. For me, deer and woodchucks have been more problematic in my rain garden. It has perennial flowers that are “deer and woodchuck resistant”, but I don’t think they are aware of that. On multiple occasions I will go to bed only to find out the next day that these furry critters had a gourmet buffet on my flower tops and vegetables. Definitely annoying, but I am going all out to try deterring them this summer.

  7. 2013 April 21
    byWilson permalink

    I don’t think the Founding Fathers tolerated deer and other varmints in their gardens.
    I wonder what they did to them?
    Oh yeah, now I remember-
    They shot and ate them!

    • 2013 April 22
      Jenny permalink

      This comment made me smile! We live smack dab in the city in Northern Ohio and for the first time ever, we now have deer. I sought out this article to see what others have done successfully. Time will tell. I have tried unsuccessfully to have my neighbor and brother set up their deer blinds in my driveway – so close to home and I could provide them coffee while they wait.

    • 2014 March 7
      TheyCallMeWitch permalink

      hahahahahahaha. Yes they ate them, long before the dang cows were here wasting space ,food and water, we ate deer! and the cute little bunnies eating our gardens as well! In fact squirrel, woodchucks, possum and the like were all eaten. I have been growing a food forest (permaculture gardening look it up) and found that the more I stick up the less the deer roam my garden.

  8. 2013 April 30
    Judy permalink

    I only planted potatoes last year but have a number of other plants that were consistently devoured and I finally resorted to a natural, but FOUL smelling spray which works. The potatoes did not pick up the smell. The plants grew like crazy but the deer only ate the flowers off the top. The problem with the spray in the Northwest is that it is supposed to be applied when the plants are DRY and will remain so for at least a day or so, which is rare, except for during the summer.

  9. 2013 July 30
    Becky Berger permalink

    The deer around here in Montana ate my tomatos, Jalepeno peppers etc. so I bet they will asparagus too. They even ate my rose bushes.

  10. 2013 October 27

    I have just started to experiment with herbs in the front. The deer have had plenty of time to notice my mint and oregano but have not touched it they are growing very well.
    They are, however nibbling on my bayberry thorns and all.
    Oh roses do not stand a chance in the wake of deer.

  11. 2014 January 21

    Here in North Texas, deer have eaten almost everything I’ve grown, including tomatoes, peppers, squash and jalapenos. As far as can tell, they’ve never touched the asparagus I’ve had growing for seven years. They also don’t eat my rosemary or wild onion grass.

  12. 2014 March 9
    Karen permalink

    Last year I had a wonderful crop of potatoes going with beautiful flowered tops. One day they were there, the next day they all disappeared all the way to the straw they were planted in. The results were no potatoes whatsoever. We have a herd of mule deer living just across the road from us in a field. I tried a water scarecrow but our water is so hard here that it destroyed the scarecrow in one year and it was always going off because of the wind which is almost constant. Guess I will try fencing next or just planting onions and garlic in my raised beds. It’s the only thing they haven’t touched.

  13. 2014 March 19
    Ashley permalink

    I laugh every time I read that deer won’t touch rhubarb because we had two babies deer born last year that lived around our property. Our rhubarb was doing great and by that evening when we got home, it was eaten down to the dirt. Momma deer never touched it but those babies sure had quite the snack and they lived and are still doing well today. We figured leaving it outside of our fenced garden would be fine since everyone said they won’t eat it.

  14. 2014 March 30
    Joe permalink

    There’s only one sure-fire deer repellent: LEAD.
    I wish we could all just concurrently figure out that they have no place in suburbia and encourage their extermination.

  15. 2014 April 1
    Linda permalink

    My cousin said his deer (not urban, rural KY) jumped his garden fence and took a bite out of each tomato. I also live rural in Colorado. I had an entire squash plant disappear over night. No sign it had ever been there. I had seen a skunk late that night but don’t know if it hauled it off without a sign or if it was deer. We also had jackrabbits at the time but they seem to have moved on.

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