“No plants are completely deer-proof,” according to literature published by the Cornell Cooperative Extension. “Hungry deer will consume plants that have little nutritional value.”
For many North Fork residents, that much has become obvious over the past decade as the deer population has exploded throughout the area. Many homeowners’ gardens and plants have been chewed and gnawed year in and year out, and while the deer problem isn’t new this spring by any means, it’s becoming more and more obvious that it’s here to stay.
The particular problems you’re having probably depend on where you live, says Danielle Raby of Shade Trees Nursery in Jamesport. Location affects not only the extent to which deer will snack on your shrubs, but exactly what they’ll like to eat, she said.
“It varies based on geography,” Raby explained. The more deer there are in a given area, the more desperate they’ll be for food. Naturally, she said, they’ll open up to eating things they might not eat in another neck of the North Fork woods.
Raby gave skip laurels and honoki cypress as examples of trees that might be considered “hit or miss.”
Both she and Jack Weiskott of Ornamental Plantings in Southold said they started noticing more and more interest in plants that kept away deer about a decade ago.
“Now, the first question I ask the customers is, ‘Do you have a deer problem?’ ” she said.
So how can you protect your garden? A few different options exist. You could build a fence around your property to keep the deer out. While certainly the priciest of the available options, it’s also the surest way to keep deer from chewing up your prized plantings.
But as more farms and residents have chosen this option the past decade, said Weiskott, that’s only pushed more deer to those properties that don’t have the luxury of fencing them out.
People with unfenced yards and gardens are advised to stay away from certain plant species — but there are other choices with a track record of not attracting deer. Spruces, plants with scented foliage and plants with silver foliage are easy go-to’s if you’re looking for something deer are unlikely to eat.