Beat the Deer While Living on the Edge

However cute we may all find Bambi, he and his relatives are responsible for large-scale degradation of the environment in Northern Virginia. You might suppose that human habitations are crowding out the poor things, but actually the opposite is true. The deep woods that made up so much of our area used to support only a limited number of deer, which do best in edge habitat. Our roads and housing developments have turned Northern Virginia into one huge edge! The problem is compounded by the fact that chopping up forests into tiny pieces allows invasive introduced plants to encroach from all directions – think Kudzu and other vines blanketing the trees along the Beltway.

The hugely bloated deer population has decimated the tree seedlings as well as all the other native plants which are the basis of the entire ecosystem. (See our post on Why Plant Natives to learn about their crucial role.) What is left tends to be small, impoverished parcels of woods consisting only of adult trees and little else to support the wildlife.

But all is not lost! We have the power to turn this situation around and make Northern Virginia a place where butterflies and songbirds can thrive alongside their human neighbors. All it takes is to plant and protect native plants in our own yards (and even on our own balconies). Two strategies are needed when you live in deer country:

  1. Protect the plants. Small fences around shrubs and trees until they grow are very effective for taller plants. Various sprays and other strategies for shorter plants can be effective if you are conscientious about using them. And where a deer fence around a whole section of yard is practical, gardening becomes nirvana!
  2. Where protective measures are impractical, choose plants that are relatively unpalatable to deer. Many plants that are native to Northern Virginia fill this need. Check out the list (as well as other strategies) here or look them up on our plant search app.

Deer usually don’t like Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)Baptisia australis 2

4 thoughts on “Beat the Deer While Living on the Edge

  1. I’m surprised to see your lovely photo of baptisia with the caption “Deer Don’t Like Wild Blue Indigo.” For the last three years in my yard near Great Fall Park, the bush grows tall and wide with bounteous blooms every morsel of which are eaten during the first night that they are open. The culprit can’t be any other critter.


  2. I just looked at the app on my phone (June 25 2017) under the “select characteristics” wildlife section. There is not yet I think yet on the app the ability to select using deer resistant as a criteria? There is ability on the wildlife section of the app to select plants for 1) attracts birds, 2) attracts hummingbirds, 3) feeds the bees, 4) feeds adult butterflies or moths and 5) larval host plant….I’d love to see the deer resistance added if your app designer thinks it’s possible to add that in as an update? Very nice to be able to use the Plant NOVA Natives app on my phone – while I’m out in the garden…


    1. Yes, that is on my wish list as well. My thought is to simply lump categories one and two together and call them “Relatively deer resistant” or something like that and allow people to search for that. My brother the app maker is extremely busy, though, so this may take a while!


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