Deer are a sore problem in gardens around North America and beyond. One day your garden is lush with fruits, vegetables and other plants. But the next day, all your hard work could be destroyed by a herd of local deer. So read below to know how to stop deer from eating your sunflowers.
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Do deer eat sunflowers?
When it comes to deer meal options, sunflower is not the only plant that comes to mind. However, when food is scarce or when they are too hungry, deer will invade and eat any plant in your garden, including sunflowers.
Research has been completed on the plants and their tolerance to deer. The Rutgers Cooperative Extension lists a rating of the many different plants based on their ability to resist vandalism. The ratings are: rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally severely damaged, and frequently severely damage. Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) is rated as occasionally severely damaged by Rutgers.
We also refer to the Michigan State University Extension as another source for data on deer damage to sunflowers. Their ratings are as follows: rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally damaged, and often damaged. According to the Michigan State University Extension, like the deer-loving hostas, sunflowers are rated frequently damaged by deer.
Based on the above information, it is clear that sunflowers are are one of the top plants on the deer’s favorite food list. So don’t expect your sunflower to be safe from damage, especially in an environment with lots of deer around.
What parts of sunflowers do deer like to eat?
Deer are particularly interested in leaves and young plants several feet tall. Sunflower seeds and therefore the immature heads are the preferred choice.
How to prevent deer from sunflowers?
Below are some practical solutions to prevent your sunflowers from being harmed by deer:
1. Protective fences
Deer can jump up to 8 feet, so your fence will be at least that height. According to the University of Vermont, it could be shorter (for example, about 6 feet), but it would have to tilt outward at an angle of about 45°. The deer will go to the fence and think it is much higher due to the mirage from the angle. The protective fence of deer carcasses was enough to scare them away.
We should also consider an electric fence. The deer will be electrocuted when it reaches the fence. If the shock is strong enough, it will prevent the deer from coming back.
2. Repellent Sprays
Deer repellents (e.g. Bobbex) are preferred. These sprays will make deer uncomfortable because of the unpleasant smell and taste they create on the tree.
We must strictly follow the instructions on these sprays for the best results. Many of us forget to spray as directed or do not follow the instructions leading to undesirable effects.
Keep in mind these sprays are not always designed for every plant. Be sure to read the instructions before use. The same is true for edible plants.
Using dogs to patrol the garden is a great way to deter unwanted deer encroachment. Barking is the key to scaring deer. The problem, however, is that the dogs are not always present when the deer encroach on your sunflowers. Furthermore, your dogs may also be in danger (for example, getting lost or injured) in the event of an aggressive deer hunt.
4. Motion-Activated Sprinklers
This type of sprinkler is activated by the movement of anything that passes in front of it. When placed in front of sunflowers, the sprinkler will startle the deer with noise and spray of water.
It’s best not to plant sunflowers in areas where deer are present, unless you’re willing to take the risk that deer might kill them or you know how to keep them safe. Remember that sunflower harvest dates are up to 60 days, so there’s plenty of opportunity for deer to have a nice meal if they stumble across your sunflower garden.
You should consider only growing sunflowers in areas with low to medium deer traffic, and the cost of damage to gardeners should not be too high in the event of damage. I hope you get lucky and can enjoy the beauty of your sunflower garden after all.