Plants Lost To Deer: Living With Deer Damage

By Laura Miller | January 16, 2021
Image by arlutz73
by Laura Miller
January 16, 2021

I expect to have some failures in the garden. There are always issues with weather, pests and disease to thwart my gardening efforts. I’ve come to realize I can’t always control the outcome as well as I’d like. 

To compensate, I overplant and cultivate a wide array of vegetables. That way, if one crop fails, I have plenty of other types of fresh veggies for the dinner table. What I never expected was an epic garden fail where I had no produce for the year.

My Epic Garden Fail

Is it possible for an experienced gardener to have an epic garden fail? And better yet, can this happen to other gardeners? Unfortunately, the answer to both is yes. 

My epic garden fail started in early spring, when I transplanted my cabbage-family members in the garden. From plants I nurtured from seed, I set out at least a dozen each of cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale and cabbage seedlings.  

Each day, I’d check on my sixty-plus plants and found them growing healthy and strong. Until one day they weren’t! Much to my surprise, I walked out one morning to find stubs where my plants were growing the previous day. 

Dealing with Deer Damage

It didn’t take long to figure out the cause. The telltale deer tracks throughout the soft garden soil was all the evidence I needed. I’d had minor issues with deer in the past, but not to this extent. A nibbled tomato plant or a few munched Swiss chard leaves maybe, but not the entire garden.

My solution was to pull out my collection of 64 oz. juice bottles, from which I had cut off the bottom. I twisted these into the soil around each plant stub. It wasn’t long before most of my cabbage-family plants grew new leaves and were again growing healthy and strong.

In fact, the plants grew so strong and healthy, they soon outgrew the confines of the 64 oz. bottles. Foolishly, I figured the deer had moved on and it would be safe to remove the bottles. In hindsight, I’m sure the deer were peeking out of the nearby woods as they laughed at my folly.

Deer Eating Plants

Within a few days, I had cabbage stubs again. Out came the bottles and I tried again. Of course, by now it was time to plant my late spring plants. Beans and corn went in the ground. Beans and corn sprouted.  Beans and corn disappeared among the dancing hoofprints of deer. 

I’m not sure what deer laughter sounds like, but I swear they were taunting my disappointment every morning when I checked on my garden. I knew I couldn’t drink enough juice to keep up with the damage, so I gracefully accepted defeat. 

I decided to plant my tomato and pepper plants in pots near the house that year. My “in-ground” garden grew a lovely crop of weeds. Which by the way, the deer never touched. And my total harvest from the garden which had fed my family for over thirty years – a whopping 2 onions and one potato.

This article was last updated on
Read more about Backyard Stories
Did you find this helpful? Share it with your friends!

Browse Dozens of Our FREE Gardening Guides Today

Whether your dream garden is a houseplant sanctuary, a bountiful vegetable garden, a pollinator paradise, a bright and bold flower bed, or a backyard oasis – Gardening Know How has the perfect gardening guide just for you.

Click the button below to access more than 3 dozen of our completely free and completely comprehensive guides to growing your dream garden.

Join Us - Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips!