Garden Spray to Repel Deer

March 25th, 2008

The following recipe is a non-toxic home brew, which I have found relatively effective at repelling, or at least discouraging, white tail deer from treating your daylilies and hosta plants like their own private salad bar. This formula was provided to members of the Hudson Valley Iris & Daylily Society by Royce Simmons.

What’s in it?

The ingredients are commonly found around the home. The combination doesn’t sound especially appetizing, but then that’s the whole idea!

3 eggs
8 oz (1 cup) Hot Pepper Sauce *
4 oz (½ cup) Murphy’s Oil Soap
1 gallon of water

* I use the cheapest “store brand” of hot sauce I can find. That has been as low as $1.59 per quart, but lately the best buys have been smaller bottles – $0.99/12 oz

In a bowl, beat the eggs, completely blend in all of the hot pepper sauce, and slowly add the oil soap with continued stirring. Please Note: It is very important that the beaten eggs be mixed thoroughly with the hot pepper sauce before the Murphy’s Oil soap is added. Otherwise this mixture, becomes very thick, and the emulsion “breaks” leading to a “cottage cheese consistency that is difficult to dilute and can subsequently clog your sprayer.

Put 1 gallon of water in your garden sprayer.

Pour mixed ingredients from bowl into water. Close sprayer. Pressurize and spray plants to “run off”. That is, to the point where the foliage is completely wet, as the spray just begins to “run off” the leaves.

In my yard, there’s enough “salad” that I usually put out two or three sprayers full. There is no need to clean the equipment between batches, but it is very important to thoroughly clean up your sprayer, including the hose – (I use warm, soapy water) – after your finished for the day. If you should “forget” to clean up your equipment, I suspect you’ll be reminded the next time you use your sprayer and are greeted with the aroma of aged eggs!

Will it work? Why should it work? How often should the spray be applied?

Whenever you get one of these home recipes, it never comes with a guarantee. I don’t know if it will work for you. I do know it’s not expensive to use or difficult to apply, and it does help keep the deer away from my plants.

All cooks, whether in the kitchen or the garden, understand that in any recipe the ingredients and their ratios are seldom absolute. In this case, each of the ingredients does provide a specific function. The “hot sauce” provides short-term protection. The sharp smell of the cayenne on the leaves and in the ground around the plants keeps the deer away for a couple of days. The “eggs” provide two functions – the first is as a “sticker” to help the spay solution adhere to the plant surface. The more important contribution develops over the next few days as the eggs “age”. The sulfide smell from the rotting eggs persists for 2 – 3 weeks and is sufficiently unpleasant to a deer’s sensitive nose the desired result is achieved. [Note: There is no odor detectable by humans from the spray on the plants.]

Feel free to vary the basic formulation to fit your “taste”. For example, I often add a dash of hot Chinese cooking oil when I feel especially vindictive! I’m considering adding some Miracle Gro (30-30-30) to the cocktail in the future. The presence of the fertilizer shouldn’t interfere with the effectiveness of the repellent, and the plants should get a boost from the foliar feeding.

Jerry Murphy
Hudson Valley Iris & Daylily Society

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