As temperatures continue to rise into the peak of the summer, deer pressure will be at its highest. We continue to see peak temperatures consistently above 80 degrees, which will drive deer pressure up significantly. In addition to the newly born fawns that are now looking for solid foods, many adult deer will be on the hunt for succulent plant materials to sustain themselves in these high temperatures. Deer will be looking for plants that are high in water content, and I will talk a little bit about some of their favorites. This can be the most challenging time of year for those that are avid planters of annual and perennial gardens.
Summer Heat and Deer Pressure Deer pressure tends to pick up and peak in early June right through the end of July. As the temperatures increase, and water availability from ponds and streams dwindle, deer will be forced to find water through other sources. An average adult deer will try consume 3 quarts of water per day in the peak of summer, which is double what they will typically consume in the winter time. Nursing does will require even more. The plants that deer prefer in the summer tend to be those that are highest in water content, as a significant portion of their intake will come from the foods they eat. Succulent plants can have water content levels anywhere from 50-90% in the growing season. Typically, the higher in water content of the plant, the higher it will be on the deer’s list of preferred foods. If you live in an area where there is a water source available in the summer, expect to see higher levels of activity and browsing in the summer.
Preferred Summer Foods Plants like Hydrangea, Impatiens, Begonias, Sweet Potato Vine, Hosta, Phlox, Sunflowers, and Lillies, will all be targets due to their high water content. These are some of the most preferred foods for the white-tailed deer in the summer. Plants like Roses, Geraniums, Black Eyed Susan, Echinacea, and certain types of Daisies, will also be on the menu in these time periods. Deer will most often target tender new growth on these plants, and will also focus on the flowering buds of the flowers. Depending on the area you are in and your level of deer pressure, you may even see browsing to plants touted as deer resistant or deer proof!
What Plants are Safe While I would consider very few plants deer-proof, there are some that deer typically will avoid. Plants with strong fragrances like Lavender and other herbs will be fairly safe. Other deer resistant plants that are often good choices include Peyone, Pulmonaria, Bee Balm, and Butterfly Bush. Also plants with fuzzy textures like Lambs Ear, Yarrow, and Russian Sage, will be less likely to be browsed by deer.