Keep Deer Out Of The Garden With A Handy Bathroom Staple

Love them or hate them, deer can be a regular presence in yards from the boonies to the 'burbs, as our native species of deer thrive in the conditions that suburbanization creates. Residential areas provide can also be jam-packed with leafy greens they love, better known as "your garden." Even if you enjoy spotting the occasional deer trotting through your yard, you might not always want Bambi making a salad bar out of your azaleas. Luckily, there's an easy way to keep away deer and let them know your flowerbeds are off-limits: Just leave out some Irish Spring bar soap.

Deer have more sensitive noses than humans, and scent is one of the main ways they detect the presence of predators or their next meal. Something with a strong scent like Irish Spring prevents deer from being able to use their sense of smell accurately, which will deter them away from your garden. Studies also show that soaps like Irish Spring containing animal fat, also known as tallow, were better at getting deer to stay away than soaps using plant-based fats like coconut oil.

Using Irish Spring to repel deer

All you need to do to keep deer away is grate or thinly slice bars of Irish Spring, or a similar scented, tallow-based bar of soap, and scatter the pieces around the plants you want to defend. Replace the shavings every week or so, or after rainfall or a particularly sunny day. Because Irish Spring is non-toxic, you don't have to worry about it hurting your plants, or any creatures that pass through your garden.

But a word to the wise: Not all animals are as repelled by the smell of soap as deer are. While this Irish Spring soap trick can also work on squirrels, rabbits, and rats, more curious scavengers like possums and skunks might take an interest. If you notice your soap has vanished overnight, try taking precautions like hanging the soap from mesh bags or stockings around four feet off the ground — high enough to keep it from being meddled with while still low enough for the deer to be able to smell it. Hanging a whole bar of soap in a bag is a good way to make it last longer as well, and when it starts to lose its scent, you can just shave off the outer layer, restoring its potence. If your garden isn't near any convenient tree branches, a ground-mounted shepherd's hook can be an easy solution.

Next steps to repel deer

Looking to add more tools to your deer-deterrent arsenal? Irish Spring isn't the only soap deer hate; a little Dawn dish soap mixed with water and loaded in a spray bottle applied to the ground around your plants can also (safely!) deter deer. 

Learning which plants deer prefer in the first place can help you know which parts of your yard are most at-risk. Deer tend to gravitate towards plants with large, flat, smooth leaves like hostas, roses, lilies, and hydrangeas. The same goes for many vegetable garden staples like lettuce, cabbage, and peas. They also love young, tender plants and fresh shoots, so you'll need to be extra on-guard if you've recently planted something new. Inversely, deer's dislike of overpowering smells extends to strong-scented plants as well. Lavender, mint, onions, and garlic are all plants they'll stay far away from. Plants with unfriendly textures, like lamb's ear and cacti, also work well as deterrents.