What do deer eat? This is a question that many people have. The answer, however, is not as straightforward as you might think. Deer will eat a variety of things, including fruits and vegetables.
In fact, some people even plant pumpkin patches specifically for deer to eat! Whether it’s munching on pumpkin seeds lingering in your Halloween jack-o-lantern or getting inside to munch on pumpkin guts or whole pumpkin plants left in the garden, deer love pumpkins almost more than anything else.
Do Deer Like Pumpkins?
So if you’re wondering whether or not deer like pumpkins, the answer is yes – they definitely do!
Deer are among the most notorious garden pests, and they will eat just about anything. In the summer, they love to munch on leaves of pumpkins, pumpkin flowers, and in the fall, they are especially fond of pumpkin fruits themselves.
In fact, deer will even eat the innards of pumpkins, leaving only the shell behind. While some gardeners may view deer as a nuisance, others see them as a part of nature and enjoy watching them roam around their property.
However, regardless of how you feel about deer, there is no doubt that they can cause significant damage to your pumpkin crop.
Deer are often seen as a nuisance by farmers and gardeners, as they can destroy crops and gardens in a matter of minutes. However, there are some parts of plants that deer actually prefer to avoid. Pumpkin vines are an example.
While deer will eat the leaves of pumpkins in the summer, they generally avoid the vines, especially in the fall. This is because pumpkin vines are quite hard and fibrous, making them difficult for deer to digest.
How to Keep Deer Away From Your Pumpkin Plants
It’s every pumpkin grower’s nightmare: You spend all spring and summer tending your pumpkin patch, only to have deer come in and destroy your hard work just as the pumpkins are starting to ripen.
While there’s no surefire way to keep deer away from your plants, there are a few things you can do to make your patch less appealing to them.
Put Your Patch Where Deer Can’t Get It
One of the most effective methods is to put your patch in a spot where deer can’t easily get to it.
If you have a fence around your property, try putting the pumpkins on the other side of the fence from where the deer normally enter. You can also try planting pumpkins in raised beds or on slopes, which can make it more difficult for deer to reach them.
Use Fishing Line to Surround the Pumpkins
If you’re trying to protect your pumpkin plants from deer, one effective method is to use a fishing line. String the line around the perimeter of the area where you’re growing the pumpkins, and make sure it’s taut so the deer can’t easily jump over it.
You can also attach some sort of visual deterrents to the line, such as colorful flags or streamers. The idea is to make the line as visible as possible so the deer will see it and be deterred from entering the area. This method won’t work 100% of the time, but it can help to keep most deer away from your pumpkin plants.
Fence in the Pumpkins
If you live in an area with a lot of deer, you may have noticed that they love to eat pumpkins. While this can be a nuisance for gardeners, there are a few things you can do to keep deer away from your pumpkin plants.
One option is to build a fence around the plants. A fence will not only keep deer out, but it will also protect the pumpkins from other animals.
Use Light or Sound to Scare Them Away
One way to deter deer is to use light or sound to scare them away. Motion-activated lights or loud noises can be effective at keeping deer away from your pumpkin plants.
Plant Things They Hate Nearby
One effective method is to plant things they hate nearby. Garlic and lavender are both strong-smelling plants that deer tend to avoid.
You can also try planting something called deer-resistant bulbs around your pumpkin plants. These bulbs emit a chemical that deer find unpleasant, and they will usually stay clear of any area that contains them.
Use Herbs to Deter Them
While it may be tempting to resort to harmful chemicals or dangerous traps, there are actually a number of organic methods you can use to keep deer away from your plants. One simple solution is to plant herbs that deer don’t like eating, such as clove, chives, or mint.
You can also make a spray using these herbs and water, and spray it around the perimeter of your garden. The strong scent of the herbs will deter deer without harming them.
Try Spices as a Deterrent
One option is to spray your plants with a mixture of spices, such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and chili flakes. The strong scent will discourage deer from coming near your plants. You’ll need to reapply the spray after it rains, but it’s worth it to keep your pumpkins safe.
Using hot spices can also help stop squirrels from eating pumpkins, as well as other pests.
Buy Commercial Deer Repellent
Certain commercial products contain substances that smell unpleasant to deer but are safe for humans and animals. Spraying these products on the pumpkin plants can help keep deer away.
Try an Electronic Repellent
Electronic deer repellents work by broadcasting a loud noise that deer find unpleasant. The units emit short blasts of sound at irregular intervals, startling the deer and causing them to avoid the area.
These devices are best used in small gardens, as the sound can be heard up to 500 feet away.
Deer will eventually become accustomed to the noise if it is left on for long periods of time, so it is important to only use the repellent when necessary. In addition, electronic repellents can be costly and require batteries or an electrical outlet.
Hang Irish Spring Soap
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to keep deer away from your pumpkin plants is to hang Irish Spring soap from the leaves.
The strong scent of the soap will deter deer from coming near, and the soap will also help to mask the smell of the pumpkins themselves. You can also try using other strong-smelling soaps, such as lavender or eucalyptus.
In addition to deterring deer, these soaps can also help to keep away other pests, such as aphids and earwigs. If you’re worried about harming the environment, rest assured that Irish Spring soap is biodegradable and will quickly break down in the soil.
Can You Feed Pumpkins to Deer – and Are They Healthy for Them?
Though you might not think of pumpkins as being particularly nutritious, they actually contain a wide variety of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that can be beneficial for deer.
For example, pumpkins are a good source of Vitamin A, which is essential for vision and the immune system.
They also contain copper, phosphorus, and potassium, which are all important for healthy bones and muscle function. In addition, pumpkins are a good source of fiber and protein, and they also contain a significant amount of Vitamin C.
Pumpkins also contain calcium, zinc, and magnesium. While all of these nutrients are important for deer health, it’s worth noting that pumpkins are relatively high in calories.
As a result, deer should not consume large amounts of pumpkin flesh. However, a few pieces here and there can provide valuable nutrients that can help to keep them healthy and strong.
Feeding pumpkins to deer is a popular fall and post-Halloween activity, but it’s important to take a few precautions. First, be sure to remove any wax, wax mold, or candles from the pumpkin. These can be harmful to deer if ingested.
Second, don’t purposely feed them rotten pumpkins. While deer are scavengers in this regard and can digest rotting food, it’s best to err on the side of caution so the deer don’t get sick.
Finally, keep an eye on the pumpkin supply. If you notice that the deer are eating pumpkins faster than you can replenish them, it’s time to stop feeding deer. You don’t want them to overdo it or become overly reliant on you as a food source and again, pumpkins are relatively high in calories so a small amount is plenty.
By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that feeding pumpkins to deer is a safe and enjoyable activity for everyone involved.
*image by laganovskisu/depositphotos