Do Deer Eat Strawberry Plants: How to Protect Your Garden from Hungry Deer?

If you love growing strawberries in your garden, you might have wondered if deer eat strawberry plants. The answer is yes, deer love strawberries and will eat not only the fruits, but also the leaves, stems, flowers, and even the whole plant. Deer are attracted to strawberries because of their sweet taste and aroma, and they can cause significant damage to your strawberry patch if left unchecked.

In this article, we will explain why deer eat strawberry plants, what types of strawberries they prefer, how to identify signs of deer damage, and how to prevent deer from eating your strawberries. By following these tips, you can enjoy your delicious strawberries without worrying about hungry deer.

Key Takeaways

  • Deer eat strawberry plants because they are sweet and aromatic, and they provide nutrition and water for deer, especially in winter when other food sources are scarce.
  • Deer will eat all types of strawberries, including homegrown, farm-grown, and wild strawberries. They will eat the entire plant if they can get to it.
  • To prevent deer from eating strawberry plants, you can use various methods such as installing a deer-proof fence, using hardware mesh, using deer repellents, installing motion-activated sprinklers, getting rid of hiding spots, and creating deer-resistant hedges.

Why Do Deer Eat Strawberry Plants?

Deer are browsing animals, meaning they will eat almost anything they come across if they are hungry enough. They have a varied diet that includes grasses, herbs, shrubs, fruits, nuts, seeds, and even fungi. However, they also have preferences for certain foods that are more palatable or nutritious for them.

Strawberries are one of the foods that deer love to eat because they are sweet and aromatic. Strawberries contain sugar and volatile compounds such as ethyl esters that give them their distinctive flavor and smell. Deer have a keen sense of smell and can detect the aroma of strawberries from a long distance. They will come to your garden and bite the fruits or the plants to enjoy the taste.

Strawberries also provide nutrition and water for deer, especially in winter when other food sources may be scarce. Strawberries are rich in water and fiber, which help deer stay hydrated and digest their food. They also contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and iron that help deer maintain their health.

Which Type of Strawberries Do Deer Eat?

Deer will eat all types of strawberries that they can find, including homegrown, farm-grown, and wild strawberries. They will eat the entire plant if they can get to it. However, some types of strawberries may be more attractive or accessible to deer than others.

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Some common strawberry varieties that deer may eat include:

  • Honeoye Strawberries: These are early-season strawberries that produce large and firm fruits with a bright red color and a sweet flavor. They are popular among home gardeners because they are easy to grow and have a high yield. However, they may also attract deer because of their size and sweetness.
  • Seascape Strawberries: These are everbearing strawberries that produce medium-sized fruits with a dark red color and a mild flavor throughout the season. They are resistant to many diseases and pests and can tolerate heat and drought. However, they may also appeal to deer because of their continuous production and aroma.
  • Chandler Strawberries: These are mid-season strawberries that produce large and juicy fruits with a bright red color and a rich flavor. They are widely grown by commercial farmers because they have a long shelf life and a high market value. However, they may also entice deer because of their quality and fragrance.

What Are Signs of Deer Eating Strawberries?

If you suspect that deer are eating your strawberries, you can look for some signs that indicate their presence and activity in your garden. Some common signs of deer eating strawberries include:

  • Droppings: Deer droppings are oval-shaped pellets that are usually dark brown or black in color. They may be found in clusters or scattered around your garden. Deer droppings can indicate the number and frequency of deer visits to your garden.
  • Bite Marks: Deer bite marks are usually clean-cut or jagged edges on the fruits or the plants. Deer have sharp incisors on their lower jaw and no teeth on their upper jaw. They use their tongue and lips to pull the food into their mouth and then bite it off with their lower teeth. Deer bite marks can indicate the type and amount of damage done by deer to your garden.
  • Hoof Prints: Deer hoof prints are heart-shaped impressions that are usually about 2 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. They may be found on the soil or the mulch around your garden. Deer hoof prints can indicate the direction and speed of deer movement in your garden.
  • Trampled or Missing Plants: Deer may trample or uproot your strawberry plants as they walk or feed on them. They may also eat the whole plant or take it away with them. Trampled or missing plants can indicate the extent and severity of deer damage to your garden.

How to Prevent Deer from Eating Strawberry Plants?

If you want to protect your strawberry plants from deer, you need to take some measures to deter them from entering or feeding on your garden. There are various methods that you can use to prevent deer from eating strawberry plants, such as:

  • Installing a Deer-proof Fence: A deer-proof fence is one of the most effective ways to keep deer out of your garden. A deer-proof fence should be at least 8 feet high, sturdy, and tight. It should also have no gaps or openings that deer can squeeze through or jump over. You can use materials such as wood, metal, wire, or plastic to build a deer-proof fence around your garden.
  • Using Hardware Mesh: Hardware mesh is a type of metal mesh that has small holes that deer cannot bite through or pull apart. You can use hardware mesh to cover your strawberry plants or create cages around them. Hardware mesh can protect your strawberry plants from deer damage without affecting their growth or appearance.
  • Using Deer Repellents: Deer repellents are substances that emit unpleasant smells or tastes that deer dislike or avoid. You can use deer repellents to spray on your strawberry plants or around your garden. Deer repellents can be natural or synthetic, and they may include ingredients such as garlic, hot pepper, eggs, soap, blood, urine, or chemicals. However, deer repellents may need to be reapplied frequently and may not work in all weather conditions or against all deer.
  • Installing Motion-activated Sprinklers: Motion-activated sprinklers are devices that sense the movement of deer and spray water at them. You can install motion-activated sprinklers in strategic locations in your garden to scare away deer when they approach your strawberry plants. Motion-activated sprinklers can be effective in startling and deterring deer, but they may also waste water and annoy other animals or people.
  • Getting Rid of Hiding Spots: Deer may use hiding spots such as tall grasses, bushes, trees, or structures to conceal themselves and approach your garden unnoticed. You can get rid of hiding spots by mowing, pruning, clearing, or removing them from your garden. Getting rid of hiding spots can reduce the chances of deer sneaking into your garden and eating your strawberries.
  • Creating Deer-resistant Hedges: Deer-resistant hedges are plants that deer do not like to eat or touch because they are thorny, prickly, poisonous, or bitter. You can create deer-resistant hedges by planting them along the perimeter of your garden or between your strawberry plants. Deer-resistant hedges can act as natural barriers and deterrents for deer, as well as provide beauty and diversity for your garden.
See also
Why Do Raspberries Have Hairs? The Surprising Science Behind These Fuzzy Fruits

Conclusion

Deer eat strawberry plants because they are sweet and aromatic, and they provide nutrition and water for deer, especially in winter when other food sources are scarce. Deer will eat all types of strawberries, including homegrown, farm-grown, and wild strawberries. They will eat the entire plant if they can get to it.

To prevent deer from eating strawberry plants, you can use various methods such as installing a deer-proof fence, using hardware mesh, using deer repellents, installing motion-activated sprinklers, getting rid of hiding spots, and creating deer-resistant hedges. By following these tips, you can enjoy your delicious strawberries without worrying about hungry deer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do deer eat wild strawberries? Yes, deer eat wild strawberries as well as cultivated strawberries. Wild strawberries are smaller and less sweet than cultivated strawberries, but they still have a pleasant aroma and flavor that attract deer.
  2. Will my strawberries grow back after deer eat them? It depends on how much damage the deer have done to your strawberry plants. If the deer have only eaten the fruits or the leaves, your strawberry plants may grow back over time. However, if the deer have eaten the stems or the crown of the plant, your strawberry plants may not recover and you may need to replace them.
  3. What are some other fruits that deer like to eat? Deer like to eat many other fruits besides strawberries, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, and more. Deer will eat these fruits when they are ripe and available in their natural habitat or in gardens.
  4. What time of the day do deer eat strawberries? Deer are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. They may eat strawberries during these times when they are foraging for food and looking for a safe place to rest. However, deer may also eat strawberries at any time of the day if they are hungry or feel secure.
  5. How can I attract deer to my garden without harming my strawberries? If you want to attract deer to your garden for wildlife viewing or hunting purposes, you can plant some deer-friendly plants that will not harm your strawberries. Some examples of deer-friendly plants are clover, alfalfa, chicory, oats, wheat, rye, and corn. These plants provide food and cover for deer and can coexist with your strawberries.
  6. How can I share my strawberries with deer without losing them all? If you want to share your strawberries with deer without losing them all, you can try some of these strategies:
    • Plant more strawberries than you need and leave some for the deer.
    • Plant some sacrificial plants near your strawberries that will distract the deer from your main crop.
    • Harvest your strawberries as soon as they are ripe and store them in a safe place.
    • Offer some alternative food sources for the deer such as hay, salt licks, or fruits.
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