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Sometimes it can feel like growing vegetables in deer country can be an impossible task, but with some careful planning, it can be achieved! There are quite a few deer resistant vegetables and vegetables deer do not eat. There are various reasons for this – they will not bother eating those veggies because they are toxic to deer or they simply dislike the taste.
And while we don’t mind sharing our land with deer and other mammals, it is nice to be able to enjoy the fruits – and vegetables – of our labors from time to time! So, let’s take a look at the best deer resistant vegetables to help you get the most out of your plot.
Deer Resistant Vegetables Guide:
Are There Any Deer Resistant Vegetables?
It’s no wonder that deer and other mammals enjoy eating the produce from our vegetable plots – after all, we grow them in the first place because they taste delicious! A well-tended and productive vegetable garden is pretty much an all-you-can-eat buffet for local wildlife, but it would be nice if we humans got to enjoy some of it too.
With some careful planning, crops can be grown that deer are not interested in, leaving a plentiful harvest for us to enjoy.
However, we do need to put a disclaimer here – just because deer don’t want to eat something, it doesn’t mean they won’t destroy it in other ways! Plants can be broken and trampled by deer in search of a tasty morsel to eat.
What Vegetables Do Deer Not Eat?
Some vegetables are known to be deer resistant. These can be broadly split into two categories; those that are toxic to deer, and those that do not taste pleasant to deer.
Some deer resistant vegetables also serve as a useful deterrent and can be used as a barrier to stop deer from eating other more tasty crops.
The largest group of vegetables that deer will not eat are fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, and peppers.
They also tend to steer clear of any member of the allium family, including leeks, onions, and garlic.
Plants in the carrot family are also normally shunned by deer in search of a tasty snack.
27 Deer Resistant Vegetables
Ready to start planning your deer resistant vegetable garden? Here are our top 27 vegetables that deer won’t eat!
- Globe Artichokes
- Bok Choy
- Brussels Sprouts
- Summer Squash
- Winter Squash
Vegetables Rarely Eaten by Deer
This first group contains all the vegetables that deer will avoid like the plague, either because they dislike the flavor, or because they are toxic to deer.
Deer do not tend to enjoy the flavor of asparagus and will shun the tender spears in favor of other foodstuffs. However, deer hooves can trample the shoots as they emerge from the ground, so it may be necessary to erect a temporary fence during harvest season.
Many deer gardeners use the tall asparagus fronds in late summer and fall to screen more vulnerable plants. Bear in mind that the berries of asparagus are toxic to deer and other animals.
Asparagus are one of the best deer resistant vegetables.
All parts of the carrot plant, including the tops, are edible to deer. They may nibble at the tops of young carrot seedlings, so these need to be protected until they become established.
Deer will dig up and eat some root vegetables, particularly sweeter types such as sugar beet. However, they seem to regard carrots as not worth the effort and will leave them safely in the ground unless they are very hungry.
The pungent smell of chives makes them a great deer deterrent, and they can also be used to screen other plants. Chives’ screening ability makes them great deer resistant vegetables.
The leaves of cucumber plants are mildly toxic to deer, and they tend to avoid eating these prickly leaves and the cucumbers themselves.
Currants are a great choice for an edible garden, as deer will leave them well alone! A row of red, black, and white currant bushes can make an eye-catching barrier that protects more vulnerable plants from deer.
Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family of vegetables, which are mildly toxic to deer. Eggplants are slow-growing and require a warm, sunny plot to provide a good crop, but are worth the effort in a deer-friendly garden.
Fennel is an unusual plant, as it can be grown both as a vegetable and a herb. A member of the carrot family, the bulblike stem can be harvested for use raw in salads or as a cooked vegetable. Deer dislike the strong aniseed flavor of fennel and will not eat any part of the plant, making them one of the best deer resistant vegetables.
If left unchecked, fennel grows tall, fernlike fronds that will repel deer. However, take care to cut fennel down before it seeds, as it can be very invasive.
Garlic doesn’t just repel vampires, but keeps deer at bay too! Deer strongly dislike the pungent smell of raw garlic and will steer well clear of it. A row of garlic bulbs interplanted between carrots will not only deter hungry deer but also repel the troublesome and destructive carrot root flies.
Globe artichokes are tall, elegant plants that work as a great deer-resistant barrier. These plants have fuzzy leaves and spiny flowers that deer dislike, and they can be grown as a shield for more vulnerable vegetable plants.
Gooseberry bushes have dense foliage that hides sharp spines that deer will avoid browsing. They also dislike the sour fruits and will leave your gooseberry bushes to grow in peace. Spines are a great feature of deer resistant vegetables!
Leeks belong to the allium family and are a good addition to any winter food garden.
Will deer eat leeks? Deer will not eat leeks, as they dislike the smell and flavor of alliums. However, leeks can be crushed and trampled by deer in search of other forage, so you may wish to protect your crop from marauding hooves.
It is no wonder that deer don’t like eating onion – after all, raw onion is one of the most pungent vegetables you’ll ever come across! Onions contain sulfur compounds that create a strong odor and flavor that is highly repellent to mammals and insects.
Sweet and chili peppers are not commonly eaten by deer, although there are reports of starving deer eating ripe sweet pepper fruits. They will not eat the leaves and stems of pepper plants, as they belong to the nightshade family and are mildly toxic.
The green leaves of rhubarb contain oxalates and glycosides that cause gastrointestinal problems in both deer and humans. Deer tend to steer well clear of rhubarb, and even if they nibble the leaves they tend to avoid the edible stalks.
Tomatoes are commonly recommended in a deer-resistant garden, but some gardeners report that deer will eat ripe tomato fruits from the plants. Luckily, this can easily be prevented by temporarily protecting your mature plants with deer netting.
Do deer like eating tomato plants? Tomatoes, along with peppers and eggplant, belong to the nightshade family. All plants in this family are mildly toxic to deer, and they will not eat the leaves or stems.
Vegetables Occasionally Eaten by Deer
This second group consists of vegetables that deer will sometimes eat, but normally only if no other food source is available. They tend to like the young shoots of these plants, so if you can protect them for the first few weeks of growth they should then be left alone by visiting deer.
Bok choy falls under the category of plants that deer eat when other food sources are scarce. They won’t actively seek out your bok choy plants unless their wild food supply is running low.
Although deer are known to nibble on cabbages, they do not seem as keen on the strong flavor of Brussels sprouts.
Deer will be most interested in chard during the spring and fall when wild food stores are running low. However, chard is pretty much indestructible, and will quickly send up new leaves for you to harvest.
Corn can be tricky in a deer garden, but they only eat it at certain growth stages. They will nibble on emerging shoots and then leave the plants alone until the corn starts to develop husks. At this stage, deer netting can be used to protect them from damage.
Hungry deer may nibble on kale, but it is not their favorite food choice. Kale is a tough, vigorous plant that will quickly recover from any damage done by deer.
Deer don’t tend to eat watermelon plants, although they sometimes browse on younger, tender leaves. There are reports that deer will eat ripe melon fruits, but netting the plants at this stage can help to keep your harvest safe from hungry deer.
Deer tend to avoid the prickly stems of okra, but they may nibble on the pods.
The leaves of potatoes, like all plants from the nightshade family, are mildly toxic to deer. They may nibble at young leaves but tend to leave the potatoes in the ground well alone.
Deer are known to eat the leaves of young radish plants on occasion, although their fuzzy, spiky texture can be a deterrent. They tend to leave the radishes themselves alone.
Summer Squash, Winter Squash & Zucchini
Deer will eat the young leaves and shoots of all types of squash plants, including zucchini, but as the plants mature and the leaves toughen they will leave them alone. They are reported to eat ripe squash and zucchini if other food sources are scarce.