Rosemary: Can You Use It to Repel Deer?


White-tailed deer buck in rut in an autumn meadow

Deer are a well-known creature to North Americans and typically can be found in people’s yards, open fields, and wooded areas. This is why they often get caught crossing the road, eat plants in residential areas, and roam around close to humans. But did you know that deer are deterred by certain scents that you can use to effectively keep them out of your direct space? 

Deer have an incredibly strong sense of smell, thanks to their olfactory sense, which is stronger than that of a bloodhound. You can take advantage of this fact by using natural rosemary scent, which repels deer. Rosemary can be used in powder form, grown as a companion plant, or used in a spray to repel deer.

Below are some scents, along with rosemary, that deer find too strong for their sensitive smell and the best ways to use them to your advantage. Hang out for a while and read about all of the natural scent-based methods that you can use to deter deer and get your backyard back!

Why Do You Need To Deter Deer? 

Deer frequent many areas in North America, so much so that they are just a common daily sight for many residents of the US and Canada. Have you ever heard a friend or family member caution you to watch out for deer as you leave their house after dark? Maybe you see them wandering in front yards or parks near your home. 

The point is, deer are everywhere. 

Deer can cause some concerns, from driving to drawing in predators, and can be a nuisance when it comes to your personal backyard garden’s success.

Many deer wander but don’t cause trouble. This, however, is not always the case. Sometimes they can cause pretty serious damage- and we mean anything from a torn-up flower bed to a collision in your car. 

When deer wander roads and residential areas, accidents are bound to happen. This is why it is important to know how to simply deter deer. Not because they are a predator but because they can bring about more chaos than you might expect.

Whether they are ruining food supplies, drawing in other bigger animals, or causing accidents, deer can be much more of an issue than you might expect at first thought. Needless to say, having them super close to you on a regular basis can negatively affect you and those around you.

Here are some of the common issues that you’ll find if there are deer on or around your property:

Deer Eat Outdoor Fruits and Vegetables

Deer don’t differentiate between a tree in a forest and your favorite cucumber plant that has taken a whole summer of hard work and care. They eat plants in their environment, and if the environment happens to be your yard… well, you get the picture. 

Seeing a deer in the front yard of a neighbor is often exciting. When those deer migrate to your space and begin disrupting your daily systems, it is less exciting.

Annoyance really isn’t the only issue that deer pose to you and your space. There are bigger problems that their presence may create.

Thankfully, one thing deer won’t eat? Rosemary.

Deer Can Attract Potential Predators To Your Property

Deer are pretty calm creatures that won’t harm you in a typical backyard setting. Their predators, however, cannot be categorized in the same tranquil manner. Neither you nor your children, small pets, or neighbors want a coyote around, or a wolf, or any other predators that may be native to your area.

Just imagine you are enjoying a nice summer evening with the family when you hear a coyote howl, but it seems too close for comfort. A predator is nearer because it was drawn to the deer on your property. This is an example of a larger issue at hand.

How Do You Deter Deer Naturally?

Naturally deterring these four-legged nuisances is a pretty simple process and really can be done based on one thing alone: smell. Homemade contraptions or expensive solutions aren’t necessary, just some rosemary and other natural scents that deer prefer to avoid.

If you’re interested, you can read our list of the best natural deer repellents here.

What Smell Do Deer Hate The Most?

So, there are some smells that deer hate too, and we want you to have all the resources you can to effectively but simply deter deer from your property. 

There are quite a few scents that you can use to help deter deer. Not only are these methods simple and scent-based alone, but they are also all scents that can be found in natural household items. You can save some dough to keep the does away (see what we did there?)

Please note that again, these scents below may work for you, but there are TONS of variables that we can’t always prepare for. If you are ever overwhelmed or just need a second opinion, consult with a local wildlife control expert that will be able to support you and help with the situation!

Rosemary Repels Deer

blooming rosemary bush in home green garden.

This common herb is better for more than just cooking delicious dishes. Rosemary is also a great deer deterrent. You can keep growing veggies in your garden without the fear that deer will interfere. Too rhyme-y? You’ll remember it!

Rosemary is a plant that deer rarely cause problems with, so stick some in with your other herbs and produce to yield a great, versatile spice that happens to double as a free, natural deer deterrent. Oklahoma State University has done research that confirms this is a successfully proven idea. 

By planting rosemary in your garden, not only will you have extra herbs that pair well with those veggies, but you will also prevent deer from coming near. If you sprinkle rosemary in other areas of your yard or in a garden where you don’t want to grow a plant of rosemary, this is also a great preventative measure.

Looking for more ways to use rosemary to repel deer but don’t want another plant and don’t use it that much in your day-to-day cooking? No worries! There is a solution for that too. Well, more like an oil.

You can apply rosemary oil, essential or otherwise, around the perimeter of your garden, yard, or any areas that deer tend to linger. This can be localized to one specific plant that you’re worried about even. 

Keep in mind that, like any other oil or scent-based deterrent, you will need to reapply frequently for best success. Is it worth it, though? We think so!

Will Rosemary Repel Deer Long Term?

Like most scents on this list, it may be tough to deter deer with rosemary long-term. This is due to the simple aspect of habituation.

In order to use this method effectively, you’ll quite frequently need to reapply the rosemary scents. Additionally, you’ll have much better luck pairing this with another physical deterrent, such as a motion sensor light.

Peppermint Oil

Speaking of oils that are natural, easy to use, and smell good to humans while keeping deer away. Peppermint oil is a great method of prevention, also.

Deer are quite sensitive to smell, as we now know, and peppermint is a strong scent to any nose, let alone that of an animal that relies on smell as a defense mechanism. This is such a practical option, but nothing lasts forever. 

Use a bulk option like this 16 fl oz GreenHealth peppermint oil, so you can save money and the hassle of buying tiny vials of the stuff on a regular basis. Using a ready-made peppermint oil lasts a while and is sure to work wonders. 

Thyme to Deter Some Deer

Let’s circle back to the idea of using herbs.

Thyme may not top your list of most-used cooking herbs; it may not even be a scent that you strongly associate with at all. Deer, however, are not a fan of this one. 

Thyme may not have a huge impact on human senses of smell. We may not even notice it is around, but deer certainly will. 

Haven’t we sold you on this idea just yet?

The University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science additionally confirms the use of thyme as a deer repellent… Fancy!

Oregano Makes Deer Go Away

Oh, are you tired of hearing about culinary herbs? Guess what; there’s more!

Oregano works surprisingly well to deter deer and is a great household item for those homemade sauces. Save a little from your next pizza party and place it around your property to keep deer away.

Deer are naturally skittish and adapt quickly, so having some extra methods (or herbs) up your sleeve will help you be successful in keeping those deer away. Rotating deterrents, or combining them if you’re feeling adventurous, is a surefire way to reclaim your space while also using natural plant-based products that are easy yet effective. 

Lavender

Lavender is another great example of a natural resource that can be used as a plant, an oil, or even mixed in with some salts that you can sprinkle throughout your space.

Lavender is lovely, right? This soft scent is typically associated with calm and is nice to humans but nasty to deer. 

The plant itself will add a pop of color to your yard, and the oil will be discreet and go unnoticed by any guests you may be entertaining.

You can read more about using lavender to deter deer in our piece about scents that deer hate here.

Garlic Keeps Deer Away

Oh, is that not the saying? Well, it should be!

Garlic is good for a whole range of things, some commonly known but some not so much. 

The strong scent keeps deer away due to their sensitive sense of smell, but it is also just such a good item to keep in the house. Whether you’re cooking, trying some home remedies, or growing it in the backyard, this is something that you can benefit from in more ways than one!

Coffee Grounds Repel Deer

Did you know that coffee grounds can repel deer?

It’s true; the scent of coffee grounds can signal to deer that humans are nearby. You can use spent coffee grounds and sprinkle them around your garden or yard each morning. The coffee grounds will repel deer and keep your yard fertilized in the process!

We wrote an in-depth guide on using coffee grounds to repel deer here.

Keep Deer Away By Modifying Your Space

White-tailed deer buck isolated on white background standing in the winter snow in Canada

Of course, those powerful scents that work against deer are recommended in deterring them from your space. It is, however, worth it to keep in mind that any scent-based methods are variable in their success. Some deer adapt more quickly than others, while some learn to move past certain sensitivities. 

Keep Your Backyard Clean

Keep your backyard clean not only to avoid attracting deer but to have a better living space, keep more dangerous or pesky animals away, and enjoy the area you live in.

Trim those bushes, steer clear of piled leaves, branches, and other structures that could act as a makeshift den for a whole bunch of animals, and keep your edible goods indoors.

As much as you can, cover all foods at the table and make sure to put a lid on your beverages of all sorts. This way, deer and other animals will be less drawn to your space in particular.

When your yard is clean, green, and ready to be seen, place any yard waste and garbage into the appropriate bins. This also brings us to our next section.

Keep Garbage Bins Covered From Deer

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised to know how many people don’t abide by this simple solution.

To not negate your hard work, make sure that you keep your waste away from those animals who may be attracted to it. This includes deer, raccoons, ants, other insects, skunks, coyotes, and even wolves or bears. 

A preventative method, this one is worth your time. 

Protect Your Garden

Secure your garden and avoid deer, rabbits, mice, and other animals from eating your homegrown produce by using fencing.

Turn a serious task of deterring animals into a fun one by using a product like this Decorative Border Garden Fencing to provide a fun border around your garden while serving a functional purpose. 

Who said aesthetics and pest control couldn’t go hand-in-hand?

Seal Your Food While Storing It

While you’re at it, take some extra time to properly store your food. It will save you trouble, lots of other pest issues, and the expense that goes along with wasting food. Don’t even get us started on the piece of mind you’ll have.

A solution so simple it seems too good to be true, storing food is a crucial step to keeping pests, predators, and little nuisances away from your space.

That’s A Wrap!

Well, that’s about it. 

Remember that there are many approaches to take and many methods of implementing those approaches. Some things might work great for you, but not as well for others and vice-versa. 

Keep these natural, food-based deterrents in mind for a simple, affordable, and environmentally-friendly deer deterrent rotation:

  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint Oils
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Garlic

Don’t overlook the value of maintaining cleanliness in your backyard, garden, and other outdoor space to maximize the effectiveness. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

I hope this article helps you keep deer at arm’s length.

References

Clausen, R. R. (2011). 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants: The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don’t Eat. Timber Press.

Hedlund, J. H., Curtis, P. D., Curtis, G., & Williams, A. F. (2004). Methods to reduce traffic crashes involving deer: what works and what does not. Traffic injury prevention5(2), 122-131.

Ober, H. K., Mackowiak, C. L., & Blount, A. R. S. (2020). Temporary Food Plot Deterrents for Deer: Do They Work?. EDIS2016(3), 4-4.

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