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Deer Repellents

This blog was writ­ten by Megan Hand­shu, of the Howard County Nat­ural Resources Divi­sion. Thanks Megan!

Every­one in Howard County who has tried to grow some­thing in their yard knows that deer are enemy num­ber one. Not the drought. Not the stinkbugs. Deer. They will prac­ti­cally stand on your front porch and eat from planted urns beside your door, unafraid of your bark­ing dog, uncar­ing of the fact that you did not intend for your land­scape to become their smörgåsbord.

Here are a few tips on how to fight back by pro­tect­ing your plants from deer. As much as we wish they might just go away, deer over­pop­u­la­tion can be an unfor­tu­nate side effect of a grow­ing com­mu­nity. So set aside the wish­ful think­ing and take action. One or more of these tac­tics may help you save your yard!

Tree Shel­ters:

Bark pro­tec­tors and tree shel­ters are a won­der­ful way to pro­tect your young trees from deer. Not only can they help pro­tect your trees from becom­ing a deer snack, but from becom­ing a scratch­ing post as well. In the late sum­mer and fall male deer will rub against young saplings to remove the vel­vet from their antlers. This may snap young trees before they get a chance to acquire the girth to with­stand such abuse. There are many types of shel­ters out there, from the blue tubes you may often see on the side of the road to sturdy plas­tic mesh.

Whether you choose per­fo­rated or solid tubes you will have to keep an eye on them. Solid tubes can trap mois­ture caus­ing mold and mildew prob­lems. They may also invite small rodents or wasps. Per­fo­rated tubes may need extra main­te­nance as limbs can grow through the holes in the shel­ter. You want the branches to grow up through the top and not side­ways through a hole. In win­ter, the shel­ters can be weighed down by heavy snows and ice, bend­ing the tree with them, and may need to be uprighted. Also, make sure that when your tree begins to out­grow its shel­ters, you take it off, or else the shel­ter can restrict fur­ther growth.


Deer repel­lent tablets are a new prod­uct just reg­is­tered with the US Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency ear­lier this year. You bury them at the base of your plants where water dis­solves the tablet and the chem­i­cals are absorbed through the roots. The active ingre­di­ents are cap­saicin and related cap­sai­ci­noids, the chem­i­cals that make pep­pers so hot and spicy. As unpalat­able as a hot pep­per can be for (many) humans, so is it for deer and other brows­ing ani­mals. Not only will these tablets help pro­tect your plants form deer, but also from rodents such as voles and rab­bits. Don’t worry, no harm will come to these ani­mals if they do ingest part of the plant, except maybe a case of heartburn.

This prod­uct is not for use in veg­etable gar­dens or fruit orchards as it will affect the taste of the food, but it has a lot of poten­tial for pro­tect­ing other types of plants. Depend­ing on the size of your plant, it can take one week to a month for the bad taste to absorb through­out the plant. Dur­ing this time it may be wise to use a spray-on repel­lent to pro­tect your plants. How­ever, once absorbed, it will last the entire grow­ing season.

Repel­lent Sprays:

There are lots of repel­lent sprays avail­able and each seems to claim that their active ingre­di­ent is the only one that works. Ingre­di­ents vary and some smell really bad. There are also dozens of home­made deer repel­lent recipes avail­able on the inter­net. Look for repel­lents that will not wash off your plant every time it rains. You will need to re-apply peri­od­i­cally, but some last longer than oth­ers. Also be care­ful about using repel­lents on edi­bles. They may affect the taste and some may not be safe for con­sump­tion at all.

Howard County’s Stream ReLeaf pro­gram is look­ing into all three of the meth­ods men­tioned above for con­trol­ling deer dam­age to the trees and shrubs it pro­vides. The Stream ReLeaf pro­gram pro­vides native plant mate­r­ial to home­own­ers whose prop­erty is within 75 feet of a stream. With each tree given away by the pro­gram, a tree shel­ter will be pro­vided as well. For those plants that can­not be shel­tered, a com­bi­na­tion of tablets and a spray will be used. These meth­ods will help the plants to sur­vive and thrive, reduc­ing ero­sion and keep­ing pol­lu­tants out of the Chesa­peake Bay. Once the plants are larger and estab­lished, they won’t need as much attention.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Stream ReLeaf pro­gram please visit our web­site. If you believe your prop­erty qual­i­fies, con­tact Megan Hand­shu at mhandshu@howardcountymd.gov or (410) 313‑6205.

Addi­tional Resources:

Howard County has a com­pre­hen­sive deer man­age­ment pro­gram. For more infor­ma­tion about deer man­age­ment in Howard County, visit the web­site.

August 2011

Residents Spring in to Action: Spring Stream ReLeaf

New Image1

What an excit­ing sea­son it was for Stream ReLeaf!

This sea­son saw a jump in demand for the ReLeaf pro­gram — with three dozen res­i­dents plant­ing over 1,300 trees and shrubs. With each of those 1,300 plants that were installed, the envi­ron­ment ben­e­fits. How? In immea­sur­able ways, but let’s start off with some of the biggies:

*Stream buffers help pre­vent stream­bank erosion.

*The veg­e­ta­tion traps much of the sed­i­ment, nutri­ents, and other pol­lu­tants, pre­vent­ing them from enter­ing our waterways.

*In addi­tion to sta­bi­liz­ing the soil, the plants uti­lize most of the trapped nutri­ents. (Note: An effec­tive buffer will use of to 80% of the phos­pho­rous and nearly 90% of the nitro­gen, two of the biggest pol­lu­tants of the Chesa­peake Bay.)

These envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits are com­ple­mented by count­less other ones, such as pro­vid­ing habi­tat and sup­ply­ing food for wildlife, and car­bon sequestration.

The instal­la­tion of these plants can also be looked at from an eco­nomic point of view. At a time when many stormwa­ter man­age­ment facil­i­ties are in need of main­te­nance or repair, the addi­tional plants can help reduce the veloc­ity of the stormwa­ter, thereby allow­ing more of the water to be absorbed in to the earth. Any reduc­tion in the vol­ume of water that these facil­i­ties need to han­dle helps from a man­age­ment and upkeep per­spec­tive. And there are other eco­nom­i­cal ben­e­fits, too; for exam­ple, a reduc­tion in stream­bank ero­sion can help main­tain the value of a property.

Laura Miller
June 2011

Buffers? You mean those things that wax your cars?


As evi­denced by the County’s recent give-away, 2010 Trees in 2010, plant­ing trees is a high pri­or­ity for the County. What is the return on invest­ment for such a pro­gram? I’ll tell you…Trees:

- Remove car­bon diox­ide from the air and pro­duce oxygen;

- Pro­vide food and habi­tat for wildlife;

- Inter­cept water, store some of it, and reduce storm runoff and the pos­si­bil­ity of flooding;

- Poten­tially reduce energy costs by pro­vid­ing shade dur­ing hot sum­mer months (of timely impor­tance) and/or act­ing as a wind­break dur­ing colder times;

- Beau­tify a prop­erty; and

- Pro­vide privacy.

The added bonus of trees when planted in a stream buffer, as is done through the Stream ReLeaf Pro­gram, is that stream­banks can be sta­bi­lized; and sed­i­ment , nutri­ents and other pol­lu­tants can be trapped and pre­vented from enter­ing our water­ways. In fact, the tree will even use up to 80% of the phos­pho­rous and nearly 90% of the nitro­gen that it takes up, two of the biggest pol­lu­tants of the Chesa­peake Bay.

The Stream ReLeaf Pro­gram has been enabling Howard County res­i­dents to plant native trees and shrubs in stream buffers since 2003, and is now gear­ing up for the Fall 2010 plant­ing sea­son. A list of inter­ested res­i­dents has been started and addi­tional par­tic­i­pants are wel­come as well.

Since the debut of the pro­gram in 2003, Stream ReLeaf has grown from just a few par­tic­i­pants to an annual aver­age par­tic­i­pa­tion of more than two dozen res­i­dents installing approx­i­mately 1,200 native plants.

Fol­low the links below for the forms for the 2010 ReLeaf pro­gram. If you are inter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing in this pro­gram, please con­tact Laura A.T. Miller at ltmiller@howardcountymd.gov or 410−313−1636. If send­ing an e-mail or leav­ing a voice­mail, please include your address.

Indi­vid­ual Stream Re-Leaf Form Fall 2010

Tree List Avail­abil­ity Form Fall 2010

2010 Trees in 2010 Program Sets Record


A new pro­gram cre­ated to bring more trees to Howard County was an over­whelm­ing suc­cess with 2,010 trees reserved by res­i­dents in just 48 hours. County res­i­dents were allowed to apply for up to two free trees as part of the 2010 Trees in 2010 ini­tia­tive which began on Mon­day, March 22.

The pro­gram was insti­tuted to help Howard County increase its tree canopy which helps to improve air qual­ity, con­serves water and mod­er­ates the cli­mate. The tim­ing of the pro­gram was par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fi­cial to an area that was hard hit dur­ing this winter’s his­toric snow­storms with the loss of a num­ber of trees due to the heavy snowfall.

The incred­i­ble suc­cess of 2010 Trees in 2010 led Howard County Exec­u­tive Ken Ulman to sug­gest pos­si­ble future pro­grams, “since it was so well-received and the fund­ing came strictly from inter­est earned on our For­est Con­ser­va­tion Fund, I hope we’ll be able to do it again in the fall or next spring.”

Funds for the For­est Con­ser­va­tion Fund come from devel­op­ers who fail to meet forestry require­ments when they develop properties.

No doubt the suc­cess of 2010 Trees in 2010 will help Howard County con­tinue to be named a “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Day Foun­da­tion. At 20 years and count­ing it’s an award we look for­ward to win­ning for years to come.

Laura AT Miller
OES staff
April 2010

Green Tip

Use cloth napkins.It’s actually cheaper to throw cloth napkins in the wash than to buy paper ones.