Potatoes are some of the most widely grown crops on the planet, not to mention that the application of this versatile vegetable is almost indefinite. Because of this, they are a common sight in many vegetable gardens, but they’re also at risk from pests.
Aside from insects and diseases, gardeners often ask do deer eat potato plants and how to keep deer from eating potato plants if that happens.
In this article, I’ll be taking a look at deer and how they may affect your potato crop.
- Do Deer Eat Potato Plants?
- Are There Deer-Resistant Potato Plants?
- How to Keep Deer from Eating Potato Plants?
- Making Home-Made Deer Repellent
- Verdict: Do Deer Eat Potato Plants
Do Deer Eat Potato Plants?
The answer to this is mixed. Scientists have observed deer eating potatoes many times, and in Scotland, they have often requested farmers clear out the deer population because of the damage caused to their potato crops.
On the other hand, deer have simultaneously been spotted avoiding potatoes. Even when potato fields are right next to the forest they live in, deer have been observed steering totally clear. They don’t show the same reluctance when it comes to peas, kale, and turnips on the other hand.
So, it can be said that deer eat potatoes, but not often as there are plenty of other foods they prefer.
Is It Safe for Deer to Eat Potato Plant Leaves and Stems?
No, it is actually very unsafe for deer to eat potato plants. The only part of the potato that’s safe to eat is the actual tuber – and they have to be cooked first.
All parts of the potato plant produce compounds called solanine and chaconine. They’re concentrated in the leaves and the flowers to protect the plant from predators.
Some solanine is found in the tubers, but cooking them destroys the compounds. Poisoning caused by these compounds will cause headaches, diarrhea, cramps, and a fever. This applies to both humans and deer.
In extreme cases, potato poisoning can lead to coma and death. This is especially common with deer (as they don’t cook their potatoes) – people leave them potato leftovers during the winter to feed them and as a consequence, they can die from eating them.
The aforementioned symptoms often lead to starvation and the death of the poor animal. However, high concentrations of solanine are needed to cause death in mammals – especially large mammals such as adult deer.
So – eating potatoes is dangerous for deer, and depending on how much they eat, they can cause anything from vomiting to death. This is likely the reason why deer eat potatoes more rarely than other plants.
Will Potato Plants Regrow After Deer Eat Them
Unfortunately, no, they won’t. Potato plants need to be planted annually, and if a deer eats the entire plant (or at least a large portion of it), it won’t grow again.
However, rest assured that deer don’t really like potatoes. Even when they do eat potatoes, they just nibble on them a bit. Rest assured there are other pests that are much more dangerous for your potatoes than deer.
Do Deer Eat Sweet Potato Plants?
Yes! Deer like sweet potatoes more than they like field potatoes. This is because they’re not poisonous as they don’t contain solanine. When eating sweet potatoes, deer mostly concentrate on the vines, but they’ll eat the tuber too.
Are There Deer-Resistant Potato Plants?
It can be argued that all potato plants are deer resistant as deer will outright die if they eat too much. Sweet potatoes are less deer resistant than field potatoes as they’re not toxic.
Wild potatoes are considered more toxic than domesticated potatoes, but that’s of little significance to you as the potatoes you’re likely growing will be the domesticated variety.
How to Keep Deer from Eating Potato Plants?
Later on, I’ll explain how to keep deer from your garden in general, but there’s a very effective method of keeping deer away from your potatoes. Simply grow them in a cage.
Building a small metal cage over your small potato field is cheap and simple, while deer certainly won’t be able to break through the metal mesh.
What’s important is that this won’t diminish sunlight exposure to your potatoes and you can simply water them through the mesh.
This method is very effective for all vegetables that don’t grow too tall! Carrots, for example, can also be kept safe from deer with this method.
Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden
If you have issues with deer in your garden in general, it’s not just your potato crop that is likely to suffer and that’s when you are going to require a more permanent way of keeping them out.
There are three methods of keeping deer out of your garden – repellents, fences, and scaring them away.
Experts recommend that you use repellents along with other methods, but you shouldn’t rely on them solely. On their own, repellents aren’t effective enough to keep deer away from your plants.
There are several reasons behind this. Firstly, repellents are based on foul-smelling (for deer, but sometimes also for humans) and bad-tasting ingredients such as hot sauce and rotten eggs.
The thing is – animals get used to it. With time, deer will learn to ignore the foul smell in your garden and they’ll enter it either way.
Secondly, repellents evaporate with time, so they’re really not that effective on their own.
Simply put – deer can jump very high, but an 8-foot-fence will keep them at bay. No deer can jump that much, and they’re not strong enough to rip through metal. This is why fences are by far the most effective method of deer control.
However, they can be costly, which is why some gardeners refrain from installing them.
Scaring Them Away
Letting your dog into your garden is the most effective way of scaring deer away from your garden. That’s because the instinct of a deer is to always run from a potential threat and never fight.
Another method of scaring them is connecting a sprinkler system to a motion detector – they’ll get a blast of water every time they activate them.
Making Home-Made Deer Repellent
Instead of spending money on commercial deer repellent, here’s how to make your own.
Smells That Repel Deer
Rotting eggs are by far the most effective smell, but deer also dislike mint, thyme, and rosemary if you can believe it.
Tabasco and soap are both great deterrents too. The soap is bitter to taste while tabasco is spicy. A combo that deers simply detest.
You can use any one of these ingredients for your deer repellent.
How to Make Home-Made Deer Repellent
You can have your own deer repellent ready in a matter of minutes! Here’s everything you need to know:
Water and any one of the ingredients mentioned above are all you need. For this example, I’ve chosen 3-day-old hard-boiled eggs and Tabasco sauce.
Step 1 – Grind the Ingredients
Using a blender, grind the ingredients finely with only a little bit of water. You can add more than a single ingredient – eggs, and tabasco, for example, and mix well.
Step 2 – Mix with Water
Once the ingredients are finely ground, you can add them to water and mix them. Make sure to pass the mixture through a sieve so there’s no debris that could clog the sprinkler.
Step 3 – Spray Away
Use a simple sprayer to cover all your plants with this mixture – it should keep deer away for a while. Don’t forget to reapply every few weeks and after every rain.
Verdict: Do Deer Eat Potato Plants
Deer will come after potato plants, but usually when there’s no other food left. Potatoes are actually poisonous, especially the leaves and the stem, and a deer can die if it eats too much. Even if it doesn’t die, it will definitely suffer a lot of pain for a while.
They’re more interested in sweet potatoes, which is why you need to protect your garden. Do this by fencing it off, using repellents, or by installing scare devices.