Before you design what to plant in your garden or trimmings to place in the compost, you might want to consider whether a deer will take this as an invitation to feast. While having lettuce in your garden can be great for you to enjoy more greens, it can also attract deer to your yard.
Do Deer Eat Lettuce?
Deer eat lettuce, it’s one of their go-to vegetables when they make their way into a garden. Lettuce in your garden can put all your other vegetables at risk, as deer will learn that coming to your yard is a great way to get a meal. Deer will eat almost anything if it’s available to them or food is scarce.
Some other vegetables that deer love you’ll want to avoid are:
- carrot tops
- kohlrabi, peas
- sweet potatoes
If you have too many of these vegetables in your garden and aren’t protecting your garden from deer visiting, then it’s not only your lettuce that could be in danger.
Signs a Deer is Eating Your Garden
Deer tend to eat in the early morning, dusk, and through the night, so you may never see a deer in your garden, but that doesn’t mean they won’t leave signs behind. Some of the clues you can look for are:
- Hoof prints that have an upside-down heart shape. If there’s soft soil, you may see a deep cylindrical hole instead of a clear print.
- Droppings that look pebble-like in small piles.
- Trampled plants since deer don’t stick to walking paths while walking through your garden. This may also give you a clue of how they are getting into your garden.
- Torn leaves because deer don’t have upper front teeth, so when they bite a leaf, they pull it free from the rest of the plant. They usually won’t take the whole leaf with them, which is a good way of knowing it was a deer in your garden, not a rabbit or gopher.
Once you know that a deer is getting into your garden and causing havoc on your plants, you must devise a plan to protect your vegetables.
Physical Barriers to Protect Your Garden
The most effective way to prevent deer from getting into your garden is to use a physical barrier like a fence, plastic netting, floating row covers, or chicken wire. A fence is probably the best way to keep deer out, but if you don’t want to install one, using chicken wire around your garden may be an easier choice.
Since lettuce is a shorter plant, you can also use covers over your garden overnight so that deer can’t get to them. This works best if you can have a smaller garden and don’t need to cover a large area. Ensure you use some anchors, so wind or animals don’t knock them off.
Lightweight polypropylene fencing is also an easy solution to deer getting at your lettuce plants, and it’s almost invisible. It’s best to have double fencing with an inner fence about 3 to 5 feet from the outer fence since deer can’t jump wide fences. The fence can be shorter than 8 to 12 feet if there are two.
Electric fencing can effectively keep deer away, but they will jump over it in most cases without much trouble. Hence, it’s only effective if you’re fencing in a small garden without clearance on the inside of the fencing.
Most deer repellents have smells that deer don’t like, such as garlic and hot peppers. According to the National Wildlife Research Center, repellents should:
- Emit sulfur odors such as egg products or blood meal
- Allow for application on the leaves’ surface for better results
- Cause plants to taste bitter, but these types of repellents are less effective
While repellents can help, they don’t guarantee that a deer won’t get into your lettuce garden. You will need to use them regularly, and the deer may learn that the unpleasant smell or taste isn’t hurting them, especially if food is scarce.
Using a bitter repellent might not be an option if you’re planning to eat your vegetables, even if you wash them thoroughly before eating, as they will ruin the taste and can have ingredients that aren’t edible. You may only want to use them when the plants are younger before bearing a harvest.
How to Frighten Deer Away from Your Lettuce Garden
Deer learn quickly, so using something with repetitive noise to scare them won’t work for very long unless it poses a threat. Motion-activated devices that squirt water or emit a high-frequency work better since they only work when there is motion at the border of your property.
The best scare tactic is a barking dog, but only if it has free range of the yard and only barks when there is something in the yard that could be a threat. Deer will quickly learn that a dog is barking at nothing or can only move in certain areas of the yard and will be back to munching on lettuce.
Using a predator’s urine can fright deer into thinking the predator visits your garden. You’ll need to apply the urine to the desired area weekly, which can be expensive if you have a large area to cover. Alternatively, you can hang liquid dispensers and refill them monthly.
Choosing Plants Deer Don’t Like
While the simplest way to prevent deer from eating your garden is to pick plants they don’t enjoy eating, that isn’t possible if you want to have lettuce or other leafy greens. However, planting vegetables deer don’t like around your lettuce may help keep them away.
You may want to plant garlic or rhubarb as a border for your garden to deter deer from entering and getting to your lettuce or other plants. It doesn’t guarantee that your lettuce will be safe, but it’s worth a try, especially if you’re trying different methods to repel deer.
Also read: Can Deer Eat Bread
Deer eat lettuce and will quickly learn how to get into your garden and cause havoc on your vegetables. The best way to protect your plants is to install a fence or put a protective cover over your lettuce so deer can’t munch on them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can deer have iceberg lettuce?
Deer will eat iceberg lettuce if it is within reach. They don’t tend to leave much behind, either.
What do deer love to eat most?
Deer like to eat the woody portion of leaves and stems or browse the most. They also like grasses and mast, such as acorns and apples, but their diet can fluctuate depending on their environment and the time of year.
What vegetables are not eaten by deer?
Deer don’t usually eat root vegetables or prickly vegetables like squashes and cucumbers because they have hairy leaves. They also avoid plants with strong scents like onions, fennel, and garlic.
Do deer eat carrots?
While deer tend to avoid root vegetables, they do like carrots and will dig them up to eat them. However, most of the time, deer will be more interested in eating the leafy carrot top than the root. Planting too many carrot plants is a sure way to attract deer into your garden.
Hey, I’m Lisa and I’ve been an avid gardener for over 30 years. I love writing, talking and living in the garden! Feel free to connect with me on my socials below