What Herbs Repel Deer?

“I read that Thyme can repel deer from your veggie garden. Is it true?” Question from Sylvia of Belle Plaine, Minnesota

Answer: Thyme is a mint, and on the whole, deer dislike the strong smell of many plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae), so mints, like thyme, can repel deer. But, I cannot say whether repellent mints would keep deer away from vegetables that they really love, like sweet potato vine. I recommend experimenting with a few to see if they help.

Here is a list of seven great minty perennial garden plants–both herbal flowers and culinary herbs– known to repel deer.

  1. Hyssop (Agastache spp.): These sun-lovers have pretty flowers that bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds will visit. The pretty ‘Blue Fortune‘ will survive to zone 4.
  2. Mints (Mentha spp.): Hardy peppermint, spearmint, and pineapple mint are all great options, but these fast-spreading plants must be grown in large pots (never the ground!) to keep them from taking over.
  3. Monarda (Monarda hybrids): These beautiful summer flowers for pollinators have a strong smell that deer cannot stand. Plant them alongside your vegetables.
  4. Catmint (Nepeta hybrids): The blue flowers of these hardy, bushy perennials (Zones 3-8) add great color to gardens. Proven Winners’ Cat’s Pajamas‘ is especially pretty.
  5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): For northern gardeners to successfully grow this favorite Mediterranean herb, I always recommend the hardier variety ‘Arp’ (Zones 6-10). If you live in a colder zone, bring it indoors in winter.
  6. Sage (Salvia officinalis): Pots of hardy sage (Zones 4-10) should help protect your vegetable garden and help flavor your favorite winter dishes.
  7. Thyme (Thymus spp.): All thymes are repellent to deer, so plant away.

I hope that they do keep deer out of your vegetable garden!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

How Do I Keep Spreading Herbs in Bounds?

Keep Spreading Herbs in Bounds

“I know a lot of herbs spread on their own. Do I need to put barriers in the ground to keep them from taking over?” Question from Glenda of Sewell, New Jersey

Answer: Barriers are required to keep spreading herbs in bounds. The worst spreading perennial herbs are mints of all kinds and oregano, another member of the mint family. They spread by underground runners and some are so aggressive that they will take over a garden space in no time to noxious proportions. The runners can move their way around rocks and under stone edging to invade further garden spaces or lawns. Sometimes they can even escape from the bottom holes of pots!

Confining Mints

Confine mints in large pots on pavement or within deep collars in herb gardens. If you choose to grow your mints in pots, it is wise to place a piece of window screen across the bottom to keep the roots from escaping. (Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix is a great growing mix for potted herbs.) A collar can be created by cutting the bottom off of a large nursery pot and sinking it in the garden; be sure to keep 2 inches of the lip above ground. Plant the mint in the center. Most herbs grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. (Click here to learn more about growing herbs.)

Confined mints will outgrow pots and collars and need to be divided or thinned every couple of years to keep them happy and healthy.

Happy herb gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist