How to easily create a deer resistant flower garden from blank slate to blooming plants in just a of couple months. Get tips, watch a video, and find a plant list of what worked with our deer - and the few that didn't.
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There was another weedy area - this time with gravel - where another manufactured home use to be that we turned into our fenced vegetable garden.
It had to be fenced because we learned right away that the deer love the property, bedding down under the oaks in the woodlot and visiting any tree and shrub every night, and they are voracious, eating everything in sight.
So I began to see why there wasn't much planted on the property, even though the house had been there for over 100 years!
And I also saw that growing 15 hydrangeas like at our last place wasn't going to work here, sadly - I love them and they are my go-to plant for looking good quickly and for all the cut flowers they provide.
Low Maintenance Goals
I had also learned at our previous home that you can plant too many areas and if you don't have people helping you with them, the maintenance can become a burden.
I was determined that our farmhouse yard and garden would be as low maintenance as possible, while still providing food and enjoyment from gardening and beautiful spaces.
This newest flower garden followed suit - we had an area near the house we needed to dig out that was viewed by visitors and through the windows, making it a perfect spot for the small herb and flower garden I wanted.
But it had to be deer resistant.
I searched out easy-care, deer resistant plants (to avoid constant spraying or electric sprinklers) and planned defined beds, large paths, and soakers that would eventually be set up with another automatic DIY watering system.
Take tour through the video and photos below of the garden in its first three months and let me know what you think - and I love a good dramatic before and after, don't you?
Be sure to check out the plant list at the end, too, to see which herbs, perennials, shrubs, and annuals held up to our deer-that-eat-everything to help you if your garden plans include planning for deer.
Flower Garden Area Before
Way back after having our old farmhouse's foundation installed, this side yard was a (formerly) grassy area that stepped down on one side from the driveway on the right, but was level with the walk to the front door (bottom of photo).
You can see the new foundation blocks on the left and the dirt that had been dug out by the contractor to build the foundation, which was a little over a foot at the deepest.
To pass inspection, we needed to excavate the whole area to slope gently away from the foundation for four feet.
With rented equipment and with good friends to help we dug out the area - along with a LOT of rocks, including a few boulders. (You can see and hear us talk about this more in this podcast episode.)
By the end of the day, we had it completed and used some of the dug up rocks to create retaining walls for the areas next to the driveway and walkway.
Oh, see all the unused rocks on the driveway to the right? Yeah, there was another large pile on the lawn behind me!
When I say a LOT of rocks, I mean a TON, lol.
We passed inspection for the foundation and then focused on the inside of the farmhouse for the next couple of years.
During that time this area looked like this to keep the weeds down:
Well, actually it looked worse than this, because I had started planting the upper bed in this photo, but you get the idea.
Not the greatest view out the dining room window after we moved it, was it?
Which is why I wanted to tackle this area right away our first spring after moving in to the farmhouse.
TIP: By the way, black plastic is about the only thing we've found to help keep down the pernicious weeds found on rural properties. We made a video about it and all the other things we tried against weeds here.
Sunken Flower Garden During
I drew up a basic plan after seeing what the area looked like when excavated (this is step 2 of the 9 steps to an easy garden - it's SO nice not to have to figure it out while standing in the garden - when you have a plan, you already know the direction you want to go).
While the general outlined stayed the same and drove the design, the plants and materials changed for various reasons, as you will see.
Creating The Beds
The first step after removing the plastic was to collect more rocks from our property to create the four planting bed borders.
The only thing we purchased at this point were a few large gray rectangle bricks to keep the dirt from the river rocks that lined the foundation.
Adding Soil and The First Plants
Once the beds were ready, I laid many wheelbarrows of quality soil we got from a local landscaping company to a depth of 2-3 inches over the packed subsoil.
A BIG TIP: Here's what I DIDN'T do:
I did not rototill or dig up the existing soil at all. Even though it was hard soil. Why?
Believe it or not, this was a weedy mess before we laid the plastic, even though it had been dug out. And I did not want to bring up any weed seeds to sprout in the areas between the plants.
Instead, when planting individual plants, I simply make the hole bigger than it needed to be, mix in some good soil, and plant in that.
Plus, it's WAY easier! (I've done this for years over grassy areas, like I share here.)
With the soil laid, I planted the first herb starts I had bought, spacing them evenly through the beds and repeating similar groupings.
For example, you can see that I added 2 lavenders and 1 rudbeckia in the corner of each bed that face the center where the paths meet.
Adjusting Plans & Saving Money on Plants
Then I visited home stores and nurseries to find more plants to fill the beds for this first year.
If you look back at the plan I drew up, you'll see I included a LOT more boxwoods. When it came time to buy them, I couldn't find dwarf plants that were less than $7 each - making lots of hedges pretty much out of the question. (The dwarf is part of the low-maintenance plan - regular boxwoods can grow to 4-5 feet here and would require a lot of trimming.)
So I adjusted - I used just a few boxwoods where it will make the most impact in the winter months, providing structure and greenery, in the center of each bed and at the front and back of the walkway.
I bought the culinary herbs I wanted, as well as some to use for flowers that I knew the deer didn't bother like the lavender and catnip, in small 2-inch starter sizes for just $2 each.
For perennials, I found coneflowers and the rudbeckia (bought in a cost-effective 6-pack) and then used annuals to fill in this year (alyssum and zinnias) because buying this many plants at once is expensive, even with deals!
TIP: Look for 2-inch starter herbs and perennials and 6-pack perennials and annuals in early spring to save big. The plants will start smaller, but they start filling more quickly than you realize.
I also laid down soaker hoses - I'm trying these cloth-like versions this year and they were MUCH easier to snake around the beds and really soaked the whole area - we'll see how they hold up.
Laying the Path
The final step was to fill in the large pathway and set up the birdbath.
I had originally thought about brick or pavers on the plan, but decided on gravel as the perfect easy DIY, inexpensive, and farmhouse-casual path. Plus, I had used them all over our cottage garden and really liked them.
BUT after living here a few years, I realized we have an ongoing, years-long problem of gophers and moles. They live throughout the many rocky underground tunnels that have been here for years and they aren't going anywhere soon (believe me, we've tried - and tried).
Laying gravel and then having moles push up dirt and debris through it would ruin it and I've learned that once that happens, weeds happen and it's very difficult to fix.
Cardboard and wood-chips! Super easy to lay, even cheaper than gravel, and not a big deal to fix if dirt gets into it.
TIP: Use a level for the paver a bird bath will sit on - you will be thankful when you can fill the bowl without it immediately running over one side!
The beds were finished being planted the first week of June, after that I simply watered weekly with the soaker hoses and just watched how the plants grew.
Deer Resistant Flower Garden After
The Garden the First Week of September
Honestly, I was kind of shocked at how the plants filled out in just a few months and all the blooms we were able to enjoy all through the summer.
The birds took baths sometimes, but our honeybees are what got the most use out of the birdbath through our hot summer months.
We also saw butterflies and hummingbirds almost every day (the hummies love the salvias) and I noticed other pollinators, too, like mason bees.
And I was reminded again about how it feels to look at pretty areas through windows and as you're coming and going - it really is a balm to the soul.
Adding beauty we can afford and appreciate is always worth it.
Flower Garden Beds & Plants
With the boxwood hedges out of the picture, I picked up more of the $2 herb starts and created a thyme and germander hedge along the walkway to the house. They've filled in nicely and have the added benefit of small blooms.
I did plant a row of boxwoods in front of the porch and these coordinate with the other boxwoods in the beds.
Lavender, rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), coneflowers, salvia, boxwood, coreopsis, catmint, larkspur, zinnia, and alyssum and chives.
Lavender, rudbeckia, salvia, peppermint (always grow in containers!), zinnias, boxwood, catmint, alyssum, and chives.
Lavender, rudbeckia (see a pattern here, lol?), coneflower, salvia, boxwood, zinnia, catmint, alyssum - and culinary herbs at the end (closest to the back door for harvesting): lemon verbena, rosemary, oregano.
Similar to bed three, lavender, rudbeckia, spearmint in a container, salvia, zinnia, boxwood, alyssum, catmint.
The culinary herbs on the right of bed four, seen from, behind: thyme, sage, and parsley.
Best Deer Resistant Flowers - Complete Plant List
This list includes the plants in the lower beds as well as the upper rock wall lined bed - simply copy and paste to a document on your computer to print off and use for your own deer resistant flower garden.
- Germander Teucrium chamaedrys
- Catnip Nepeta cataria (white flowered variety - will not plant again, though it filled in nicely - I'd prefer a pink flowered variety)
- Lavender Provence Lavandula x intermedia
- Lavender Spanish Lavandula stoechas
- Lavender French Lavandula dentata
- Lavender Goodwin Creek Lavandula x ginginsii
- Lavender English Lavandula angustifolia
- Lemon Verbena Aloysia citrodora
- Thyme 'Lemon' Thymus citriodorus
- Thyme 'Lemon Variegated' Thymus x citriodorus 'Variegata'
- Thyme 'Garden' Thymus
- Sage 'Berggarten' Salvia officinalis
- Oregano 'Italian Pizza' Origanum x majoricum
- Rosemary 'Arp' Rosmarinus officinalis
- Parsley, 'Italian' Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum (biennial-treat like annual and plant yearly)
- Parsley, 'Curly' Petroselinum crispum (biennial)
- Chives Allium schoenoprasum
- Larkspur 'Diamonds Blue' Delphinium chinensis
- Coneflower 'PowWow Wild Berry' Echinacea purpurea
- Coneflower 'PowWow White' Echinacea purpurea
- Coreopsis 'Early Sunrise'(Tickseed) Coreopsis grandiflora
- Bellflower Campanula poscharskyana (low growing ground cover)
- Littleleaf Sage 'Hot Lips' Salvia microphylla
- Littleleaf Sage 'Amethyst Lips' Salvia greggii hybrid
- Sage 'Black and Blue' Salvia guaranitica
- Hardy Geranium (Cranesbill) 'Vision Violet' Geranium sanguineum
- Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia (lost tag, but thinking it's the fulgida sullivantii 'Goldsturm' variety)
- Zinnias, tall multicolored 6-pack
- Alyssum, purple and white 6-packs
Trees & Shrubs:
- Boxwood 'Green Gem' Buxus (small leaves and slow growing to 3-4 feet)
- Dwarf Alberta Spruce Picea glauca 'Conica'
- Heavenly Bamboo 'Lemon Lime' Nandina domestica (small shrub 3-4 feet)
- Crape Myrtle 'Muskogee' Lagerstroemia hybrid (20-25 feet tall tree/shrub) - "These sun lovers are tough, easy to grow and quite unpalatable to deer." Rutgers University has categorized crape myrtles as "Seldom Severely Damaged" by deer - ha!!
How deer resistant were these?
Everything I planted had been published as "deer resistant" - the following plants didn't make it through undamaged, though it was only the Crape Myrtle that they ate in the beginning. The others were at the end of summer when deer often start trying things they haven't before.
- Crape Myrtle leaves were eaten right away - you can see in the video and some photos that we had to cage them.
- Alyssum made it until September when the deer started eating the blooms.
- The chive tops were eaten early September - seriously, smelly chives? I tell you our deer are c.r.a.z.y. - they also eat poisonous rhubarb leaves and spiny pumpkin leaves!
- One zinna bloom was taken mid-summer, but none other so they must've decided a 'no' for those.
- Some of one of the hardy geraniums were eaten in September.
Everything else has done well, so I call it a success! With deer we have to adjust and pivot, right?
Plants to add to the beds + tasks to finish the Garden
I plan to add these plants for sure and research other deer resistant small plants that would help fill in the beds:
- Allium bulbs
- Daffodil bulbs
- Bleeding Hearts
The other things on our to-do list are building permanent cement steps into the garden from both directions and creating a seating area at the far end where there is still plastic.
It's all just steps when you're doing it yourself, isn't it?
Let me know what you think - and if you have any plants you've found that the deer avoid!Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read our full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.