Do Deer Eat Basil? & 5 Ways to Keep Them Out of Your Garden

deer in the garden

Many people who love to grow their own basil plants will experience a problem similar to this: coming out to the garden in the morning to find holes in their basil leaves, sometimes even the whole plant is gone.

What could be the culprit here? If your basil plants have signs of damage and holes, it’s likely a bug or insect doing the damage.

Will Deer Eat Basil Plants?

In general, deer will not eat basil leaves as they’re very aromatic herbs. However, deer are very adaptive animals, so if they’re hungry enough and don’t find anything else nearby that’s more appetizing, they will even eat deer resistant herbs.

What Do Deer Usually Eat?

Deer are a type of herbivore, so they mostly eat plants, trees, bushes, nuts, and acorns. This definitely includes quite a few vegetables and fruits a typical gardener might be growing.

Here are some deer favorites when it comes to fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Blackberry
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Lemon Trees
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon Plants
  • Yarrow
  • Zucchini

While basil is not a typical staple of the diet of a deer, and is often considered an example of deer resistant plants, one of the more common basil companion plants is one of their favorite snacks: tomatoes.

This means that on their way to the tomatoes, it’s possible that they might either eat the basil, or step on it and ruin the plant.

But for the most part, basil is just one example of deer resistant plants.

How to Keep Deer Away from Your Basil Plants

Here are some ways to deter deer from coming into your herb garden.

Installing a Fence

You might be thinking you can just build a physical barrier and deer won’t eat your garden.

Well, deer jump over fences up to 8 feet high, especially a hungry deer. So properly installing a deer fence can be a bit tricky. But, it is the most reliable way to keep local deer from eating in your garden.

deer jumping fence
A 4 foot fence isn’t going to do you much good

Grow More Deer Proof Plants

There is a long list of deer resistant plants, but Russian sage is one of those plants deer hate. It’s a very aromatic herb that tend to repel deer.

Some other good examples are strong smelling plants like chives, dill, lemon balm, lavender, and cilantro.

Motion Activated Sprinkler

This is one of my favorite methods for keeping deer out of the garden. Since deer can be a bit skiddish when they hear loud noises or see a lot of movement, this can get them to run away pretty quick.

The Garden Enforcer - Motion Activated Sprinkler

A motion activated sprinkler works wonders for keeping animals (and people!) out of your yard. It sprays intermittently as it detects continuous motion so animals won't get used to the timing of it.


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Deer Repellent Sprays

Sprays are a great way to deter deer from eating your plants. Hot pepper spray is a powerful one because hot peppers are not the ideal meal for a deal.

Plastic Owl Scarecrow Sculpture

Fake owls are great for keeping many animals out of the garden, including squirrels, deer, birds, and more.

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