Do Deer Eat Potato Plants?

do-deer-eat-potato-plants

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Potatoes are a staple family dinner favorite and a common sight in any kitchen. They also happen to be very easy to grow and can even be grown directly from the potatoes that you buy in-store. Therefore, it is no wonder that so many of us love growing potatoes. However, growing them in a wild yard can have its drawbacks – thanks to animals popping in for a snack or two! However, do deer eat potato plants, and should you be worried?

Deer do not commonly eat potato plants. They may take a nibble every now and again if they have nothing else to eat, however, it’s unlikely that your local deer are eating up your plants. If that’s the case – then who’s to blame?

What animals eat potato plants?

Some of the most common animals that eat potatoes and their plants in the wild include boar, mice, and raccoons. They can easily dig up the potatoes when needed and will happily take the time to eat through the entirety of a plant. The potato plants can also be quite good for them as they contain essential nutrients and help these animals feel full. However, that’s a small consolation for you if you were planning to enjoy these crops!

Voles, too, will also happily feast on potato plants and the vegetables they grow as well as certain garden pests such as snails and slugs. If you notice holes in the leaves of your potato plants, an insect or pest has likely chosen to feast on the green goodness.

Why won’t deer eat potato plants?

Deer have very particular diets because they are ruminant creatures. This means that they have a rumen, an organ that produces microbes to help digest food. While sources differ on why deer may not enjoy potatoes or their plants outright, an anecdotal assumption appears to be that these plants simply don’t fit their digestive profiles. 

Therefore, if you have potato plants growing in your garden, deer will most likely head for sweeter growths or feast on plain-tasting weeds and vegetables. Deer love celery, for example, and you’ll also find deer eating watermelon, too. They do have a broad spectrum of tastes. However, it’s their digestive systems that can dictate what they choose to feed on.

Do deer eat potatoes’ leaves?

As mentioned, deer will eat whatever they have to when they are hungry and there is not enough food around, and that can include potato leaves. However, it is essential to note that potato leaves are poisonous to them – therefore, they will only start munching on your potato plant leaves if there really isn’t anything better on offer.

If you want to set up a feeding plot for deer, potato plants normally won’t attract them unless the local food sources are depleted. What’s more, as stated, it’s hardly the healthiest option for them. Deer can find sunflower seeds toxic, too – meaning it’s worth researching your feed choices.

How can I protect my potato plants from animals? 

One thing that you can do to better protect your potato plants from animals is to place a copper ring around the bases of the plants. These rings help to deter slugs and snails as they cannot climb over them and therefore cannot climb the potato plants to eat the leaves. 

When it comes to deer and other bigger animals, the best thing to do is cover the potatoes with a plastic lining or fence around them. The fence will work best to keep the deer out – however, the plastic lining should help to keep mice, voles, and raccoons from eating your potatoes as well. 

Otherwise, it may be good practice to grow potato plants in a raised bed or two or grow them in a portion of your garden that’s not attracting wildlife. If you are setting up feeding plots in your garden or are rewilding your lawn to an extent, for example, it may be worth keeping your potatoes up the other end!

Can I feed potatoes to deer? 

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with feeding potatoes to deer, however, they don’t tend to like eating them much! Instead, deer tend to prefer sweet potatoes, meaning it’s worth making the swap if you are attracting deer to your yard.

Deer tend to prefer sweet fruit and acorns and enjoy eating cabbage, turnip, peas, and spinach. They will even take to your mustard plants if you have any. A good rule to remember is if it is sweet, or dull in taste – and there are no thorns or fuzzy leaves – deer are likely to enjoy eating it.

Potatoes and potato plants won’t deter deer, either – so don’t start growing them for the sake of it if you want to keep them away!

About author
Graham Pierrepoint is an avid wild gardener, spending much of his spare time creating exciting spaces for local birds, bugs, and other beasties to explore! He writes regularly for Wild Yards to help share his years of flora and fauna expertise with other birdwatchers and horticulturists.

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