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Sweet potatoes are a festive favorite for most of us. They taste even better when homegrown, straight from our gardens to the table. However, if you are growing sweet potatoes, there’s a chance you’ll have some wild visitors giving them a nibble. Do deer eat sweet potatoes, for example?
Deer love sweet potatoes. In fact, if you have any plain sweet potatoes leftover from holiday feasting, then leave them out for your appreciative local visitors. When it comes to growing sweet potatoes that you want to harvest, however, you’re going to need to get creative about how to protect them from hungry foragers.
Do deer eat raw sweet potatoes?
Yes – raw or cooked, sweet potatoes are high in fiber, sweet in taste, and are packed full of carbohydrates which can give deer long-lasting energy and the feeling of being satiated. They will eat them raw, directly from the vine – and will even eat the vine if they are hungry enough!
However, take caution if you give sweet potatoes to your deer from your kitchen. It will need to be prepared without any additional spices or salt – pure sweet potato they will find in the wild is ideal.
It’s also worth noting that sweet potatoes prepared and left in a plot or in your garden are at risk of rotting. If you don’t see deer heading for your garden for a few days, be sure to compost the potatoes instead – as rotting vegetables can be harmful to the average deer’s digestive system.
Should I protect my sweet potatoes from deer?
Yes – if you want to harvest sweet potatoes for yourself, be sure to protect them from deer visitors if you grow them close to your yard’s far edge. For some sweet potato growers, deer can be a real problem. They will eat as much as they can, whenever possible – so they frequently devastate crops.
So, if you need to protect your sweet potatoes from deer, then you need to start by building a fence, or even a wall around them. Opt for an opaque fence that is a few feet tall where possible – since they will not be able to see what is inside, deer will be less likely to try to enter.
Netting is also a good protection strategy for crops such as sweet potatoes and other deer-favored vegetables. Many gardeners prefer to net and fence their vegetables separately where possible, especially if they want to attract deer to their gardens (but simply don’t want them eating their crops).
If you are actively avoiding bringing deer to your yard, consider setting up a tall perimeter – around eight feet tall at least. Some wild yard owners have even suggested setting up double perimeters to be certain, too – however, there is a risk that you’ll shut out other visitors to your garden if you do this!
What animal eats sweet potatoes?
Inquisitive rodents and mammals such as groundhogs, chipmunks, rats, voles, squirrels, and gophers will also enjoy eating your sweet potatoes – so take caution.
The problem you may face with many of these animals is that they can make it through nearly any fence, wall, and even underground to steal your vegetables. Therefore, it may be worth having a dog with you to help patrol your garden or even setting up owl boxes to ensure your rodent population is kept in check overnight.
Don’t be so quick to blame sweet potato theft on local deer, either! If you have sweet potatoes growing towards an open end of your yard, you’re likely making life very easy on them! Try growing plants such as deer-resistant coleus, or deer-resistant ferns, to help make your yard that little bit less interesting for them. They likely won’t show interest if most of your crops are foods they dislike.
What do deer love to eat the most?
Deer are known for eating whatever they can, especially when food is scarce in the area or the season. They particularly love fruits such as berries, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, watermelon, apples, and pears – and they will also eat other festive vegetables, particularly pumpkins.
Deer will also feast happily on fallen nuts such as acorns and show interest in beechnuts and pecans if the mood takes them. They’ll eat oats and wheat, too, and you can attract deer to your yard with molasses.
They also enjoy eating plain, uncomplicated weeds and vegetables – deer love celery, for example.
If a plant, vine, or growth is slightly prickly, fuzzy, thorny, or strong-tasting, deer will normally avoid it if they can help it. This is mainly because they’ve evolved to avoid eating anything likely to disrupt their ruminant digestion.
Sweet potatoes, however, are normally at the top of their favorite foods – so take care to keep your crops under control.