When answering the call of nature, there is no reason to not make the most of it.
That’s how gardener Kathy Flint sees it.
For the past several years she and her family have used their own urine as a deterrent to keep deer out of her vegetable garden. So far, according to the Mechanic Falls resident, it’s working.
Human urine may play a role in the future of gardening as an environmentally sustainable fertilizer, according to a study published earlier this year from researchers at the University of Michigan. But some homesteaders have long been using it as a method of pest deterrent — even though experts say there’s no science that it works.
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“The olfactory ones that are among the commercially available [deterrents] tend not to work particularly well,” said Griffin Dill, integrated pest management professional at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “When it comes to human urine you hear anecdotal things from people who say they have tried it and it worked, but in most cases it’s not terribly effective.”
Despite that, gardeners in the Facebook group Backyard Gardening Maine recently shared their experiences in using their own urine as an effective pest deterrent for deer, with one person suggesting urine from men is more effective than women’s.
For Flint, if she’s working outside and the need to urinate hits, instead of running inside to the bathroom she steps into a sheltered area in her yard near the garden, drops her shorts and does as nature intends.
“A lot of people may think it’s gross,” Flint said. “But nature can be gross.”
Flint adds she has no neighbors who can see into her yard, otherwise she’d never expose herself in that manner. Much less ask her family to do likewise.
“I asked my husband if he’s out in the garage or doing yard work if he could go out to the backside of the garden near the woods to pee,” Flint said. “My kids never thought anything of running to the bushes to pee.”
Despite seeing deer in the woods around her house, none of the animals has entered her garden to nibble on the growing vegetables.
“The idea behind it is that [human] urine does contain some level of ammonia and that is known to have some repellent qualities,” Dill said. “But to have the level of ammonia needed to keep deer away the person would have to be fairly dehydrated or have some other form of a medical condition.”
Beyond that, Dill said there is an environmental concern of putting human waste on the ground — especially if it may contain the byproducts of prescription medications.
“People do think of it as a natural option,” Dill said. “But there could be trace contaminants in there.”
Even if the urine does seem to work, Dill said over time deer will become accustomed to the smell, and it will no longer act as a deterrent.
“Instead of urine, some sort of physical barrier like a fence is the best way to prevent deer from getting into your garden,” he said.
Human urine — and solid waste — is also used by some home gardeners as composted fertilizer.
The nutrient-rich liquid has been used for thousands of years as a fertilizer, according to research from the University of Michigan.
“When you live in the country, why not [pee] where you want?” Flint said. “Animals do it, why not us?”