Many gardeners struggle with deer. “Deer in the garden” is somewhat analogous to “wolf among sheep.” Every gardener wants to keep deer out of the garden. They are exceedingly damaging! While it isn’t hard to name crops which are very susceptible to deer damage, it is very difficult to name crops which they will not harm. Someone may never experience damage from deer on a given plant, but down the road or in another part of the country, that crop may be susceptible.
It is better to keep deer out of the garden than to deal with them after they get in.
There are a number of solutions to this problem, yet one needs to remember that apart from a very expensive, fence, at least 12 feet high, there is none which can be applied across the board with success complete success. It is better to understand some basic principles and seek a solution which combines several deterrents.
Let’s consider several, miscellaneous ways to keep deer out of the garden.
- Shoot them. If you shoot a deer, it will no longer eat your garden. Also, shooting them seems to discourage others from eating there. But this is not fool proof, and, one needs to consider local laws and basic safety. If you live in a neighborhood, you probably can’t shoot a deer without breaking the law and endangering the neighbors.
- A dog or dogs may keep them away. Dogs can be a help indeed, but they need to be outdoors 24/7 in order to do so, and if they chase the deer off your property, and continue to follow them, they may be in danger and they may be breaking the law.
- Repellants work… sometimes. I know of no repellent which works all of the time. What may work like a charm for one person may only serve as “salad dressing” for the deer, in another person’s garden.
- Locate your garden away from frequently traveled deer trails or pathways. Remember, if they’ve “always gone there,” they’ll be more motivated to get into your garden after you’ve planted.
Not all wildlife in the garden is a serious problem. See An Unexpected Catch
Probably the best solution is a fence.
But questions arise about deer fencing. How tall is a fence do I need? How much will I have to spend, etc. Here are some principles to help a gardener determine how to fence a garden. Understanding these principles can help you come up with the best solution for your means and circumstances.
- Deer will sometimes clear an 8′ fence. In fact, on some occasions they have jumped over 15′ obstacles.
- To jump over anything over 6′, generally requires a motivation. They won’t jump the fence without a reason, whether it be to escape danger or to reach a treat on the other side.
- Deer can sometimes do a 23′ broad jump.
- No deer can clear 8′ in altitude and 23′ distance in a single jump. This is an important detail.
- Two 5′ fences with a 5-6′ space (moat) between them, is generally very effective in keeping deer out, as they can’t jump 5′, land in that narrow strip and jump back out. You can even grow things in that strip and they should be safe.
- If you fence your garden before there’s anything special in it, you can often get by with a lower fence, as deer won’t know what’s there and therefore won’t make an extra effort to get in there.
- Solid fences (like a privacy fence) are often effective, even when not so tall, because the deer can’t see what’s on the other side and hate to jump over something without having picked out a landing spot.
- Black bird netting can be used to “extend” and make a fence higher. It’s unsightly deer fencing, but it works. My brother once had deer jump a fence, just after he’d added bird netting, making it higher. The deer crashed through the netting, landed in the garden, made a huge mess and finally escaped. My brother had NO MORE DEER problems that year! Apparently deer can communicate about bad experiences.
If you have another solution for keeping deer out of the garden, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.