Having problems with deer eating all of your favorite plants and vegetables? Learn the best ways to keep deer out of your garden for good.
I live in an area of the country that has a lot of problems with deer! And I happen to live in a house that backs on to a ravine. So I see deer on a fairly regular basis.
Despite this I have been able to avoid having any trouble with deer in my garden, even though lots of my neighbors complain about them all the time. Some have even gone so far to try hunting them in that ravine behind my house! Which is Illegal since it is in city limits, not to mention dangerous with all of the houses so close by.
I also have to say that most of my deer prevention methods were not originally installed with the intent of keeping the deer out of my garden. But since they are working, I’m glad I put them in 🙂
And I think combining more than one of these deer proofing approaches is the secret to success!
1. Plant Plants That Deer Don’t Like
There are very few plants that are totally deer proof…if a deer is hungry enough, it will eat pretty much anything. (And apparently they really like Hibiscus!)
However there are some general types of plants that are less likely to be eaten:
- Plants with prickly foliage or brambles (eg. globe thistle)
- Plants with furry leaves (eg. Lamb’s Ears)
- Plants with strong scents or tastes (eg. rosemary and garlic)
- Plants that are poisonous or have really thick sap (eg. Jack in the Pulpit). The poisonous plants are the only ones that deer will not eat even if they are hungry. Although if you are going to plant these, you do need to make sure that your pets won’t eat them either.
So when you are out buying plants, keep this list of characteristics in mind if keeping deer out of your garden is a priority.
If you want to check the deer resistance rating of a specific plant, you can look it up on the deer resistant plant lists from Rutgers University or the North Carolina State University Coop Extension.
2. Build a High Fence Around Your Yard
Another way to keep deer out of your garden is to build a high enough fence that they can’t get in.
I have a 6 foot high fence surrounding my entire backyard. It was originally built to keep my dog in the yard (and provide some privacy), but it is also a pretty good deterrent for deer.
I have read that if a deer is a motivated to get into your garden, a 6 foot fence isn’t high enough. They can jump right over. Apparently, to really be deer proof, 8 feet to 12 feet high would be better.
Someone suggested that putting up barbed wire or installing an electric fence on top of your standard 5 to 6 foot wooden fence would work as a deer fence for your garden. While I’m sure these would help, it sounds a bit drastic to me. Not to mention it would feel like my garden was inside a prison 🙂
I do like this idea though…making the fence higher by installing planters across the top.
Of course, you might want to pick deer resistant plants to put outside the fence if you don’t want to attract too much deer attention to your yard.
Fence styles which the deer cannot see through don’t have to be as tall as a see-through style (such as a split rail fence). The deer aren’t as likely to jump into an area when they can’t see what they are getting into.
Another option is to build a double fence (in other words, 2 fences that are 3 to 5 feet apart). Apparently, this will allow you to have a shorter fence that will still keep the deer out (I haven’t tried this myself). The theory is that the deer won’t jump over if the distance they have to cover is too wide.
3. Plant Bushes Along Your Fence
Assuming you don’t want to build a really tall fence around your garden, planting tall and wide bushes along a shorter fence will help to prevent the deer from jumping over.
If they can’t see a clear landing area, they won’t attempt the jump. It also increases the width that they have to jump across, so it’s somewhat like having a double fence, without having to build a second fence.
The bushes don’t all have to be planted in a straight line or be the same kind of shrubs.
In my case, I created garden beds all along the inside of the fence and planted many different kinds of plants…ornamental grasses, blue junipers, Magnolia bushes, Daphne, Hydrangeas, and Japanese Maples, just to name a few. As you can see from the picture, the fence is hardly visible through all of the foliage!
Using evergreens and other plants that hold their shape in the winter is particularly useful for a deer proof garden, because they provide all year coverage.
You can also plant bushes outside the fence…especially if they are deer resistant species. I have some help from nature in this area. There are patches of very prickly wild blackberries that grow on the edge of the ravine. Although the plants themselves are a nuisance (they spread all over the place and scratch like crazy!), I’m sure they help to prevent the deer from getting too close.
4. Create A Rock Garden Perimeter
You’ll see the tactic of creating a rock garden to keep the animals in their enclosures used at a lot of modern zoos .
Deer avoid rocky areas, so surrounding your garden with a wide rock garden could be another way of keeping deer out of your garden. Vary the size of the rocks so that there isn’t too much flat area that they could walk across.
You could also combine it with your fence so that the deer don’t have a clear landing area.
This is what I unintentionally did inside part of the fence across the back of my yard. When I first moved into my house and was creating garden beds, I dug a lot of rocks out of the ground. They all got piled at the back of the yard where I have always intended to (but never did) create a terraced rock garden.
5. Let Your Dogs Out
If you happen to have a dog like I do, letting them out in the yard does help to protect your garden from deer.
I installed a dog door out to my fenced backyard. Which again was intended for the convenience of the dog. But also means he can come and go as he pleases.
When he was younger, I could always tell when deer were getting close to the back fence because he would make a mad dash out the dog door, run straight to the back of the garden and start barking. The deer never stayed very long!
And he’s a cocker spaniel…so not exactly a vicious guard dog.
One note: In order to be effective, the dogs need to be able to get close to where the deer are. The deer will learn quickly if a dog is on a tether or in a run that prevents him from reaching them.
6. Liquid Fence
If you don’t have the option of putting up a fence to prevent the deer from coming in, you can try using repellents like Liquid Fence*. I haven’t used this myself, but my neighbors have and they say it really works. (I am thinking about getting some to keep the rabbits out of my yard!)
Spray it on (or around) the plants you want to prevent the deer from eating, and it will keep them away. Apparently, the odor is enough to stop them so they don’t have to eat some of your plant first to find out they don’t like it.
A couple of notes: It smells REALLY bad when it is first sprayed (that part I can attest to!), and you do need to re-apply it periodically for it to keep working.
7. Irish Spring Soap
Another option if you don’t want to build a fence is Irish Spring soap. (I haven’t tried this, but I hear that it works really well!)
Apparently, deer don’t like the “fresh clean “smell of Irish Spring (and I have to say…I don’t really blame them!)
Just shave slices off the bar of soap and sprinkle them around the areas you want to keep the deer out of. Then repeat whenever the soap has dissolved.