How To Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden For Good

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.

How to keep deer out of your garden © Jacob Haskew | adobe.stock.com
How To keep deer out of your garden © Jacob Haskew | adobe.stock.com

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

White-tailed Deer eating Hibiscus | © BRIAN E KUSHNER - stock.adobe.com
White-tailed Deer eating Hibiscus | © BRIAN E KUSHNER – stock.adobe.com

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.

Or to find some plants with pictures, take a look at my lists of deer resistant shade shrubs and deer resistant shade perennials.

2. Build a High Fence Around Your Yard

Build a fence around your garden
Build a fence around your garden

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 🙂

Fences at least 8 feet tall will keep deer out | © perlphoto - stock.adobe.com
Fences at least 8 feet tall will keep deer out | © perlphoto – stock.adobe.com

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.

Keep deer out with a fence they cannot see through | © Bruce Shippee - stock.adobe.com
Keep deer out with a fence they cannot see through | © Bruce Shippee – stock.adobe.com

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

Keep deer out by planting bushes along your fence | © Mariusz Blach
Keep deer out by planting bushes along your fence | © Mariusz Blach

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.

Create garden beds along the fence
Create garden beds along the 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

A wide rock garden can deter deer | © Barbara Helgason - stock.adobe.com
A wide rock garden can deter deer | © Barbara Helgason – stock.adobe.com

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.

A less structured rock area can work as well | © ramund88 - stock.adobe.com
A less structured rock area can work as well | © ramund88 – stock.adobe.com

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

Winston
Winston

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

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.

Do you have any other suggestions for how to keep deer out of your garden? Tell us in the section below.





How To Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden For Good

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6 Responses

  • Thanks for those great tips! We have a great apple tree and deer can smell apples 1 mile away. We are on a serious mission to keep them out mainly because we are in Iowa and I don’t want to risk deer ticks because I have grandchildren!! Wish I could use all of your ideas!

    • Thanks, Pat! I can only imagine what a feast deer would have on apples. Good luck with keeping them out of your yard! If you find any other options that work well for deterring them, I would love to know what they are 🙂

  • Came across your blog on Pinterest. Your info on keeping deer out of the gardens are very helpful. I’m tired of spending money on dessert for the wild things!! This year, we’ll be planting more deer-resistant plants, evergreens, ornamental grasses and possibly a rock garden barrier as well. Thanks so much for the info. Well written and beautiful photos.

  • Marigolds! I heard that deer do not like the smell of marigolds and my garden is close to the woods. I tried this last year and it worked amazingly well! I planted marigolds (the darker orange and yellow have the strongest deer repellent smell) around the perimeter of my garden beds. Although I went a little overboard on the amount I did not have any issues with the deer touching anything in my gardens. My neighbors however did not have a good year as the deer ate most of their plants, so it was not a lack of deer around, it was the marigolds!

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