They come a few times each week to our blog from all over.  Questions from those wanting to know how they can protect their plants from marauding deer!

Although are garden fence is only about 5' high - it does seem to keep the deer from just waltzing through.
Although our garden fence is only about 5′ high – it does seem to keep the deer from just waltzing through.

We have been fairly lucky at the farm when it comes to damage from bucks and does.  For the most part – our 5’ high post and board fence has kept them from strolling through our garden. In addition, our heavy plantings of ornamental grasses and peppers throughout the landscape  (low on their “love to eat list”) have never seemed to interest them.

But we are not immune from their damage.  Just last fall – they destroyed our newly planted and unprotected apple trees – stripping the bark clean, and ripping the leaves to shreds.

Deer Damage:The deer destroyed two of our newly planted and unprotected fruit trees last fall.
Deer Damage:The deer destroyed two of our newly planted and unprotected fruit trees last fall.

The truth is, when it comes to deer – unless you are willing, able and ready to build some pretty high and expensive fencing  – you’re going to have some damage from time to time.

With that said – there are protective steps you can take to help deter the damage deer can cause. Here are three methods that can help:

Plant Smart From The Start

The key from the beginning is to not create habitats that invite and make it easy for deer to enjoy a free lunch (or dinner).

Ornamental Hot Peppers and Ornamental Grasses are two plants deer don't seem to enjoy. We use them in our landscape
Ornamental Hot Peppers and Ornamental Grasses are two plants deer don’t seem to enjoy. We use them in our landscape

Plants like strawberries, hostas, phlox and tulips are among the favorites of deer – so if you do plant them  – plant them in areas close to the house – or that  are easy to protect with a net or simple deer fence.  We net our strawberries to keep out the deer and birds.

Black eyed susans, daffodils, lavender, and ornamental grasses and peppers on the other hand, are low on their “want to eat” list.   This is not to say they won’t ever eat them – just that they don’t prefer them.  Remember that a hungry deer, like a hungry human – will consume almost anything.

We also place plants attractive to deer in their own secluded areas. A great example of this is our popcorn crop, which deer love!  We plant it away from the regular vegetable garden – so if they do find it – they will only get the corn and not the other vegetables.  To protect it even better – we plant it right behind a stand of ornamental grasses and peppers.  It’s not fool-proof – but it does provide better protection than simply putting it in a row in the garden.

FENCING:

Although our post and board fencing may help deter deer - a true deer fence needs to be 8' high with metal girds to be effective.
Although our post and board fencing may help deter deer – a deer fence needs to be 8′ high with woven metal wire to be truly effective

Fencing is the only true way to keep deer away from plants.  The problem is, to do  it correctly – it can be expensive and not all that attractive. Most are surprised to find how high you have to build it!  Deer fencing has to be at a minimum of 8’ high to become totally effective – and for most – it’s just simply cost prohibitive.

Electric fencing can work as well – but again – you need the wires to be high and the shock to be high as well.

Fencing, however can be used in smaller areas and smaller heights to be effective.  Most deer will not jump into smaller confined areas – so a simple metal post and wire fence can do a reasonable job protecting small vegetable or flower garden plots.

Using Netting To Protect Small Trees, Shrubs and Plants

Learning our lesson from last year - all of our orchard trees are now covered with deer fencing for the fall, winter and early spring months.
Learning our lesson from last year – all of our orchard trees are now covered with deer fencing for the fall, winter and early spring months.

Another way to protect small trees and shrubs is with less expensive deer netting. For us – simple deer netting has worked well to protect our young trees in the orchard. You can buy a 100’ x 7’ roll of deer netting for around $35 – and its enough to do about (10) 6’ trees.  We place a few stakes on either side to support the netting – and then wrap it around the entire tree to protect it.  The loose netting makes it hard for deer to get at the plants. For small shrubs – just cover completely in the loose netting – making it hard for the deer to get at the delicate leaves they love to eat.  The same goes for small plants like strawberries and hostas.  A simple draping of deer netting makes it hard for the deer to get to the tender plant leaves or fruit.

SPRAYS:

Fiery Hot Habanero's make an excellent deer repellent spray.
Fiery Hot Habanero’s make an excellent deer repellent spray.

You can also use a variety of homemade sprays to deter deer from your plantings.

Deer, like humans, don’t like to munch on foul-smelling or tasting food – and spraying the foliage of plants can really keep damage to a minimum. The key here is to reapply every week or two – and after any hard rain.  Here are two sprays that have been proven to be effective:

Egg Spray:

Eggs and water make a great deer repellent
Eggs and water make a great deer repellent

A solution of 20% fresh eggs and 80% water is a widely know effective deer deterrent. Mix up the eggs and water in a blender and apply with a pump sprayer to the foliage of trees and plants – making sure to cover areas high enough where the deer can reach. One word of caution though – it’s for a sprayer to become clogged with the egg spray, so you may need to clean the tip a few times during applications.

Hot Pepper Spray:

A gallon of hot pepper spray ready to go.
A gallon of hot pepper spray ready to go.

Hot pepper spray is another well-known effective spray when combating deer and other foragers.  Although many hot peppers can work for this – habanero’s work great for this! As for solution strength – 1 cup of diced habanero’s to 8 cups of water is a good rule of thumb. Blend them together, let the mixture steep for a day or two, and then strain and apply with a pump sprayer.  Be careful when spraying – if the mixture gets in your eyes or skin – it can be very painful.

Last but not least – remember that prime time for deer to look for food is through the late fall, winter and early spring months – when nature is less likely to provide for them.  It is during these times you will need to be more diligent about protection.

If you would like to receive our DIY & Gardening  Tips every Tuesday – be sure to sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!


Tagged on:             

12 thoughts on “Protecting Your Garden, Trees And Landscape From Deer

  • June 27, 2015 at 3:05 am
    Permalink

    Irish spring soap bars will keep the deer away also human hair spread around the tree. Good luck

  • September 11, 2013 at 6:49 pm
    Permalink

    We use 5 foot tall wire fencing followed by 2 strands of electric extending to 8 feet tall. The electric fence is run by a solar charger. I have seen many deer approach the raspberries and immediately jump back when their nose gets close to the electric fence.

    • September 12, 2013 at 5:46 am
      Permalink

      That sounds like a great system! I love the fact that its solar powered as well!

  • September 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm
    Permalink

    The best way to keep deer out of your garden and orchards is to get a dog to guard it. Build a dog house and put them in the gardens at night and you’ll greatly reduce your issues with deer and other varmints (raccoons, etc). I’ve seen a deer vault over a 9′ deer fence once and would not simply rely on a fence to keep them out.

    • September 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm
      Permalink

      ***I can see the dogs now trampling the spinach, knocking over the tomato cages… LOL!

      • September 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm
        Permalink

        ***And a deer WILL NOT jump over a fence if the confined area is 54 feet or less in diameter. Themy DO NOT like being penned in.

  • September 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm
    Permalink

    Here in Central Texas we have to fence our gardens due to the deer population too. 7′ seem to work just fine, but we don’t have the same large size deer as you see East of the Mississippi. I think ours came from Spain when they first arrived. Sprays seem to work initially, but when they get hungry nothing will stop them except a tall fence.

  • September 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm
    Permalink

    Re: Trees I use chunks of Irish Spring soap held in cheese cloth and hung on trees. Springle dehydrated Coyote urine near garden veg plants. Also cayene pepper works.

  • September 10, 2013 at 10:35 am
    Permalink

    How do you protect the garden from bears? Deer are easy to deter.

  • September 10, 2013 at 10:04 am
    Permalink

    I’d love a post about beavers. They took our fruit trees but we then put little fences around those and now they have taken out some of our triple-crown blackberry vines! That shocked me! We are scrambling for an answer to that one.

  • September 10, 2013 at 9:48 am
    Permalink

    ***I take issue with your fence height requirements, especially in reference to backyard veggie gardens. Deer have a fear of being penned in without an escape route. Penn State did a study a few years back on garden fences. They found that deer will not jump into a fence enclosure that is 54 feet or less in diameter (or across). My own backyard garden (600 square feet) has a rail and chicken wire fence that’s only 4 feet high. The deer walk around it, but do not jump in. As for a really huge garden of several acres, your height recommendation may not be enough. Here is northeast PA, the big garden and orchard fences are 10 feet high, on a 45 degree angle, and electrified!

    • September 10, 2013 at 10:01 am
      Permalink

      Actually – those are great points and I do agree with you You are correct that they do not like to be pinned in..and I think that is one of the reason our smaller fence works around our vegetable garden. But for wide open spaces – a minimum of 8′ is usually used – and yes -the 10′ would be even better. It’s funny because as you go around the country – the size of deer and the ability of them to jump higher really changes. Here in Ohio, much like in PA I am sure – they can grow quite big! Thanks for the comments and the good luck with your gardening too! Jim

Comments are closed.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Our Mailing List To Get Our Free Gardening Tips, Recipes and DIY Tips Delivered Straight To Your Inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: