Keeping Deer Out of The Garden

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April 25, 2015

Thousands of people a week look for the solution to this dilemma… how to protect plants from deer. It isn’t easy, especially in the city where deer have very little to eat buy your veggies, flowers, and landscaping. But the hardest of all of these to stop deer from damaging or eating completely is your fruit and vegetable plants. Growing only edibles that deer aren’t supposed to like is not the answer. When hungry enough, deer will eat any plant that isn’t poisonous to them.

Sure, there are deer repellents, and unlike only a few years ago, most of them are free of chemicals. This makes it less worrisome spraying around the house and yard. However, you can’t spray any of them at all on your kitchen garden plants. No, they’re not toxic, at least not if you’ve made sure to buy a repellent that is all natural or organic. Still, essence of rotten eggs and garlic don’t do your produce any favors. If the repellent gets on the flowers of fruit bearing plants, it will mess up the flavor of your homegrown goodness. If you don’t thoroughly coat the plant, the deer will eat the untreated portions.

See the problem here?

Now they do make perimeter treatment types of deer repellent, but if you research them well on an professional information site you’ll discover that they are not reliable at all. In fact, some of the products out there are a downright joke. Thanks to the methods that marketers of all products use, you cannot believe all of the reviews on shopping sites like Amazon, Home Depot, and any merchant website that allows reviews to be posted. Both positive and negative reviews can be the handiwork of trolls – people paid to beef up or hinder sales by posting the boss’ desirable comments. So, to get a true look at how effective a deer repellent might be, it’s best to get your info from reliable, unbiased sources.

Fear-based repellents, like blood and coyote urine, only work for a very short time. Once the deer realize that no predator is really there, and no one has tried to harm them, they’ll waltz right past that perimeter barrier. They aren’t stupid, just a little flighty. You have to put the repellent directly on the plant, and it can’t be one that won’t stick around through heavy rainfall either. It’s gotta have excellent rain resistance, or it will wash off while you’re watering too. You also can’t forget to apply it on a schedule, and while plants are growing fast, this means like once a week. Remember, annual plants, which most fruits and vegetables are, grow much faster than perennials, shrubs, and trees… All of that garlic and rotten egg, hot pepper juice, or fish oil will definitely ruin how your harvest tastes. It’s worse for herbs and leafy greens than fruit bearing plants too, because you eat the portions that spray was directly applied to.

So, what’s the secret?

There is only one way to create a totally deer-proof garden. It requires 10-foot tall fencing, preferably the chain link  kind. In both the city and the suburbs it’s almost impossible to have such a thing, and it’s super expensive, not to mention very unattractive. But you can stop a lot of the damage with a less obtrusive, and far cheaper fence. Not that plastic netting they call deer fencing. If the deer wants in badly enough, they’ll walk right through it. You need a barrier that gets their attention and has more resistance to them than that.

The solution that works for both a limited budget and isn’t unsightly is electric fencing. Thanks to the shock factor of getting an unpleasant, yet non-harmful zap when touched it works very well, even in heavy deer traffic locations. You need at least two strands at 20″ and 4′ off the ground. The shorter line keeps the fawns out, and the taller one stops 90% or more adult deer. Sometimes they will jump it, so to stop that you want a third strand at 6′ high. After years of trying to keep them out of my garden, I finally got serious and spent $90 on the fence, and only once all summer did a deer jump it and make their way across the garden. They love winter squashes! It’s sweet, but I got lucky and he was too early to dine on any fruits. Another one tried jumping it in early fall, but landed on the wire and was gone back the way he came as fast as landing on that hot wire. Need a new fence post, but not one squash munched on 😀

Here’s what you need: 5′ T-posts, a fence charger, plastic hanger clips, gate handles (1 per strand), and braided nylon covered wire. If you want the 6 foot high version, you need 7′ tall T-posts. Install the posts 8-10 feet apart, snap on the clips, run the wire, and plug in the charger. You’ve got deer proofing now, and unlike deer repellent, one application will last for years. You’ll spend far more than this trying to find a deer repellent that works without wrecking food flavor.

Best place to find the materials is a farm supply store, or you can order them online, but shipping on the posts will be high due to the length and weight. Most cities in the US have a Tractor Supply or similar retailer not that far away.

What’s the best place to research deer repellents? Out Out Deer

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton

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