Damn You, My Deer

comments (9) October 13th, 2011

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Well, yeah, shes gorgeous. But she also just ate your spinach.
Photo by Skrewtape under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
This gentleman gives me pause, too. But I like having plants.
Photo by zapthedingbat under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
His eyes could melt icebergs. But let his mama teach him to forage in the wild so that he can survive.
Photo by jcantroot under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Well, yeah, shes gorgeous. But she also just ate your spinach.
Photo by Skrewtape under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Well, yeah, she's gorgeous. But she also just ate your spinach.


Photo by Skrewtape under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

It's been so long since I've lived in the country that I had forgotten how deer can literally wreak compete garden destruction overnight. Our move to Hawk Hill in June has since jogged my memory. At our new house we have a fenced kitchen garden (fondly dubbed "the potager") that's -- thankfully -- strung with hot wire. This is the one refuge I have for some vegetable beds. I would like more as I have growing ideas that just won't be squelched.

Even though the deer stepped silently into the yard and devoured a container rose bush all in one night, I remained optimistic for a bit longer. After all, it took them a week or so to notice the bush and we knew better anyhow. We hadn't brought it to the enclosed potager garden yet. My attitude was "Serves us right. Our bad." I was able to maintain this cavalier attitude because it was still early summer and there was plenty of wild cuisine for deer dinners.

That was then (early summer) this is now (fall). And winter looks grim.

In the fall, there's a lot less groceries out there to occupy their little deer mouths...they've even taken to nibbling my Moss Rose (portulaca), a tender succulent. In early summer my citrus trees were beneath their discriminating palates. Come fall, they've now become a delicacy. I still find deer beautiful and sweet to watch, but in the air I can feel a quiet war coming on -- and I'm not getting that winning feeling. So, I've begun asking my deer-seasoned neighbors.

Here's some of the deer deterring solutions they offered:

  • Motion activated sprinklers -- Some say this works great; others say the deer get used to it and eventually ignore them.
  • Keep a farm dog in the yard -- This may work for some people. However, the deer around my area are exceptionally tenacious and will go after a dog especially if she has fawns.
  • Coyote or other predator urine placed around the property or garden perimeter -- Yes, you can actually purchase this product. I've heard of this technique working. But if it rains or the area is watered, it'll have to be applied again. Could get pricey.
  • Grow plant varieties that deer don't usually enjoy such as lavender, barberry, daffodils, etc. -- This works pretty darn well. But not necessarily for every season and there doesn't seem to be many plants that work for sure in every area. Seems that the deer living in different zones have different preferences. Plus, this won't work if you'd like to grow veggies.
  • Plant native plant species -- Another decent plan. But see the comments above.
  • Spray a deer repellent onto treasured plants -- I've heard of some success with these products. But once again, it has to be applied over and over, so if you have a lot of plants it's not very cost effective.
  • Wrap the trunks of young trees with a plastic protectors too keep deer from stripping the bark before the tree has a chance to mature -- I would do this for sure. It works as far as the trunks of the trees are concerned. The leaves, not so much.
  • Placing field fencing flat onto the ground in front of a garden area -- The idea here is that the deer can't stand the unstable the footing and won't cross it. I've heard of this technique working and I've heard of it failing.
  • Hot wire or electric fencing strung a little higher than whatever fencing you have in place -- This has worked very well for me so far. But I've been warned that if you don't get the deer to feel the jolt from the very beginning, they'll just sail over the fence never realizing that there's a potential zap. People suggest placing peanut butter onto fabric strips so that the deer will take a nibble and understand right away.
  • 6' tall fencing -- Might work. Might not. Depends on how big of an area you've fenced. Deer don't like to jump into tight areas, as they feel they may not be able to get out. But make no mistake -- they can clear a 6' fence easily.
  • 10' tall fencing -- Excellent fence height. This'll keep the little beasties out.
  • Double-fencing at any height -- I have it on good authority that you can place a 4' fence surrounding a 5' fence and it's enough to keep the deer out. This is based on the fact that they tend to have trouble judging the space and the depth of such a situation. It seems to work.

I'm placing my bet on the tall fencing. Have you tried any of these techniques to keep deer from eating your plants down to the ground? Tell us what worked!

More about dealing with deer...

Video: What Deer Damage Looks Like

Video: Low-Cost Deer Defense

Deer-Proof Electric Fence

A Practical Program for Combatting Deer

Homemade Deer Repellent

Deer-Resistant Plants (from FineGardening.com's Plant Guide)

15 Deer-Resistant Plants

Planting Plan: A Deer-Resistant Bed

posted in: deer deterrents, deer repellent

Comments (9)

deanfox78 writes: I like this animal.
Posted: 12:15 am on August 3rd
kevinalexis8 writes: I like your efforts
Posted: 1:15 am on July 21st
lrock writes: The deer in my backyard are everywhere but I didn't want them in my veggie garden. About 3 summers ago my brother said he heard about using "Irish Spring" bar soap hung around the garden. After finally getting fed up with losing my early plants I went to Sam's Club and bought a big container of regular Irish Spring. I cut them in half and put them in old nylon stocking and strung them around the perimeter of the garden. I never have any trouble now unless I don't keep a good supply around the outside. I read on the internet that you can shave pieces around individual plants and it will keep rabbits away also. Don't know why but it seems to work better than coyote pee and other sprays.
Good luck!
Posted: 5:26 pm on October 21st
Tawnya6 writes: Within a suburban community in NJ, we live in rurual area surrounded by woods, a park, a rock quarry, a flower farm and two ponds, so we get a ton of deer. We counted a herd of 14 and my neighbor said they counted a herd of 18 deer! Anyhow, we put up a 4' fence around our garden and put chicken wire around each raised bed, which keeps the deer out. I saw footprints once, but I think the deer realized it was tight quarters, so it jumped out and that was it for deer in our garden. But we still had a ton of deer passing thru our yard (& dropping deer ticks. Three of our kids got Lyme disease! So, be careful!) So, we put up a 4' fence and got a dog! Now no deer! But now in the frontyard the deer are venturing back to eat acorns and flowers. I planted marigolds all over and that seems to repel them to a certain extent! Now how do I keep chipmonks and groundhogs out of my garden?! Good luck all! Enjoy the fruit (or vegetables) of your labor!
Posted: 8:05 am on October 20th
PAMessenger writes: I've been using a motion-detector sprinkler in my front yard in Lafayette, California, where herds roam freely in the late night hours, for 12 years and it is highly effective (best price is from amazon.com). The plants have all grown to be quite large and lush and the only ones that get nibbled are the ones immediately adjacent to the road because the foliage is so dense that the sprinkler can no longer detect the deer when they browse. I have kept them away from other blind spots by stretching mono-filament (fishing line) across their path--it's almost invisible to humans but bothers the deer. I have a lot of deer-resistant plants but also quite a few they would love to chomp. I have tried the coyote urine repellents and they were completely ineffective.
We have a 6' high solid wood fence to keep them out of the back yard where we grow vegetables and fruit. Plastic deer fencing is also a waste of time and money--they just knock it over of squirm under it after it has been weakened by several attempts to get through.
Posted: 12:36 pm on October 17th
OregonNana writes: Moved to deer country from the City, and I now feel my learning curve is questionable as to managing deer. I have lived on 5 acres, then 7.45 acres, and now on just two lots in a rural community on the Pacific Ocean coast. The proclivities of deer grazing amazes me. The deer were not supposed to like Lilac, proven by my first garden. But here on the coast, they seem to love it. They did not touch my rhubarb in my second garden, but just found it eaten down to just the stalks here on the coast this past week. I did discover that they will not crawl under fencing, and that they won't traverse fencing they cannot see through. Big help! I have a view of the Pacific that I do not want to obscure. Since it rains here weekly (except this past August), deer repellants do not seem to be the answer. So my current solution was to find a nice spot, sheltered from our high winds, and I put up a chain link "dog kennel" that I can add panels to as I choose to expand my garden. Inside the "kennel" I built raised beds using concrete building block. I fill the block holes with soil, and plant the holes with creeping thyme, and rosemary. The blocks allow drainage (we have heavy rain), and I can re-configure the beds from time to time. The deer also chomped down my cilantro, and my basil, and nibbled on my parsley, although I thought they did not like herbs? When I find myself confronted with spending big bucks to thwart the deer, I remind myself that I can go to our local farmers market and I don't need a huge garden!
Posted: 10:14 am on October 17th
jsnap writes: The deer will eat anything, its proven. A fence for us was out of the question so what to do?

We use to use Liquid Fence and while it worked we just couldn't stand the stench anymore so started trying other repellents. Fortunately we found a much more pleasant smelling repellent that has worked great for us this year. No more taking a shower after spraying and we can enjoy our garden immediately after treating it.

We had good luck with a lot of repellents but have settled on this one: www.imustgarden.com. Just passing it along, you can never have enough alternatives to keep your garden safe.
Posted: 9:57 am on October 17th
RuthClausen writes: Please check out the new book 50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants from Timber Press.
Facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/pages/50-Beautiful-Deer-Resistant-Plants/143440742396814

The point is not to have to live in a cage yourself but to have a deer tolerant garden, apart from where you have vegetables and fruit - a 4' double fence works well. This book includes plenty of tried and true tips and tricks to help telegraph the deer that another property might be more palatable.

Posted: 9:40 am on October 17th
Steepdrive writes: I live in the woods on 8 acres with many more surrounding woods. We see lots of deer and I realized early on I had moved into their territory.

This is what works for me: spray liquid fence each month starting in early spring when the daylilies and hosta are just starting to show. That first month do it weekly for three weeks. It trains the deer. Now I can't say they don't get to eat somethings because I forget to spray at the same time each month and they get in. They surprise me sometimes with what they will eat that the previous year they ignored.

For the vegetable garden it is fenced and there are raised beds in there. The area is so narrow they would break a leg jumping into it. They have left it alone except for the cucumbers this summer which grew on the fence - they got eaten!

Good luck. I've been here 6 years now and it is still a learning curve for me and the deer.
Posted: 7:38 am on October 17th
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