Looks innocent? Think again!
If you’re a gardener, chances are you know just how ravenous a hungry deer can be. They’ll eat just about anything, but they’re especially fond of garden grub. Beans, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and perennial flowers are some deer favorites. They’ll hop fences, break barriers, and snap wires just to get a bite of your crops, and, once they start eating, they’re not likely to stop. Thus, gardeners have been looking for ways to keep deer out of their gardens for a long time. It’s hard work, especially if you’re looking for a DIY method. Even the most effective of strategies will only work for so long, and deer, for what it’s worth, seem to be much sharper than we give them credit for. It’s important to catch them off guard, and so using a rotation of deer-be-gone tactics works best. We have several DIY strategies that are sure to keep deer at bay throughout the year so that you finally enjoy your garden produce sans chomp-marks.
A Deer Was Here
Though deer feed most often in the evening or early morning, they are not subtle trespassers. Generally, it is easy to tell when there’s been deer activity in a yard. Deer leave plenty of hoof-prints, small pebble shaped droppings, and trampled plants in their wake. When deer chew on leaves and stems, they tend to rip rather than bite, so your crops may look more torn than eaten. Check the area around your garden for signs of deer activity frequently, even if you haven’t seen deer nearby. If you know deer have been seen in your area, it might even be a good idea to take some preventative steps.
Stopping Deer in Their Tracks
There are several easy ways to protect your yard against deer. Again, a combination and rotation of strategies usually works best. Deer are master adapters and the element of surprise must be on your side!
Fences are a tried and true method of preventing deer invasion. Fences can be constructed out of plastic netting, chicken wire, wood, and various other cheap materials. However, we’re not talking about any ordinary fence here—deer can and will jump any fence under eight feet. They can also push through flimsy fences, and so doubling up on chicken wire or netting may be your best bet. You want a sturdy, tall fence. Using a couple layers of netting or wire should be enough to keep deer away without obscuring your plants or cutting off their light supply.
Deer can be scared away from your yard by a barking dog. However, deer will, over time, know how to distinguish between a true threat and a phony one. If the bog just barks but doesn’t chase, the deer will eventually recognize the dog as a non-threat. On the other hand, if a deer is chased out of your yard by a dog multiple times, it may come to realize that your yard is too dangerous of a place to be scavenging for food.
Another common scare trap is predatory urine applications. Hanging liquid dispensers are a good option for homeowners who don’t want to keep applying predator pee every manually every week. Again, this tactic only works for as long as it tricks the deer. It is probably best utilized in addition to other tactics (not to mention, handling pee year round gets pretty old after a while).
Deer repellents can be purchased at most any hardware store, but they can also be made cheaply and easily using homemade ingredients. Sulphury smells (rotten eggs, bloodmeal, etc) do the trick well. Hot pepper, Tabasco, peppermint extract, and garlic can also be used. It is best to apply the repellent mixture directly to leaf surfaces and to be consistent with applications. You may want to try multiple repellents at once to test what gets the best reaction. Not all deer have the same pallet, although a mouthful of rotten eggs will probably never make them particularly hungry for seconds.
Scent-based repellents will probably work best in the spring and summer when it is balmy and scent carries. In the winter, scare tactics or barriers may be key. Ultimately, if you have committed to growing your garden, you have also, in one way or another, committed to protecting it. Be present and aware of what threats loom over your tomatoes and spinach greens. Guard your fruit trees and flower bushes with earnest determination! Deer may be a nuisance, but at least they don’t have opposable thumbs, right?