Deer are lovely, majestic creatures that move elegantly. However, they’re also quite annoying to gardeners as they like to cause destruction in your garden. If you’re having these problems, use this guide to create a deer resistant garden and learn how to keep deer out of your yard.
These animals enjoy lovely flowers including pansies and tulips. And, if you don’t deer proof your garden, you’ll soon notice all your hard work go to waste.
Identifying Deer Damage: What Does Deer Damage Look Like?
Deer proofing is a lot of work. And, the strategies you apply to prevent deer from destroying your beloved plants don’t always work for other intruders and pests.
So, the most important thing before taking any steps to keep deer out of your garden is to make sure that it is actually deer causing the issues.
Other animals like rabbits can be the source of the destruction. Similarly, slugs and pests can do the same.
Each of these intruders require different methods for control and prevention so it is important to make sure you know what you’re dealing with before spending hours of your time deer proofing.
Some of the symptoms that deer is causing havoc in your garden including:
- Small plants and foliage are flattened or have been stepped on. Often these are trampled as well.
- Damage is both low and high. Smaller animals and pests limit their damage to 6 inches to 1 foot from the ground.
- Droppings are about an inch in diameter and oval in shape.
- Evidence that the edges of plants have been chewed off. Here, you’ll see ragged, uneven and shredded borders.
- No silver slime which are caused by slugs.
Best Ways to Deer Proof Your Yard and Garden
Here’s a list of ways to create a deer resistant garden to keep these creatures from ravaging your yard.
Create a Deer Fence
Barriers are among the most effective ways to keep deer out. They act as the first line of defense keeping the deer from even entering or getting close to your garden.
The simplest is a perimeter fence but it also costs the most. You want to build something strong and will last the test of time. It should be able to withstand the elements including strong winds and snow without degrading over time.
While they cost more than most of the other methods, the do last for many years which make them easily cover your costs and more as time passes.
That said, you’re not going to be able to erect a fence if you rent or lease, at least without permission from the owner. You can only do so if you own the lot.
The most important thing about creating a fence is to ensure that it is designed for deer (and other animals if they happen to mess up your garden as well). This way you cover different sources of the problem with one solution.
Here are some things to know before building your deer proof perimeter fence.
- It needs to be high enough. Deer have long legs. And, they jump quite high as well. As such, you need something at least 5 to 6 feet high. If you don’t want to be “boxed in” by a wall-type of fence, you can create a mesh fence or invisible fencing at least for some areas of your yard.
- Solid fence. If where you live has restrictions, you may not be able to build a high fence. Some areas have regulations limiting the height of fences. In this case, going with a lower, but solid fence works. Thicker fences also make it harder to jump over as deer need to be sure they can cover the distance. More importantly, solid fences prevent the deer from seeing what’s on the other side. This will deter them from jumping for fear that there’s something sharp or dangerous when they land.
- Robust, resilient and sturdy. Deer are not only nimble and agile, they’re also strong. So, larger bucks can bull their way through flimsy, weak fences. Additionally, fences that are not sturdy will get loose over time or the posts will start bending one way or another causing the fence to lose its tautness. Thus, you want to set up strong posts that are at least 4 feet by 4 feet and well grounded.
- Electric fences work really well. While it is very effective in keeping intruders and animals away, electric fences are risky if kids happen to wander around the area. Also, note that not all municipalities allow electric fences, so check before setting one up.
- Fence individual or groups of plants. Sometimes you can’t or don’t want to create an entire fence around your property. If this is the case, you can fence in groups of plants or sections of your garden. Some plants are deer resistant. Others, the deer don’t like. So, you can cover them with deer netting or leave those be and just fence it the other plants.
- Go natural. The problem with physical fences is they box you in just as they keep deer and other intruders out. if you don’t like the feel of this, go with natural fencing. This is what many zoos do with deer. Instead of erecting tall physical fences, they use natural means like rocks, gaps, ditches, cattle guards or rocky berms. Deer can’t get through these because they don’t like unstable footing or stretches of space they can’t easily or safely traverse. From experience, a 6 to 8 foot border around you garden is enough to keep them out without putting up a tall physical fence.
Deer Resistant Plants
Like everyone else, deer like to eat some food and don’t touch the rest.
With plants, they don’t like those with strong fragrances or flavors. They also steer clear of plants with sharp or prickly exteriors. Furry or fuzzy leaves are likewise turn offs for them.
Deer also prefer flowering plants, especially those with woody shoots. They don’t like grass as much and will avoid toxic plants as well.
You can strategically place these plants in locations that border or block out the other plants. This prevents them from going any further to get to non-deer resistant plants.
Here’s a list of deer resistant plants.
|Flowers||Herbs and Vegetables||Vegetables|
Deer repellents are products you can apply to plants to keep deer away. These repellents often use one of two main strategies.
And, they will use different ingredients to achieve these smells and tastes in order to deter deer from eating plants that have been given an application of these repellents.
Ammonia is one of the most common ingredients because its scent resembles the odor of urine. More specifically that of predators.
Some repellents also affect the taste of your crops. So, while the deer get to chew on the plants once, they start moving away after the first bite.
The issue with repellents is they wear out. Just like applying essential oils or vinegar to keep ants away, soon after the liquid dries and evaporates, the ants come right back.
As such, you need to regularly apply deer repellents. Often this means every 1 to 3 weeks.
Although, the frequency will depend on the kind of repellent you get, the product itself and the weather. Rains will wash away the repellents much quickly.
To emphasize the point, consistency is the most important thing when it comes to the effectivity of these products. They require regular application and never skipping.
The good news is, there are lots of products in the market.
Unfortunately, you’ve probably heard many people say that they don’t work or are only partially effective. But, the one thing I’ve noticed is that many people don’t use them properly. So, always ask the attendants in the store how each product is supposed to be used for maximum effectivity.
Once you know how, set a weekly phone reminder on your calendar to ensure you never miss an application.
Now that you know how important consistency is, here are some other things to know with deer repellents.
- They stink! No kidding. Don’t be surprised by the odor. The good news is, the smell goes away once it dries so it is only temporary and won’t stink up your entire yard that you need to cover your nose when you garden.
- Your consistency is more important than the product. Most products will work, albeit they work differently. And, it’s very rare that one won’t do its job. More importantly, it is how consistent you are and how you apply the deer deterrent that’s more important. Failure is often on the human side rather than the product in this case.
- Those with sticky additive work the best. These will stick to the leaves of the plant making them more effective. They last longer and work better. Use them during the winter and spring when deer tend to come around a lot. Do note that because they stick, they do leave a whitish residue.
- The gimmicky stuff work the least. Try to avoid things like predator urine (yes, these are sold) soap bars or even hair (these come in bags). Go for those in jugs and containers instead. The gimmicky ones are not as effective. And, they’ll only work in the short term. After a while, they cease to be effective.
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Motion Activated Sprinklers
Motion activate sprinklers work differently from the deer repelling tactics above. It uses scare tactics to startle the deer and drive them away.
These sprinklers only start working when there’s activity. This makes it effective not only for deer but also dogs, cats, rabbits and other intruders.
Animals are generally quick to respond the sudden activity, especially if this activity signals some kind of threat or potential of threat.
Another advantage of these sprinklers is their range. Many will shoot steams of water from between 35 feet to over 100 feet depending on the device and how you set it. So, you can choose the right one that fits the area you want to cover.
On the other hand, the biggest disadvantage is their inability to work during the winter. Frost will freeze the sprinklers rendering useless in the cold weather. Thus, you’re better off storing them away to keep them from sustaining cold damage.
When using the sprinklers you either want to install a few for complete coverage. Or, get some then keep moving them around. The randomness actually makes them more effective as the deer are not able to figure out a pattern.
Ideally, you want to go with taller devices. These are not triggered by moving leaves blown by the wind. Also, battery powdered sprinklers work better as solar devices are not as reliable, don’t emit as strong water streams and often are not as durable.
Other Scare Tactics
In addition to motion activated sprinklers, there are a few other scare tactics to keep deer out of your garden.
Dogs are very effective because of their presence, ability to chase the deer, bark and pee. The smell of dogs as well as their pee and poop keep deer away because there’s a competing animal or predator. Also, barking scares the deer. The downside of having dogs is that deer often come at night or dawn. So, the barking can easily annoy the neighbors during these times.
Shiny Strips of Tape
Shiny strips of tape are another temporary deer deterrent. These strips reflect sunlight and as the wind blows they move giving the illusion that something is there or moving around. This causes the deer to stay away, at least for the meantime. The thing is, unless there is some threat, they’ll eventually figure out the “moving lights” are harmless. So, they’ll come in closer and closer each time. That’s why water works because it can hit and wet them.
These work much like motion activated sprinklers. But instead of emitting jets of water, they blast audio. The noise tends to scare the deer and other animals away. In most cases because it is a sign that people or hunters are coming. With these, you do want to switch things up as the deer do get used the same things and will eventually figure it out. Also, another downside is that if it happens late a night it will wake you and your neighbors, which will piss everybody off.
Finally, there’s light. These are like mini spotlights. Again they’re activated by motion sensors. Deer are bothered by bright lights. For this reason, you don’t see many of them coming around during daytime. Instead, they wait until dark before coming to chew on your garden. This makes floodlights very effective because of the darkness. However, like audio, over time, if nothing happens they’ll realize that the lights themselves are harmless.
Keep Deer Out of Your Yard Humanely
As you can see, there are many ways to deer proof your garden and keep these animals away so they don’t chew and destroy your plants. it is important to treat these beautiful creatures humanely as they don’t intentionally mean to cause harm.
Instead, they’re looking for food as they would in the forest. It just so happens that your garden has an abundance of the things they like to eat in one place.