Deer can wipe out an entire garden overnight if it’s left unprotected. In this post we’ll discuss what works to keep deer out of your garden…and what doesn’t.
Help! Deer Are Eating My Garden!
When we first moved onto our property a few years ago, there was a small area next to the house with three raised bed gardens. At the time, I was a fairly inexperienced gardener but I decided to give it a go – I mean, the gardens were already in place, so why not?
The first plants I grew successfully were kale, tomatoes, and cucumbers. After my first year’s harvest I decided to expand my garden and add a couple more raised beds. I planted twice as much kale and added broccoli. They grew well and the girls and I loved trying our first crop of fresh broccoli!
…and then the deer struck.
We had deer that wandered through our property occasionally. It was fun to see them up close and they stayed away from the garden. I assumed because the garden was right next to the house and well lit at night, that was enough to keep them away.
I learned my lesson the hard way!
It was the worst feeling to walk outside to check my garden one morning and see all my kale and broccoli plants nibbled down to stumps. I vowed never to let the deer ruin my hard work again.
6 Suggested Ways To Keep Deer Out Of Gardens
I’m always trying to learn new things about gardening, as well as testing out what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some of the methods I’ve seen suggested to repel deer from gardens:
- Plant the garden near your house
- Make sure the garden is illuminated at night
- Grow plants that deer don’t like
- Use scents that repel deer
- Build a fence
- Commercial deer repellent products
Those are common suggestions…now let’s talk about what actually works!
What Definitely DOESN’T Work
If you read my sad story above, then you know that simply planting your garden near your house is not enough to keep deer away. As humans continue to move closer to nature, deer and other wildlife end up in neighborhoods and looking for food sources. They’re more and more used to seeing humans and more and more comfortable getting closer to us and our homes.
Bright lights are also not enough on their own to deter hungry deer from munching on easily accessible garden plants. Maybe at first, but deer will return and try again. Eventually they learn that the lights mean nothing.
There are a few things that had mixed results for me:
- Deterrent animals, such as a watchdog
- Planting things that deer don’t like
When our dog is outside, obviously the deer stay far away. Our dog doesn’t chase the deer, but she will bark at them. However, if your dog sleeps indoors or is confined in a different area than your garden, this might not be sufficient garden defense. The deer will figure out that your dog isn’t a threat or simply wait until they are not around.
I also tried planting things that deer supposedly avoid, such as strong-smelling herbs like thyme and lavender. Well, the deer DID avoid those plants. But it wasn’t enough to keep them from eating the plants that they DO enjoy.
What DOES Keep Deer Out of a Garden?
In my experience, the only truly dependable way to keep deer out of your garden 100% of the time is a fence.
There are two ways you can build an effective deer fence:
- A tall fence they can’t jump over
- A double fence, with two smaller fences that are a couple feet apart
When building your fence, keep in mind that deer can jump pretty high. If building a single fence, it needs to be at least 7-8 feet tall.
If you don’t want a tall fence, another option is to build two shorter fences that are a couple feet apart. Deer won’t jump into the space between the fences because to them it looks like a trap. While this is not the style of fence that I use, my aunts who garden do this to keep the deer out of their greens.
My fence isn’t fancy or particularly pretty to look at. I built it in a hurry to protect my remaining plants, so I needed something I could install quickly.
I used 8 foot T-posts and deer netting. I reinforced the bottom half of the fence with thicker plastic garden fencing. With my husband’s help we got it all set up in one afternoon. If you have more time, feel free to make a prettier fence! But two years later, this fence is still getting the job done!
And that was the last time the deer ever got in my garden!
What I Used To Build My Quick Deer Fence
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- 8-foot T posts – or similar fence posts
- Deer netting – You’ll want 7 feet tall deer netting because your 8 foot T-posts will be about 7 feet tall after you place them in the ground.
- Cable zip ties – To secure the netting to your fence posts
- Plastic poultry netting – to reinforce the bottom against smaller pests
- T-post driver – This handy tool makes it WAY easier to get those metal fence posts into the ground
Here’s a look at my garden with the fence around it. You almost can’t see the fence from some angles, but it has been VERY effective!
Do Commercial Deer Repellents Work?
This is one strategy I haven’t personally tested…because I didn’t want to risk them NOT working and losing more of my efforts. Online reviews are pretty mixed, so if you want to try one of these repellent products, I feel like you’re doing so at your own risk.
When it comes down to it, the ONLY method I can recommend with confidence for keeping deer out of your garden is a TALL fence.