Keeping deer out of the garden

Deer love tender new leaves and can leap tall fences at a bound. We see them all the time, on our rural property outside the fenced area where the dogs have free range. But we’ve never had one get into our vegetable garden which is bordered on the back by that main fence, and on the other three sides by fences to keep our dogs out. The fences are well under five feet tall, nothing for a deer to jump. Our garden is in raised beds about three feet wide and varying in length; between the wooden sides of the beds, the walkways are about two and a half feet wide. My theory is, that deer (like other hoofed animals) are concerned about having good footing when they jump into a place, and the narrow spaces and mixture of heights doesn’t look safe or inviting.

Outside our fence I have been trying for over eight years to get trees and tall plants established in a bare spot to make a visual barrier between us and our neighbor’s two-story place. Poor soil and hot dry weather have been the major problem, but then the deer have chowed down on most everything that I have kept alive except some weeping willows I started by sticking branches in the ground. I’ve tried old remedies, new remedies, and wacky ideas: Mylar pinwheels, hanging scented soap, rotten egg spray, flapping hanging things tied to the trees, systemic bittering agents put in the soil, glittery hanging things like metallic beads, Mylar streamers, and aluminum pie plates (reputed to work to repel birds eating ripening fruit). Never did try hanging little bags of human hair trimmings, a method with a following. I bought dehydrated coyote urine but then on the drive home thought about how it must have been collected, and went back and returned it with an explanation to the wild bird store, and I believe they stopped carrying it. It might have worked, but the confinement needed to produce it was unacceptable.

I went so far as to lay down landscape cloth around the trees and then on top of that peg down that plastic-netting fencing used for temporary barriers. I put it down horizontally: it did a good job of tripping me up all the time but the deer did not seem to be affected. And soon falling leaves covered it, weeds rooted in the decomposed leaves, and it was buried.

Finally I decided to mimic what worked in the garden and I used wide plastic tape, like crime scene tape or the fiberglass tape used on drywall seams, to divide the tree area into many narrow portions. It worked! I put it at varying heights between 2 – 4 feet, going around a tree trunk or stake and then off at an angle to another point. I’ve now moved to using bright yellow polypropylene rope because the tapes didn’t hold up to uv exposure, and the stronger rope is easier for me to get over or under when working out there. Once the trees get tall enough, it can be removed; without some protection, nothing but the original willows will ever get that tall. It’s not too scenic, but I don’t care, and the neighbors–I think they probably prefer it to the flapping plastic trash bags!

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