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    How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden

    How to get rid of deer

    When you grow a garden, whether you love to grow flowers for beauty or food for your table, it can be extremely trying to have the local fauna coming in to browse — whether deer, rabbits, or other wildlife. Here we've put together a number of tips to help keep your garden safe from pillaging animals.

    The first and most important rule is not to rely on a single method all the time. Varying your approach and combining tactics will prevent creatures from getting used to the environment around a desirable food source. Different smells, sounds, and sights will keep them off balance and worried about whether or not they are truly safe enough to eat there. A very determined animal may find a way into your garden no matter how hard you try. One owner was successful in keeping deer and rabbits out only to have gophers steal an entire crop of one vegetable from underground. That is not typical, but it can happen occasionally. Simply be aware and change things regularly. Add new tactics and rotate old protection methods out of your garden on an ongoing basis.

     

    Barriers

    Deer can jump over a fence as high as six feet. If you want to put up a fence, especially if you are growing a food garden and not a flower garden that you want to be able to see, make sure it is at least 8 feet high. This can be expensive, but definitely worth it. If you are concerned about animals digging under the fence, simply embed the base of the fence a few inches deep to curb these attempts.

    In addition, it helps to add some kind of lattice barrier (e.g. netting or chicken wire) above the solid barrier another few feet and slanted either inward or outward around 45 degrees. The advantage of using a lattice barrier instead of stringing barbed wire is that it's more visible, and deer are less likely to attempt a desperation jump that could leave them wounded.

    If you live in an area that has a high deer population, one option that will definitely keep deer out of your garden and increase your production at the same time is to build a greenhouse. Since it will cover the plants completely and have a door, your growing garden will not be immediately visible and will have less scent impact on the outside environment, so the animals won't have a long distance invitation beckoning them. There are various methods of setting up a greenhouse, and it doesn't have to be a large number of square feet to accommodate all the things you want to grow, just some creative planning. Some methods are more affordable than others. Look into the alternatives before you completely dismiss the idea.

    One very simple idea is to spread netting over your plants while they are growing. The plants will still get all the sun and water they need, have the flexibility for growth, and yet have enough protection that deer won't be able to get through to eat them. Another idea is to put temporary row covers over your garden in the early spring so that the plants have time to take root and grow without being eaten before the wild plant growth is abundant enough to keep the deer fed.

    Olfactory, Audible, and Visual Deterrents

    While Tractor Supply does sell things related to how to get rid of deer (see Insect & Pest Control in our online store or ask a team member at your local TSC store), you also can use resources you already have around your house.

    "Olfactory" is simply about scent deterrent — whether that is using an active repellent, plants that deer generally avoid, or masking aromas that they like with other odors. The idea is that if it smells unpleasant enough or isn't enticing enough, they'll avoid the area and leave your plants alone.

    • Repellents include things like human hair (easily obtainable from a hairdresser), mothballs, garlic, or a home mixture of raw egg mixed with water and then sprayed on your plants. Some recommend adding garlic and/or pepper juice to the mix, or using milk instead of water. The spray will have to be reapplied after rainfall, and the other repellents will have to be replaced as the scents diminish over time.
    • Plants that deer avoid include the following (and many more): lilac, butterfly bush, currant, mountain laurel, aster, iris, mint, spruce pine, black-eyed Susan, lavender, thyme, centaurea, sumac, boxwood, phlox, chive, St. John's Wort, hyacinth, petunia, foxglove, hackberry, magnolia, and cyclamen. Spread these in various places within your garden, or around the outside of your garden.
    • Scent-masking can be done with any tallow-based soap (Ivory Soap is a frequent suggestion) hung around the garden, or fabric softener sheets. Really, anything with an artificially strong pleasant odor should work, but the same replacement practices apply.

    "Audible" relates to noise making activity like having wind chimes or even a radio that broadcasts loud white noise, which deer dislike. If you use a radio, you can set it up on a timer or hook it to your security light so that it is motion activated. Some other suggestions are sprinklers, whistles, or electric wires. One person was rumored to stand out on the back deck and shoot a gun once or twice a night (obviously in a rural setting) on the basis that deer aren't stupid and will stay away from any place firearms are being discharged… but we do NOT recommend this, since it is an unsafe practice.

    "Visual," of course, can be things like security lights that come on when there is movement, a flag waving in the breeze (which would also produce some small level of noise), or attaching strips of material at intervals around the perimeter as a distraction. If you are using wind chimes as an audible deterrent, you can make them big and flashy so that the movement and light reflection will startle the deer into leaving the premises. A scarecrow with baggy clothes that move when the wind blows will also give the illusion that a person is already there in the garden.

    Protection

    This one is simple enough. If you have a dog, let it roam around the garden. Its presence nearby will help keep deer, or any other wildlife, away from your treasured plants.

    Distraction

    One possible means to an end, if you have enough property and are willing to expend the extra time and effort, is to plant a small area away from your garden with plants that deer really love to eat.

    Summary

    As we said in the beginning, it's important to remember that deer can become accustomed over time and with familiarity to whatever impediments you choose to use, so stay sharp. Like every other part of growing a garden, pest control is just part of the package. Expect to expend effort on this, just as you've put labor into tilling, planting, weeding, and watering. Know that the rewards are worth the energy you've used when you later sit down to enjoy the view of your beautiful flowers or eat some of the produce at your dinner table.