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11 Tips For Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden

Nothing beats the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables. They usually taste better and they represent a lot of hard work. Then you can sit down and enjoy them as part of a delicious – and healthy – meal. But often, you’re not the only one who wants to make a meal out of your lettuce, tomatoes, and other garden veggies!

Deer are beautiful creatures but they can destroy a vegetable garden. It’s only natural, of course, and we can’t hold it against them. It’s like a salad bar laid out for them. They’re spared the trouble of having to forage through the forest for berries and leaves. Still, it’d be great if they kept to their food source and left ours alone. 

There are many ways to help keep deer away, some more effective than others. And some are definitely less appealing than others even if they do work. You may have to experiment a bit to find what works best for you. Here are some ideas that have proven effective – at least sometimes!

Having problems with moles, voles, or gophers?

Bar Soap

Something as simple as a bar of soap may help keep deer from intruding on your plants and garden. There’s something in the smell that seems to irritate the deer and encourage them to seek other buffets. They’re so sensitive to it that this solution often works even if the soap is left wrapped.

You can hang tie the bars with string and hang them from stakes or trees. Or you can make shavings and spread it around the garden. Be sure to handle that whittling knife carefully! An old cheese grater can work as well!

Of course, the soap will eventually disappear with the rain, but it’s an economical way to handle the problem. And unlike some other solutions, it’s not too irritating to humans.

Shiny And Noisy Objects

If you’ve ever observed deer in the wild, you know how alert they are for any movement or sound. You can use that to your advantage with some handy recycling!

Bright flashes can spook deer and make them reluctant to get too close. If you have old CDs or DVDs around that you don’t care about anymore, you can pass a string or fishing line through the hole and hang them so they can move freely. The sun will reflect off them and scare off your unwanted visitors.

reflections and noise deter deer

Pie pans or aluminum cans can have the same effect, but also add an element of noise. Hang a few close together so they both reflect light and make noise as they bang together. 

This works for birds, too. But do plastic owls really keep bird pests away?

Another noise-related solution is a solar-powered radio. Tune it to a talk station and the deer are likely to stay away, thinking that you’re nearby! Of course, a battery-powered model will work as well. You’ll have to replace the batteries often.

Deer-Deterring Plants

Another way to keep deer away is to mix certain plants into your garden that deer tend to shy away from. This can be because of their smell or taste, but it is effective at keeping deer away. Even when they only make up a small part of your garden, you can strategically place them so the deer won’t want to go any further.

Your choice in these plants will depend on your climate and soil as well as the appearance you want your garden to have. It’s good to consult with your local nursery for the best ideas for your area. 

There are many plants that work. You can plant them around the edges to “hide” the plants that deer really crave. Here are a few that go well in a vegetable garden:

Hot Pepper Spray

Another way that will help keep deer away is hot pepper! The smell alone is enough to warn them that they don’t want to sample this food.

The best way to spread it is to mix a chili powder or flakes with water and use a spray bottle to spread it on plants and leaves.

mixing hot pepper flakes with water and spraying it around you garden can keep deer away

Of course, this does have a couple drawbacks. You’ll have to spray a couple times a month because it will wear off. Also, you might not wash it off completely and suddenly bite into a juicy red tomato and get a little unexpected spice along with it!

Human Hair

No one seems sure why, but deer often show an aversion to human hair, too. Spreading it around the garden can help keep them from feasting on your plants. You could also stuff it in old pantyhose and hang it at different points.

This is a great organic way to help protect your garden. It’s also economical. You can ask your stylist or barber to save hair clippings for you and let you know when they have enough for you to pick up. Deer are normally reluctant to cross this simple barrier.

Is it insects that are destroying your plants? We’ve got tips for that, too.

Chicken Wire

For protecting individual plants or small gardens, chicken wire can do the job. It will make it uncomfortable for them to try to eat around. Of course, it doesn’t work too well for a larger area as the deer will likely jump over it.

Egg Spray

So far we’ve mentioned a lot of things that wouldn’t bother us but that deer find offensive. But this is one that both of us dislike: the smell of rotten eggs.

Deer are more sensitive than us to this smell, at least, so it doesn’t have to be overpowering. You can mix an egg with water and spray it around your garden. You can even add some hot pepper flakes or powder for even more protection.

deer find the smell of rotten eggs offensive

Still, you may have a bit of unpleasant odor. While it’s effective against deer, it might not be your favorite choice. 

Commercial Repellants

Of course, there are a variety of commercial deer repellents available, too. Some use the basic ideas we’ve discussed here, such as the scent of hair or rotten egg. That means they could also be a bit annoying to you. But there is a wide variety, and many are totally inoffensive and perfectly safe for vegetable gardens.

Of course, any spray, whether homemade or commercial, will have to be reapplied occasionally.

Invisible Fence

If you want something slightly more permanent to keep deer away, you could go for an invisible fence. Using something like black mesh or fishing line, run the material between posts. Since it’s almost impossible for the deer to see it, they’ll be confused and lack the confidence to try to jump over it.

Animal Waste

This may be one of the least appealing deterrents there is, but it’s definitely effective. Deer will want to stay away when you use animal waste to ring your garden. 

This could mean training your dog to do its business by trees around the edges of the garden. Or you could even ask a local kennel, pet store or even a zoo to save manure for you.

It’s messy and smelly – but it usually works. It comes down to whether you want to deal with it.

Not all insects are bad for your garden. Find out which ones should be welcome!

Fences

Deer love to jump, and they can jump high. A fence might seem like a natural way to keep them out, but you have to be prepared to make it a tall one.

To keep deer from jumping over a fence, it has to be at least eight feet high. That’s about the limit where they know they can’t make the leap. Yes, it works. But you might not want to go to the expense.

a high fence or one deer can't see past will keep them out

Deer are also unlikely to take a leap of faith into the unknown. If they can’t see what’s on the other side of the fence, they’re not going to try to jump it. They don’t want to risk coming down into something unpleasant, no matter how tempting the smell of your garden. A stockade fence is a great choice as long as it’s tall enough that they can’t see over it.

Electric fences can give the animal a mild shock – just strong enough to discourage them. Also, a double-layer fence is good. Spacing them a few feet apart is another way to discourage deer from trying to launch themselves over.

Changing It Up

One of the biggest problems in keeping deer away is that they learn to adapt. Also, if there’s a real shortage of food in their habitat, they will often ignore things that they’d otherwise avoid. 

Over time, they may realize that there’s no danger from pie plates blowing in the breeze, or that the smell of soap isn’t that bad. They may recognize that just because the smell of a predator is in the wind, there’s not actually a wolf around. 

That means you may have to change things up from time to time. What works one year might not work the next. Don’t hesitate to make adjustments if you notice the deer becoming less skittish around what you’ve been using.

Conclusion

Watching deer can be relaxing. Still, you also want to protect your vegetable garden. There doesn’t seem to be any perfect way of keeping them out. But there are a lot of good deterrents that will work in most cases. While you may have to make adjustments from time to time, using these ideas can help you enjoy your produce without harming the animals.