It was just a month ago that I shared my tale-of-woe-from-the-garden . . . the one featuring hungry deer jumping my fence and demolishing my back garden. (Sigh.)
I thought you might be interested in an update.
I did a lot of research, and learned that there are basically 4 ways to keep deer out of your garden:
- First, you choose to grow plants that deer don’t like (but despite labels like “deer resistant” at nurseries. . . good luck with this one; they like everything when they’re hungry).
- Second, you need to have/install the right kind of fence (some fences are more effective than others in keeping deer out of a garden).
- Third, if you’re going to use them, you need to apply deer repellents consistently and over your whole garden (and not just consistently — you also need to cycle the different types of repellents you use because deer become accustomed to them quickly).
- Fourth, scare ’em! (although everything I read tells me this is harder to do this now with super-tame suburban deer who are used to people . . . and dogs; there are generally high praises for motion-activated sprinklers, though).
As for me and my garden . . . well, it’s far too late for me to focus on plant selection. I’ve got a well-established, mature garden filled with deer-delicacies (oak leaf hydrangeas, dogwood, hardy geranium, and hostas top the list of deer-faves . . . and I’ve got ’em all).
And neither Tom nor I are big on the deer repellent idea. First, we have a very big garden. The amount of spraying we would have to do (several times a week) is just . . . not in the cards. Plus, my chemist-husband is always leery of what we’re spraying – and smelling/breathing. So that’s a no.
As far as scaring the deer? Ha. When we go out and chase them, they look at us like . . . yeah? what? (It’s reminiscent of our kids when they were teenagers.) Even JoJo chasing them and barking in the yard does not seem to raise the alarm. (I will, though, hold the motion-activated sprinkler idea in reserve for some of my more prized plants.)
So. This brings us to fencing. And, really, we’ve got this pretty well covered. We do (for the most part) have the “right” kind of fence for keeping deer out.
- Stockade fencing is best because deer can’t see what’s behind it, and that’s what we have.
- The fence should be tall – preferably 8 feet. Ours is of varying heights from about 5-7 feet.
- “Double fencing” is recommended — because deer can jump high OR wide, but not both. “Double fencing” can be an actual second fence, or it can be materials (plant or structural) that serve as a second fence. Until this summer, we’ve always had a “double fence” from various barriers in the garden — and from the neighbors.
I’m sure the deer haven’t visited until now . . . because we have had a fencing situation that has worked to keep them out. But a couple of things changed this year. First, as I mentioned in my post last month, one neighbor removed an evergreen barrier from their side of the fence. (This is where the deer are entering now.) And our other-side neighbors have recently begun aggressively trimming back the mature, well-established evergreens near our fence, so they’ve essentially removed a former barrier. (Tom saw the deer escape this way once.)
So. We need to up our “double fencing” game again to compensate for what our neighbors are doing in their own landscapes.
We’ll be doing some evergreen/tall grass planting of our own next spring (to build back the double-barriers we’ve lost). But it’s too late for that this season. In the meantime (because deer can do a lot of damage through the winter and spring) we’ve created our own “faux” double-fencing in those two new weak spots.
Tom installed plant hooks from the top of our fence along the “entrance/exit points” . . . and then he hung high-quality flags just behind the fencing. (Not ideal from an appearance standpoint, but it’s better than having deer roam my back garden all winter.) We’re hoping the flags (which sit back from the actual fence) are enough to make the deer think twice about making the jump.
Here’s the view from outside the fence . . .
This is my neighbors’ driveway. You can see the berm there . . . with some new little plants. That’s where the evergreens used to be. Coupled with the “wall” of arborvitae I planted in my garden, those evergreens created part of a highly effective “double fence.” Now, not so much.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the garden . . .
This view is from our other neighbors’ front yard. You can see where they’ve been doing some heavy duty pruning! Imagine if those two trees were fully branched, to the ground (like they were in past years). That created quite a nice barrier, too.
So. There you have it. Flags! A somewhat temporary solution to our deer problem. Since Tom installed his ingenious flag-fence a few weeks ago, we’ve had no evidence of deer in the back garden. No more deer poop. No newly-chewed plants and trees. No sightings (by us or by JoJo).
I’m hoping this is enough to deter them through the winter.
(And no worries about the poor deer. There are still plenty of dining options for them in my very wide-open front beds!)
Those rascally deer! Another thing that works well is bird netting… I used it in my vegetable garden and not one single deer every tried twice! They hate the stuff! And from a distance it just looks like a bit of a “haze”.
You are so right on “deer resistant” plants… they won’t eat them, until they do. And when they do… they eat all of them! lol
With your large established gardens and neighbors who have changed things, this will hopefully be a good temporary solution until spring when you can do your own permanent plantings for better barriers. When Justin worked at the deer ranch in TX, they were working on a deer fence study for TX A&M. They erected a bunch of different kinds of fences and then set up cameras to see which ones deer were able to jump over. The only one that worked >90% of the time was 12 ft. high with an outwardly canted top section. That made the fence both high and wide but looks like a prison fence – not exactly what you want to surround your gardens with. Good luck!
What a great de-‘fence’ against the deer. I’m glad to hear they’ve been absent. We see a few, from time to time, over by the edge of the pine forest (previously planted as a cash crop thirty years ago, but now just there) across the way.
Why do bottoms of pine trees get pruned away? Several of our old pine trees here in Village have been pruned “up”. I, for one, don’t like the look. They seem more elegant sweeping the ground. I’m sure there are good reasons, beyond “the fashion”. May your flags be just the thing until you can add your own double fencing.
I lost all the berries on my winterberry bushes. At first I blamed the birds even though I know this is not a favorite of theirs. Then I saw it ……………………deer poop.
I’m thinking now it was the deer.
Unfortunately, they don’t have to jump a fence. They can just walk up the driveway.
Hope the flags work for you.
Oh dear…so sorry for your plant loss. Many of our friends suffer the same loss and much neighborly conversation is devoted to deer repellents. We, however, are not gardeners – green things grow there without our consent or sometimes even awareness – so we were blown away by the sight of a full-grown, heavily-antlered specimen jumping smoothly and in-slow-motion over our neighbor’s chain-link fence into our snow-dusted yard. Deer, especially up-close, are Big. It was like watching a ballet danced by a two-ton truck. I ran to get a camera to record this Rudolph moment but he had disappeared in a twinkling never to return again. Guess the full-bore neighborhood deer repellent effect had done its work. Despite the fact that we still treasure this stunning wildlife memory, I do hope all your loving work and joy are kept safe by your ingenious solution, Kym. If I hear of anything fool-proof (wolves?) I will pass it on. Very sympathetically, Chloe
I hope the flags work too. It’s kind of like having bunting in your yard! We have deer in our yard EVERY DAY. Fletch put a fence (high) around the garden this year, so our veggies are safe. Not so much our plantings. They left the catnip alone as well as the snap dragons, but they munched everything else. I will admit I like having them come down to dine on our apples…and Mabel thinks they are her friends! LOL
Personally, I think the flags are rather charming. And I’m heartened to hear that they are working, at least momentarily. Are you friendly enough with your neighbors on either side to discuss tackling this problem as a whole?
If the flags work, which I hope they do, you could certainly make them seasonal and festive! I like Carole’s idea of talking to the neighbors (assuming you’re on good terms with them) to see if you can all collaborate on some long-term solutions, though they might not have gardens that the deer are eating.
I think the flags are a brilliant temporary solution. I’m with your chemist husband. I am not a fan of wildly or carefully spraying or spreading chemicals. I hope all continues to go well in the gardens this winter.