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!)