How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden

Two deer standing in the front yard of a residence in a neighborhood.
Two deer standing in the front yard of a residence in a neighborhood. (Image: kevinruss/iStock/Getty Images)

Hungry deer can make quick work of a garden. Even when they just browse shoots and plant tips, deer can cause a lot of damage. Fortunately, homeowners can use a few methods to keep these garden pests at bay. Some methods may be more reliable than others; mix and match them to determine which ones work best in your garden.

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Fencing Them Out

Fences are the most reliable method of keeping deer out of an area. Deer are leapers, and a fence must be at least 6 feet tall to prevent them from jumping. The fence also needs to reach all the way to the ground to prevent the deer from crawling under the fence. A wire-mesh fence is the most economical but not the most attractive option. The kind of fencing to use to exclude deer depends on your budget, space and zoning restrictions in your area.

Blockading the Food

Another way to discourage deer is to plant deer-resistant plants around the places the deer like to nibble. The unpalatable plants may cause the deer to move elsewhere rather than try to sort out the good food from the bad food. Succulents, plants with strong flavors and plants with fuzzy leaves are disliked by deer. For example, planting a row of fuzzy, evergreen lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) in a border around your flower and vegetable plants may make deer turn away at the garden;s edge. Lamb's ears are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8.

Repelling Browsers

Commercially available sprays, as well as common household items, can be used as repellents to make plants unappetizing to deer. If you'd rather use home repellents, then try a bar of soap or human hair placed in a mesh bag and hung around the garden to deter deer pests. Mixing 1 tablespoon of hot pepper sauce in 1 cup of water creates a spray that can be applied to plant leaves to make them unattractive to deer. Another method is to sprinkle blood meal or rotten eggs over the ground near plants as an area repellent. Most repellents lose strength over time and must be reapplied weekly or monthly and/or after a rainfall. For example, replace soap or hair sachets monthly. Rotating the kinds of repellents you use can keep deer from becoming used to one scent.

Choosing Other Options

As a short-term solution, loud noises can keep deer from venturing into your garden . They become ineffective as the deer get used to them, however. If you have dogs, their barking may scare deer or at least alert you to deer's presence so you can go outside and chase them away. Protect individual garden plants with a wire mesh cylinder placed around each plant. Wire mesh cylinders with 1-inch-diameter holes prevents deer from reaching plants through the cylinders. A wire mesh lid placed on the top of each cylinder will keep deer from getting to the plants from above.

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