While deer are naturally lovely to see in the wild, they can be pretty frustrating when they start munching on your plants like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
If you’re finding methods to keep Bambi and his family out of your garden, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ve compiled different ways to keep deer away and put your plants and vegetables off-limits!
Signs of Deer Damage
Not sure if your garden’s infested with deer? You might notice the following signs:
- Deer droppings on the ground
- Plant leaves with large, jagged bites
- Large hoof footsteps near your yard
- Tree bark with large scratches and scrapes
These signs are especially important for gardening zones that live near woody areas, like USDA Zones 5-10 in the West Coast.
14 ways to keep deer out of your garden
Fishing Line Method
You might be surprised how easily a string of fishing line can fight off deer. This inexpensive tactic relies on the fact that the fishing line is practically invisible. Because deer like to come to gardens at night, they don’t notice the fishing line immediately, and can’t jump over it.
At the same time, because fishing line is invisible, this tends to scare deer when they actually feel it, causing them to stay away from the garden; deer don’t like being surprised!
Fishing line is a generally inexpensive and effective deer repellent. If you want to set one up around the garden, you can fence the perimeter by placing stakes or posts and attaching fishing line on them, like a makeshift fence. String your fishing line in lengths of 5-10 feet in between stakes.
Hair and Nail Clippings
While placing your hair and nails around the garden sounds like a squeamish idea, this deer-repellent method relies on a deer’s sense of smell: these animals stay away from humans.
Deer are fearful creatures. They don’t stay in places where predators roam, and only come around gardens when they’re left unsupervised. But, deterring deer can easily be done with human hair and nail clippings!
The next time you’re getting your hair and nails done, you can definitely ask your barber or hairstylist not to throw them away yet. It might be strange to explain, but anything for your garden, right?
Place your hair or nail clippings around your fence, or even on the ground (bunched up in containers). It’ll ward off deer in no time.
Motion Activated Technology
While fencing has been the classic method to keep deer from entering the garden, modern technology offers effective and low-maintenance protection!
Deer are very squeamish animals. When they hear a noise or get frazzled by a texture or scent they don’t enjoy, they fall prey to tactics easily enough. With this technology in your garden, deer will be running back to the woods!
If you’ve got the budget for it, a motion-activated sprinkler system could change the game for you. Putting sprinklers around your garden looks less bulky than a wire or fishing-line fence, too.
For stronger gardening protection, an electric fence could be one of your last resorts. An electric wire can be set up to electrocute deer at a low voltage, just enough to keep them away for good.
Noise machines can work particularly well as deterrents, too! The sounds they emit often drive most pests, like rabbits and deer away. This may interfere with your sleep, so this is best done for larger growing spaces rather than a small yard.
You can also find other sources of noise, such as a loud radio, whistles, wind chimes, or anything that might be able to startle a deer’s sense of hearing.
Deer Resistant Plants
If you’re searching for new plants for your garden, you’re in luck! There are lots of plants that are great at deterring deer. Most of these plants smell great for humans, while deer don’t like them as much.
Any type of hot pepper is effective and can prevent deer from coming to your garden. The spice and heat of this plant are definitely something deer don’t enjoy! You can even mix your garden peppers into a spray to protect your other plants.
Foxglove flowers are great at keeping deer away because they’re poisonous. These plants are perfect for a summer garden and are generally easy to care for. Feel free to grow these beauties and have them line around your garden.
Like other deer-deterring plants, Poppies can be poisonous to deer and are also a good addition to any spring gardening project! Deer are less likely to approach a yard where poppies grow, so this plant is a good contender. Our complete guide on poppies might interest you, check the article here.
Thorny Flowers and Plants
Like humans, deer don’t like getting stung. These animals tend to stay away from any plant with thorns, which could damage their mouths. Gardens with roses and cacti tend to drive deer out of the yard, as they can’t nibble on these types of plants and flowers.
Deer Resistant Annuals, Perennials, and Vegetables
Depending on your gardening zone, these other plants are favorable in both sunlight and shade. Consider the following blooms to ward off deer:
Perennials and Annuals
- Bleeding Heart
- Lily of The Valley
- Spider Flowers
Don’t throw your coffee grounds into the trash yet, because they’re perfect deer deterrent materials! The strong, and often biter smell of coffee grounds repulses a deer’s sense of smell and often prevents them from coming to your garden.
Sprinkle coffee grounds around your yard, by your fence, on your plant, or near your trees as an effective deterrent.
In addition to being effective as a deer repellent for your garden, coffee grounds have the ability to enrich your soil as a natural fertilizer, too! (Related Article: Coffee Grounds In The Garden)
Garden Perimeter Method
One of the classic deer resistant methods is to simply protect the perimeter of your garden with a fence or barrier. While we did mention the fishing line earlier, any type of fencing offers some garden protection.
To deter deer with a fence, you will have to build something based on the size of your yard, your ground coverage area, and any other important factors.
As a general rule of thumb, a deer fence must be at least 8 feet tall so that they can’t jump over them. A few fence materials you can use are:
Wooden fences are cheap to make and add a rustic accent to your yard. A sharp, pointed fence can be challenging for deer to jump on. Aim for wooden stakes that are at least 8 feet tall so that even the best jumpers can’t get through!
Netting can either be done on the perimeter of your yard or on any specific plant. Metal chickenwire is widely available anywhere and extremely flexible. For a more sturdy option, your local hardware store contains multiple options.
Leveling Your Garden
Deer aren’t much like goats; they hate to climb. Often, they only jump if they have to. By creating different levels in your garden, you may be able to steer them away.
For one, tall raised beds or vertical gardening set-ups work as great deer deterrents. You may also consider stacking different-leveled crates or boxes around your garden fences.
Herbs are multi-faceted. They add color to gardens, provide delicious flavors to the food we eat and are generally one of the best organic tactics to keep deer away!
With the spring season in full bloom and summer fast approaching, you can definitely keep an herb or two all year long as natural deer repellents.
Plants like Mint, Lavender, Rosemary, and Sage can often be planted nearby fences and around the yard to protect the rest of your plants from deer. The strong scent of these woody plants tends to repel deer.
Did you know that a simple, regular bar of soap around your garden can keep deer away? You heard it right! Putting soap in your garden is as easy as it can get.
To use soap against deer, hang bars of soap 10-12 feet away from each other, either on a stake or on the branches of trees; you can even use this method in conjunction with your regular fencing and keep soap bars nearby.
If you’ve decided to use fishing line to keep deer from your precious plants, place bars of soap nearby to double your garden protection and you’ll surely keep the deer away!
Some scientific studies have shown that soaps with coconut oil are especially effective, so you may want to find these types on your next shopping trip.
Natural Deer Spray
Deer have a sense of smell and taste that can be used to your gardening advantage. If you’re tired of having deer eat your precious plants, you can easily create a spray that’s sure to keep deer from chomping on them.
To make this deer spray, mix 3 cloves of garlic or onion, and 3 tablespoons of hot peppers with water. Afterward, shake this spray and leave it for a few hours to set. When you’re ready, spritz this mix around your plants and vegetables.
There are several ingredients for deer repellents you can add. Raw eggs, pungent-smelling herbs, vinegar, and even neem oil work wonders. (Related Article: Neem Oil)
This spray works best at night, as spraying in full sun may burn the leaves of your plants. The next time deer come to eat your plants, they’ll stop using your garden as a food source!
While natural deer spray repellents are available, store-bought works like a charm, too! These chemical deterrents are manufactured specifically to repel deer. However, you may come to a point where these repellents become less effective.
To remedy this, buy at least 2 different repellent brands, and switch between them every quarter of the year. This method prevents deer from adapting to your repellent brand of choice.
Your local big box store usually carries an assortment of repellents, but online shopping websites might be more efficient, too.
Dogs are man’s best friend and a deer’s worst enemy. If you own a large garden, a guard dog may just be the best solution for you. Their presence in a yard tends to scare deer away, as deer generally keep away from spaces where other animals are staying.
You don’t need a rottweiler or K-9, any larger-sized dog is fine. In fact, walking your dog around the garden at night on a daily basis is more than enough! This will deter deer while giving both you and your furry friend some exercise!
We mentioned earlier that you can even use your hair to keep deer away. In fact, a lot of things you can find in your house are perfect for use as a deterrent! Anything with a strong scent can be kept around your house and garden so that deer stay away.
True to its name, these small, white balls help keep moths away. It’s often stored in closets and pantries but could offer you garden protection. To use these, put mothballs a foot away from each other around trees and any plant you feel might need an extra anti-deer boost.
Note: While mothballs are effective against deer, try not to place them on the ground or soil. They work best on top of fences or near elevated areas.
Deer turn away from strong sources of light. Any object with a reflective quality, such as an aluminum plate or container, a plastic mirror, or even a pie can can throw them off.
Deterring By Season
If you live in a state where hunting deer is popular, you might recognize when deer populations are at their peak. By recognizing the signs of deer cycles, you’ll be able to protect your plants and find tactics that are suitable for specific seasons.
During the spring, deer begin leaving the woods in search of food and resources. At this point in the year, deer are ready to colonize fruit trees and home gardens!
To keep them away from your plants, add more fences or protective barriers for raised beds and use spray repellents and netting this season.
The fishing line method is extremely effective at this time of year because it drives deer away from most vegetable gardens (which deer love to devour).
During the summer, gardens are less prone to deer because the ground is dry and less conducive for plant growth. During this time of year, few deterrents are necessary as deer tend to graze around lush, green areas.
As a preventive measure, setting up netting or fenced areas is generally a good practice for deterring deer.
While most plants begin dying back and shedding their leaves, deers begin their mating season in the fall. At this time of year, your focus must be on your trees, which deer tend to scrape with their antlers. This motion of scraping tends to damage and even destroy trees entirely, so watch out!
The best deterrent for trees includes netting and fencing. If possible, you may want to add stakes around each of the trees in your yard to avoid deer interference. Putting chickenwire netting may work as a temporary measure, as well.
The winter heralds hibernation for most deer populations. During the winter months, deer may return back to the woods and stay away from your yard entirely.
Take this time of year to recheck your yard and fix any broken or worn down fences.
Doubling and Tripling Up To Keep Deer out Of The Garden
A deer-resistant garden doesn’t rely on just one method to repel deer. Gardeners, especially those living near the woods or forests, use at least 2 methods to keep deer out of your yard. Our favorite pairs of deer deterrents are:
- Fishing Line and Fencing – A classic wood or metal fence with a string of fishing line a few feet before your fencing adds double protection to your yard!
- Soap Bars and Levelling – Placing bars of soap with different-leveled crates not only prevents deer from coming to visit, it also lowers the chance of them even attempting to jump through your makeshift fencing!