As a gardener or farmer if you have ever dealt with deer getting in to your garden or fields and eating your crops you know how frustrating it can be. Even just a few deer can cause severe economic problems and even wipe out a crop. Deer are very resilient animals and throughout most parts of North America they have no natural predators, except of course humans. Laws and jurisdictions that encourage hunting of these creatures have been beneficial to controlling the populations which have grown rapidly over the last 50 years and continue to grow.
While deer are a pervasive and relentless pest they can be stopped. There are a lot ways and methods people use to try to limit damage to their crops by deer and some may just be old wives tales but some do actually work and a few of them are listed here.
These are a few methods and techniques that you can use to keep deer away from your garden. Just as with an integrated pest management program, you would want to use several of these methods in conjunction with one another to find the best success, especially if you have a severe problem with them.
Try spraying your garden crops with a food safe deer repellent. Messina’s Deer Stopper is an example of a non toxic spray that is safe for you to spray directly on to food crops that can be found in many large home improvement stores. Crop sprayed deer repellents like this will often have a residual of a month or more and so you would want to plan to spray continuously throughout the growing season.
Wildlife netting, which is a mesh fabric sheeting that is placed over flowers and vegetable crops is another option for small gardens. The netting creates a barrier that will prevent deer from eating and causing damage.
Field and garden area repellents are a good option for any size garden or farm. These types of repellents unlike the ones sprayed directly on to plants are typically sprayed around the entire garden directly onto the ground to create a barrier. These sprays work well to irritate the sensitive nasal passages of deer and many other critters keeping them away. Anyone who has used this type of spray can attest to how effect they are when spraying it, but thankfully after it dries, humans can smell very little of it. Sprays like this usually will not wash off in the rain if given time to dry and have up to 3 months of residual before needing to be sprayed again. These types of sprays, such as Bonide’s Repels All are usually made from garlic and egg ingredients and are commonly sold in large retail stores.
Building a deer fence around your smaller garden areas would also be a helpful option. Building a barrier fence at least 4 ft tall would be good but by itself not enough. Deer can easily jump a 4 ft fence, so to mess with their depth perception and confuse them, build a smaller 2 ft fence about 2.5 ft outside of the 4 ft fence. This smaller fence, which can be very simple and basic could be just enough to spook the deer from even trying to enter.
For large fruited plants, such as vining crops like pumpkins and watermelons (two favorites of deer) try placing small cloth blankets or burlap sacks over the fruit (not the plant) to shield it from deer. For crops like these, the fruit itself does not need any sun and by nature the leaves of these vines provide protection for the fruit from the sun. Sun exposure in fact can harm the fruit and so covering them with a porous, non-heat absorbing cloth (never with any type of plastic or material that can trap heat and elevate the temperature of the fruit) is beneficial for the fruit as well as shielding it from deer.
Probably one of the most effective ways to keep deer out of your garden as well as other critters involves the use of a very loud radio and a timer. The basic idea here is that you want to set a timer that can go off multiple times throughout the day (you can find timers at most large retail stores that can be set to go off up to 8 times a day for $25 or less) that your radio and / or speakers are hooked up to which will create continuous unexpected bursts of loud noise in your garden. The timer is used because deer may over time become used to it and ignore a radio that is always playing. You can set your timer to go off at random intervals or simply at 3 hour intervals which will not take long for the deer to become scared and not return. You will want to plug in the timer at some location where it is protected from the elements and near your garden or field and have a couple of extension cords to run power out to your garden where the radio is. Be sure to provide some type of weather protection for the radio and / or speakers and turn up the volume. Using this method you can defend your garden 24 hours a day and not have to be out there yourself. To increase the effect of this method, plug in some type of light source along side the radio (providing weather protection if necessary) and light up the night time.
Using one or more of these methods in your gardens and fields should go along way in defending them from deer. While deer are crafty and you can never underestimate them, this author has personally used several of these techniques with very good success.