Learn how to keep deer out of your garden. These tips can help you have success at preventing deer from destroying your vegetables, fruits, and favorite plants. I’ll give you multiple ideas to help you come up with creative actions against the deer that can fit in your budget.
I get tons and tons of emails from my readers asking for tips for keeping deer out of the garden. My garden is at the edge of the forest (and we see deer in the woods all the time) and so far, we have never had any issues with deer destroying our garden plants. Knock on wood.
How do we keep deer out of the garden? We use many different tactics to keep the deer out and the combination of these ideas keep the deer out (hopefully forever). Below is a list of things you can try to keep deer from destroying your garden.
A word of warning – Once deer have discovered your garden as a source of easy food, it’s going to be harder to get rid of them. The tactics I mention below help keep new deer out, but those darn deer that have already made your garden a habit will be a tougher challenge.
It’s not impossible and I don’t want you to give up hope. But you will probably have to do most or all of the tips I mention below (especially fencing!) in order to break those deer out of their routine for eating your plants. You’ll have to be more persistent, too. But you can do it! You can take back your garden from those pesky deer.
How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden
Fencing is the #1 most important thing you can do to keep deer out of your garden.
Here are a few deer/fencing tips for you to keep in mind:
- The ideal fence needs to be 8 feet tall (b/c deer can jump over anything lower than that if the desire is strong enough)
- To absolutely keep deer out, you should have TWO fences (ideally each 8 foot tall) that run parallel to each other by approx. 3 or 4 feet (b/c the deer cannot jump one fence and then have enough space to jump over the next one)
Clearly, that can be pretty frustrating on the budget, since fencing is NOT cheap. Also, unless you’re swimming in excess land, having two parallel fences surrounding your garden isn’t remotely realistic.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep the fencing prices down Since deer have poor eyesight, you can trick them with a shorter fence.
Here are a few ideas for how to trick deer with shorter fences:
- Angle the shorter fence outward (away from your garden/yard), so when the deer rub up against the fence before deciding whether if they can jump it, it throws off their perspective of the height of the fence.
- Attach ribbons to the top lip of the shorter fences in a way that they can flutter about in the wind. Again, since the deer can’t see very well, the waving ribbons confuse their perspective of the height of the fence.
- Dig a steep trench in front of the fence (outside of the garden) so the deer cannot rub up against the fence easily and they would also have to jump over huge pit as well as a fence.
- Trick them into thinking that there is a double-fence situation (depending on your garden/yard, use your imagination to come up with some clever ways to trick them).
We do the last option, tricking the deer, with great success. Here’s a picture of the exterior fence of our garden.
If a deer would happen to get close to our garden fence, their poor eyesight would see: a fence and then 3-ish feet away, they would see a line of cinder blocks (to their bad eyes, it possibly looks like another fence). The deer see this setup and don’t think they can jump our fence safely to get into our garden.
With a little bit of clever ingenuity, you can save some money on fencing and still figure out a good way to keep the deer out of your garden.
2. Scent-Proof Your Garden
Smell is a deer’s best sense and it’s one of the ways they find your garden in the first place. So it’s really important to trick their smelling capabilities in order to protect your garden.
The best way to protect your garden from a deer’s nose is by tricking them with a barrier of scents that keep them scared or disinterested.
Here are a few of the best ways to scent-proof your garden:
- Make a scent barrier with urine.
Use either human urine or pet urine to make a scent barrier around your garden. When deer smell dog urine or human urine, they are immediately wary about entering that area.
Obviously, you don’t want pet urine IN your garden, but if you can, train your dogs to pee around the outside perimeter of your garden. We have trained our dog to pee in the woods near-ish the garden.
For human urine, if you have a guy-friend that loves to pee outdoors (this is quite common, at least for me…I seriously have zero issues finding male friends who will pee outside), encourage them to pee around the perimeter of your garden.
- Make a scent barrier with hair.
Use either human or pet hair to make a scent barrier around your garden. Just like with urine, the deer will smell the hair and be concerned about the potential humans/dogs in the area.
Despite our best efforts to purchase a dog that doesn’t shed very much, our dog is a super-heavy shedder (grr…you’d think the 50% poodle genes would keep her shedding down). I brush her often and I scatter the dog hair around the garden whenever possible.
My hubby cuts his own hair and whenever we remember, we dump his hair clippings around the perimeter of the garden. It’s an easy way to keep the smell of humans around.
- Hang up bars of Irish Spring Soap.
It’s possible that you can use other brands of soap bars. I just know that this is a commonly used soap against deer. Put the soap bars in pairs of old nylon stockings or in cheesecloth. Try hanging the bars of strongly-scented soap from nearby trees or on the fencing surrounding your garden/yard.
The strong scent of the soap bars keeps deer and other pests away because they don’t care for the smell. This option only works if you aren’t aiming for a perfect organic garden or if you are okay with the strong scent of soap bars around your garden.
I personally do not use this scent barrier, but I know tons of people who have used it with great success, so I made sure to mention it.
- Make a scent barrier with herbs.
This is my favorite way to keep the deer out of my garden because it’s pretty AND practical. I simply make sure that my strong smelling culinary and medicinal herbs are planted all around my garden.
Herbs are so amazing in a vegetable garden. Not only are they great for cooking or in natural remedies, they are also great at attracting beneficial insects and pollinators AND keeping bad pests, insects, and deer OUT of the garden. Score!
So on my most vulnerable side of the garden that is closest to the forest, I planted a border of strongly-scented herbs. There’s yarrow, feverfew, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, and more. I actually let my mint grow wild at the edges of my garden, in the hopes that it will actually spread into the woods a bit. We’re not quite there yet, but that is my ultimate goal.
The strong smelling herbs create a scent barrier that confuses the deer. They can’t easily smell the yummy plants they want to munch on because those scented herbs are in the way. So it’s practical and pretty, which is the perfect combo.
3. Sight-Proof Your Garden
Since deer do not have good sight, there are loads of super creative ways you can trick them to stay away from your garden. The most important thing to keep in mind is that deer (and birds and other pests) will eventually get used to some of these sight-tricks, so you will need to move things around or occasionally try other ideas to keep the critters spooked.
Here are a few ideas for sight-proofing your garden. Feel free to add more creative ideas in the comments below!
- Ribbons on the fence perimeter. Like I mentioned in the fencing section, if you tie ribbons to your fence posts, the wind will make them flap around occasionally, which can help spook or confuse the deer.
- Shiny objects hanging on fences or center of garden. If you take old cds, for example, and hang them around from ribbons/string, the wind and sun can make them clatter together or shine brightly around, scaring away deer (and birds, if you’re having trouble with them as well).
- Motion-detecting objects. If you have the budget for it, get motion-detecting water sprinklers. These will frighten off the deer if they enter your garden (this will also work if you have issues with cats using your garden as a litter box). If you don’t have the budget for sprinklers, try getting cheap Halloween props, you know, the ones that move and/or play music when you walk past them. These will work for a while, until the deer or critters get used to the noise and motion. Bonus: get the Halloween props when they are on sale after Halloween.
- Make an old-fashioned scarecrow. Make sure you use old clothes that still have your scent on them. The trick with scarecrows is to spook the deer with the sight of a human-object and the human scent can really help trick them. After some time in the sun and rain, the scent will wear off, and at some point, the scarecrow won’t work anymore. You’ll have to move it around and possibly add new clothes from time to time.
4. Taste-Proof Your Garden
Deer often have favorite plants, so if you are having issues with them devouring one type of plant in your garden, you can try deterring them by altering the taste of that particular plant.
The best way to alter the taste is by making a homemade pest control spray (I love The Prairie Homestead’s pest control spray recipe). The trick is to make it stinky and spicy and then spraying it heavily on the deer’s favorite plants.
There are a few downsides to using a pest control spray: first, if YOU want to eat those plants, you’ll have to do a good job at cleaning them off before consuming. Second, every few days, you’ll have to add more of the stinky/spicy spray to the plants because it will wear off (especially if it rains). This can be tedious, but if they are addicted to your fruit trees, you might find a stinky spray to be a lifesaver.
My Final Thoughts on Deer Prevention Tactics for Your Garden…
If you work on doing some combination of fencing, scent barriers, sight barriers, and taste barriers, you will increase your chances of success for keeping the deer out of your garden. If does take effort and persistence, but with some stubborness and sweat, you can beat the deer and enjoy your garden for years to come.
PLEASE tell me if you try these deer preventing tactics and you have success in the comments below! And also, please tell me if you have other clever ideas for how to keep deer out of the garden.
If you’re struggling with a poor gardening season, due to pests, weeds, deer, weather, or whatever else, please read these gardening articles for encouragement:
- Finding Joy in the Garden in Summer
- Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm
- How to Recover from a Poor Gardening Season