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just saying no to deer, with fencing

front-fence-and-trip-wire-in-sunI GARDENED WITH THE DEER FOR NEARLY A DECADE, and then I said no more. I’d sprayed, sachet-ed, blood-mealed and Milorganite-d myself into a meltdown; I just couldn’t wrap or pen or hang aluminum pie-plate mobiles or otherwise defend individual plants any longer. After all, the deer would just eat whatever wasn’t “protected,” being indiscriminate feeders who were happy to move on to the next course as the previous runs out. So I finally fenced.

Fencing is the only real deer-proofing method there is (assuming your fence is the right construction for your location and animal population, and is well-maintained). No other tactic offers complete control, keeping deer out of the garden.

Even “deerproof” plants had proved deer-resistant at best, and besides, the garden-design limitations such lists impose provide insufferable restriction for someone like me, who can’t resist a hot plant. I’m as much an omnivore as the deer; we just couldn’t cohabitate peacefully.

eaten-hostasThe garden’s backbone—its woody plants—were being disfigured. Forget the occasional hosta stripped of its leaves (above); ugly, yes, but it sent up new growth relatively fast. The deer damage to woody plants I’d invested money and then time in (waiting for them to go from $30 youngsters to a real part of the landscape) was mounting fast. Some viburnums, in particular, had taken multiple hits and were beyond corrective-pruning rehab, as were many evergreen hollies—two of my favorite genera of shrubs.

The cost exceeded the actual plant-specific losses, too: All those half-effective potions and gadgets, and the time it took to use them, were pricey.

And finally, one day, I looked out the window and realized this: I garden largely to enjoy viewing the landscape I have created, not to view a bunch of vulnerable specimens each encased in their own private cages, like a military encampment of impromptu tents and tee-pees pitched here and there in a time of battle. It was a sad sight. Enough.

fences that work

wire-tightener

FIRST in my exploration, I turned to scientists and agricultural experts (not garden-product marketers), always my preferred first step. To choose a style of fence that will work for your garden locale, you need information about the local deer species, their habits, and their capabilities (read: how high can they jump, and how low will they go).

Managing deer in a suburban environment can vary greatly from doing so in a rural one; hilly terrain and flat land each has its challenges. And so on. A comprehensive book by Neil Soderstrom, “Deer-Resistant Landscaping” (Amazon affiliate link), walks you through how to analyze your situation on all these fronts; suggests numerous plants that offer resistance, and covers 20 other animal pests and many anti-deer tactics other than fencing. I can speak only from my own experience; the book didn’t exist when I was experimenting here myself.

Great resources for location-specific insights: your cooperative extension (find yours); a nearby botanical garden or conservation organization (I relied initially on information from nearby Cary Institute of Ecocsystems Studies at first); or agricultural organizations like this one that compiles information that is product-agnostic, like this one.

Or start with this primer on protecting plants from deer from Ohio State’s wildlife program specialist Marne Titchenell. From such sources, I quickly learned that fence could be of several classes and complexities:

  • electrified or not (the former generally being cheaper because less material is involved; wire’s cheaper than other fencing);
  • made of materials ranging from board to wire strands to high-strength polypropylene mesh (above, shown reinforced with high-tensile wire), to woven wire (bottom photo);
  • temporary (seasonal) or permanent, with both versions existing of most of the above kinds;
  • requiring professional installation or at least expertise and equipment like a post-hole digger (a nearby, fenced-in tree farm helped me find a capable contractor); or in other cases more DIY;
  • that cost per foot can vary from very little to very large.

I also learned a few more things, some of them the hard way:

  • No matter how tall your fence is, what you do at ground level to exclude the deer is just as important. Deer are happy to do the limbo anytime and wriggle on in, particularly fawns.

It wasn’t until years later, on a trip to the hillside Northern California of salvia expert Betsy Clebsch, that I learned how two rows of low fencing situated parallel to each other will also work: specifically, two 4′ tall fences spaced 5′ apart.

The gap between is too wide for jumping (and deer hate entering an enclosed space, anyhow, that “reads” as if they might get trapped). But the gap’s big enough for your wheelbarrow and mower (or you can plant it, a garden ringing the garden).

This is a great solution for small gardens or areas near the house where a tall fence would be unsightly. It creates a space like the old-fashioned dooryard garden, but with two rows of fence. A more impromptu, agricultural-application double-fence method could be created with moveable electric fencing panels, too, like the material sold as sheep fencing. One caveat: If you have heavy deer pressure, plan to put low fences up quickly, all at once. Don’t let the animals get accustomed to a piece here or there, and adapt; change their pattern of movement once only, for good.

A final possibility is growing a living deer-proof fence, or a hedge too wide to jump, from willows, says longtime plantsman Michael Dodge. Best deer-resistant Salix, for fencing and hedging (a.k.a. fedges), he says: “The S. purpurea willows are deer-resistant, and great for a fedge or fence. Even gracilis or nana makes a dense bush, 4 by 4 feet, that they won’t jump over.”

my own fencing adventures

front-fence-detail-2MY PROPERTY is bordered on three sides by state parkland and forest, so I was able to make good use of the natural treeline as part camouflage and part support for my fence. That really influenced my choice of a high mesh barrier.

On the front boundary (top photo), where I did not wish to have the caged-in look of a very high fence, I fashioned a modified double fence. I used 6-foot posts between each piece of picket fencing (detail, above), and strung the poly mesh reinforced with high-tensile wire (not electrified) to reinforce the top. Outside that layer, a three-strand trip wire (also not electrified) on low posts forms the “other” fence (below).

trip-wire-front-1

My own fence journey has had two major phases: First, after that initial research, I used polypropylene mesh. I got very good, but not complete, control from this 7.5-foot material for about six years, until one too many animal had run into it or limb had fallen on it. Not the material’s fault, though.

net-on-trees

I failed to reinforce the mesh with several strands of high-tensile wire running horizontally through the top, bottom and middle. Today, in one spot where I use this system (above), I have it properly reinforced, as in the photo above (and also flapped and pinned down at ground level with earth staples to prevent invasions from below, as I always did according to product directions). Note: This is not bird netting, but heavy poly with larger openings.

gate

Once the poly had done its service, I switched to woven wire (below), a very heavy 8-foot-tall metal material. Sliding farm gates on rollers span both my driveways (above): ugly, yes, but not as ugly as what the deer would do to me. Nobody’s been in since; well, nobody except the frogboys, but they don’t eat much in the way of shrubbery.

(In 2014, an adult black bear did climb the metal gate to have a hot-tub-like dip in my water garden, and basically check the place out. Probably no fence that’s going to help me prevent that.)

woven-wire-fencegoing fenceless?

IF YOU ARE insistent on going fenceless, I suggest doing some homework. Again, read this interview with the Ohio State specialist on basic deer-fighting tactics. And then study up about plants that might stand up to the pressure. I love the Rutgers search tool that rates plants by their appeal (or lack of appeal) to deer (sample result below); other university extensions have lists and charts to offer for other regions.

deer chartRuth Rogers Clausen’s book “50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants” (Amazon affiliate link) is another popular resource by a serious plant person and longtime garden writer. No way I’m sticking to 50, though, so please: Do fence me in.

  1. kathleen says:

    I live in southern central rural Texas. After living down here for the last seven years I had almost given up between the deer, bugs and drought conditions every other year. The more “native” I go with my garden the better it is. I stopped trying to fight the conditions and am trying to only buy local native type plants. We have fenced in our veggie garden though its the only way to get produce. My husband built it himself and even made a fabulous gate. We have seven acres I’m not sure we will ever fence in the entire property. I like your blog wonderful information.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Kathleen. Thanks for the great information about your successes with natives (and a vegetable garden fence). See you soon again, I hope (and thank you also for the nice compliment).

  2. Linda From NC says:

    I was wondering if you’d had any problems with your mesh fence deteriorating? I spoke with a local gardener, and he said that after 5 yrs there are some issues with that. I was also wondering if it’s ok to do one large area at a time. (1/4 – 1/2 acre) The cost to do acres is quite a bit.

    1. margaret says:

      @Linda: The better-quality net has resistance to deteriorating by comparison to lighter-weight versions, with longer life and less damage by light and wear. I upgraded to the woven wire, but have one area that’s been using the same netting (reinforced with the high-tensile wire as I explained) and it’s going on 7 years without a hint of any damage. Again, it’s the top-quality mesh (thicker, and with UV0-resistance I think).

  3. I have seen a few posts on deer fencing but this is by far the most informative. I have built a good bit of fences to stop deer and all of them have done their job. I do notice that many people overlook 8ft + solid fences as a deterrent as well. I have found that most deer will not jump over something if they can’t see the other side. Obviously the materials for a solid fence is more expensive than a wire of plastic mesh though.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Beautiful Fences. My front fence is OK, not beautiful, but effective and OK to look at. Effective was what I was aiming for…and no deer since I put it up. I think with solid fences you can get away with lower than 8 feet, since they cannot see over as you say. See you soon again.

  4. MacGardens says:

    As usual, you provide insightful commentary on a gardening dilemma. Over 30 years we’ve seen a gradual increase in the level of deer damage. The first fruit trees we grew here were textbook easy to start. Now trying to renew the orchard I find that I can’t get past the deer snacking on the tender shoots. This year I finally bit the bullet and put Benner fabric around the last opening on the vegetable garden — what a difference! I’ve always enjoyed the bucolic vision of the deer grazing in the pasture in the evenings but now this week I noticed the first deer damage on a lily in the yard proper so I can see that it’s only a matter of time before we face the same damage that others describe here. I can’t imagine what it’s going to cost to fence in 7 acres but that seems like the only long term solution.

  5. Kate Wyckoff-Holmes says:

    So nice to see your good work. The niece of a friend led a group through Martha’s garden in Bedford…so, through that, I found you.

    Sam and I enjoyed your piece on deer fencing. We are experts, as we do the landscaping and maintenance on a ten acre property out here, where deer are an enormous problem.

    Hope you are well. Love, Sam and Bunny

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Bunny. How nice to see my old friend here. Deer are not welcome here, as you can see. Since the big fence went in, I have not had one invasion. The garden is all grown up and it is a joy to finally live in it 7 days a week after all these years of part time. So much to catch up on!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Carlin. I asked at a local tree farm, a regular farm, and also at a garden center – all of them had some part of their place fenced – to inquire what fencing supplier locally they use. That’s how I got the name, which turned out also to be in the Yellow Pages under fencing. Actually, in two of the instances, the installer’s name was on little metal signs attached to the fence here and there as well, like a little calling card. But if there’s a tree farm or a plant nursery that grows some things themselves they should know.

  6. Tish says:

    Lyme disease is a killer. I have a friend in the 4th year of the deathrowes of it. Whether you are in a community with conenants, restrictions, etc. you need to be very agressive with the restrictors about the need to remove deer from populated areas. There is now a DNA test for the Lyme virus itself, however, once you have been given antibiotics for it the virus goes into hiding, it is not killed, and once your immune system goes down (from flu, colds, poor diet (like around Christmas holidays!) the Lyme will resurface. It comes back as so many different types of symptoms that it may not be recognized until it has severly attacked the body and laid it waste.

    See if you can get your county/state gov. to give you birthcontrol materials for the deer if nothing else. Guinea hens will keep an acre free of ticks a year, but I’m sure they will not be allowed!

    The citizenry have got to get active in controlling the deer population as the frequency and deaths from Lyme are increasing. Doctors are not very up on it unfortunately, except perhaps in CT where it seems to have orginated.

    Please take this disease seriously. You have a right to protect your property and family from a virus that is a killer. Govts. have got to be forced into action. N1H1 is nothing compared to what Lyme is going to be in a very few years now, and there will be no vaccine for it.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Tish. You are correct; Lyme is a serious illness, and often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Susan says:

    I was thinking of some material that deer hated to walk on, to stop them in their tracks! Probably sharp stones wouldn’t work but what about oyster shells? Or a kind of ‘cattle grid’ made by placing large areas of chain link fencing a few inches above the ground? I’m desperate, as you can tell!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Susan. Yes, cattle grids and prison-like chain link on the ground and so forth might work…but where are you putting all this? Doesn’t sound easy to incorporate into a landscape visually. What is the area in need of protection? Tell me more.

  8. Toni Cox says:

    One of my greatest pleasures in gardening is conversation with other gardeners – which you seem to have in ‘spades’! Congratulations on a wonderful site.
    For additional fencing solutions (esp. the lady with the wild boars) try Premier Fencing. We started with them because not only do we have deer we also keep dairy goats.
    The older I got the further I got from back to the land and the closer I got to true gardening (after all goats=manure=compost=gardening). Wherein I found that my true passion was trees….by that time I had been gardening for fifty years, and I now understand that it is never too late to plant a tree.
    Check out my article on ‘Bambi 123’ in the blog attached to Sage Gardeners. I wrote it as an introduction to co-existing with deer for those residents new to country living.
    Recently I have adopted something close to your method with picket fencing around the house but as far as the woven fencing goes….what has been the effect of the fastenings on the trees?
    Regards,
    Toni

    1. Margaret says:

      @Toni: Technically, you’d not want to put the fence or wore up against the trunk (the tree grows right over it, consuming the wire, by the way) but I wasn’t watching during the whole installation so some are like that. The fastenings don’t see to cause any harm; it’s the large strands of wire and such I’d definitely do differently (though not one tree has seemed to care of the ones that got such inconsiderate treatment; as I say they seem to have just swallowed up the wire).

  9. Doris McComb says:

    I see that the last post was well over one year ago, however I couldn’t help but add my 2 cents worth of deer proofing.

    My 1/2 acre of flowerbed gardens is situated at the edge of suburbia. Ergo, dealing with raccoons, rabbits, deer and the occasional coyote is never out of the question.

    I have resolved to feeding the rabbits Honey Nut Cheerios 5 Grain (more fiber) and the self seeding Kochia perennials…but the deer…they required additional arsenal.

    When deer fencing is not an option, the Scarecrow Water Sprinkler works wonders. It is a water system you use with your garden hose. The sprinkler directs water accurately up to 35 feet, protecting 1000 sq.ft of space. By the way, don’t forget to turn it off when walking directly in front of it. The spray it quite intense. I’ve been soaked a few times! The system pauses for up to 8 seconds before resuming to sensor. It creates that element of randomness and unpredictability. I have one Scarecrow in my front area garden to protect my perennials and shrubs from the munching rabbits and then I have one Scarecrow in my back area garden, which protects my shrubs and lilies. It really works and well worth the investment!

    Besides the Scarecrows, I have a 10 foot high waterfall that pours down into two rather large ponds (60,000 gallons) and connected by a stream. I suppose the sound of the water rushing might deter them as well…though I can’t be totally sure of that. They just never seem to get past those darn Scarecrows!!

    Happy Gardening
    Doris

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Doris. Hilarious — and fascinating. Sounds like a good alternative solution for non-fence-able spots such as you describe. Thank you, and hope to see you again soon.

  10. Jeannette says:

    Get yourself a good dog to chase the deer and the rabbits away.
    Many dogs can be trained to mostly stay out of things…except for
    our current golden retreiver/poodle mix! She’s sweet, but really,
    really dumb!(And digs.) We had a Leonburger for 15 years. He was
    THE BEST at chasing away deer & rabbits but very sweet with
    our farm anumals-and he never met a person he didn’t love!
    In his prime, he weighed 110 lbs. and supplemented his dry
    dog food with fresh rabbit. And he left my garden alone.
    We miss him.

  11. Linda says:

    My perimeter took a lot of abuse from snow this Winter. Tensile wire sounds like a good solution. thanks..how do you maintain the space between the double fences?

  12. Liv says:

    My husband and I built a house on a 200 acre lot in the country about 3 years ago. I am just getting a garden going and your website, beautifully designed is so helpful. From the beginning we have always had deer wandering around by the dozens as well as coyote, fox, wolves and the usual assortment of wildlife. I felt like I had invaded their space! We built our home overlooking a meadow and planted wildflowers, and clover in it to attract the deer there and pull them away from the temptations of the garden. I also keep bird feeders well filled and put dry corn out for them. It seems to really work so far. They sleep in the meadow and hang out there and stay away from the garden and strangely no wolves, coyote or fox come around there.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Liv. You are lucky to have such well-behaved deer! :) The deer can’t get inside my fence, but everyone else can get under it (or through it, in the case of bears, who just knock it down if they are in the mood). I’m glad you are finding the site helpful; I enjoy creating it. See you soon again.

  13. misscorinne says:

    This post is perfectly timed. We are getting ready to fence out and till our first garden at our new house (zone 4a here), and I had been debating what fencing would really work and look attractive (or at least, unobtrusive) at the same time. I love the picket fench with wire mesh above it look…And that’s a great tip to do the inner fence – the deer just stroll right through our yard (I guess the former owners hand-fed them corn).

    I’ve been enjoying your blog, and just read *and i shall have some peace there* – I loved it and it really resonated with me since I left NYC about a year ago for greener pastures too.

    Happy Spring!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, MissCorinne. How nice of you to bring news of your enjoyment of my book — sweet! I’m glad the deer fence information is a help. Don’t be a stranger — I’ll be right here!

  14. Dori says:

    After we finished building and moved into our home here on Whidbey Island 18 years ago, the first thing my husband did for his garden starved wife was fence a garden for me. Community CC&Rs prohibited the 7 to 8 ft fence we would have needed and we didn’t want that kind of visual wall either. So, we put up a four foot picket type fence but used 7 ft. posts. In between the posts, at the top, we either have 2 x 4s spanning the gaps or strong wire. I grow vines along the wires & 2 x 4s. The only time our little island deer have been in the garden is when I’ve forgotten to close the gates! Works great.

  15. Sue H says:

    I buried 10 foot locust posts (cut trees down) wove two 14 guage stock fences together to make a 9 foot tall stalag garden! Looks horrible, like a trailer park. But I have discovered vertical gardening and even grew spaghetti squash up the fence. the deer crash the fence to knock it over. back to the drawing board… I put outer and inner row fencing as used with horses. Deer can’t judge depth to jump it so leave it alone!!! this is the first year I have actually grown unmolested strawberries.I had done everything too to no avail…. This year I bought a whole bunch of dollar a piece solar garden lights (on a stake) outlined littles paths, various beds, my labyrinth, really went crazy, over the top with the lights. The deer stay the hell away from the lights they spook them for some reason. Now I have a problem with squash vine borers because I have had a bumper crop of squash, pumpkins, gourds. i think i need chickens

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Sue. What a brave war you have waged! :) The two-row system works great — I use it along the front of my place. I wish I could have chickens but I think it would just be another invitation for hungry beasts to come in for chicken dinner.

  16. Janeen says:

    I live in a wooded residential neighborhood in town on a corner lot. The yard is simply to large to enclose. So discouraging! Until then, we’ll piecemeal a system together to protect specific plants. Next stop: condo. I hate to say it, but as much as I love to garden the deer have really ruined it for us.

  17. res says:

    Here’s another Low-Cost Slant Fence Excludes Deer from Plantings Commercial Horticulture Newsletter, September-October 1997
    Charlie O’Dell, Extension Horticulturist Department of Horticulture
    Virginia Tech (0327)
    Blacksburg, VA 24061
    Over the past several years deer have become the #1 pest of horticultural crops in Virginia as well as of home gardens and landscaped grounds in both suburban and rural communities. Countless types of repellents have been tried with varying degrees of short- term success, but excluding deer by fencing them out of plantings they are devouring has been grower-proven to be the only successful method providing long-term deer control. However, construction costs for 8′ or taller conventional woven wire fences is prohibitively high for most folks and for fencing larger agricultural fields and home grounds.

    A Low Cost Virginia Deer Control Success Story: In 1995 strawberry grower Hugh French in Cumberland County, Va., after repeatedly losing 3 acres or more of berry plants to deer feeding each winter for several years, constructed a 7-strand 5′ height high- tensile electrically-charged slant deer fence. Fence design was developed by Gallagher Corporation, a New Zealand fence manufacturing company (with dealers worldwide) that first published this design back in 1984. For the past 3 years he has had 100% deer control with this slant fence that surrounds 12 acres of strawberries. Other growers are now beginning to enjoy similar success in deer control by building their own slant fences. Previous to Mr. French’s fence construction, in efforts to reduce deer feeding, he had obtained state wildlife control permits allowing massive deer elimination by hunting each year. However, deer feeding damage to his strawberry plants seemed to increase as more animals were eliminated each year!

    Apparently the 3-dimensional effect of the slanting tier of wires confuses depth of field vision of deer so they will not jump by night or by day over the relatively short, 5′ fence height. Normally a 5′ fence height would offer absolutely no impediment to deer intent on devouring horticultural plants! Part of the slant fence’s success also may be credited to the electrical fence charger designed by the Gallagher Corp. especially for deer conditioning/control without harming them. When they approach the inwardly slanting fence and touch an outer top wire the electrical jolt lets them know the fence is not deer- friendly, nor is it friendly to dogs or to children. Good neighbors will certainly post signs warning others not to touch or try to climb through the electrified slant fence. Otherwise, eager perpetrators of litigation may rush to “trip” or “fall” over your fence in their haste to serve you papers!

    Small animal exclusion, such as for groundhogs also can be attained by placing the lowest of the 7 electrified wire strands just a few inches off the ground. Normally the 7 wire strands are placed about 1 foot apart for the 6 strands up to the vertical line posts, with the 7th or top wire placed on the end of the slant posts protruding some 1 and 1/2 feet outward beyond each vertical post (see figure 1). Hunting house cats also may be excluded by well-placed lower wires electrified specifically 1) not to harm small animals or children other than the unpleasant jolt when the fence is touched, and 2) will not lose power with snow loads.

    After deer severely damaged our summer, 1997 research planting of Eastern strawberries at our Kentland Research Farm near Blacksburg, we also constructed a slant fence. Unknown varmints, possibly groundhogs (or deer), also devoured several varieties of snap beans adjacent to our strawberry plots. When my prize experimental selections of half-runner bean plants were eaten nearly to the ground, that was my final wake-up call to action! We join Hugh French, Bernell Williams and others with slant fences, looking forward to providing no more edible landscape for wildlife in our hort. crops! We used 8′ length treated landscape timbers for our line posts placed 2.5′ in the ground with 5′ height remaining above ground (some cut the posts back to 4′ height), spaced every 30′ along the perimeter of our plots. We bolted an 8′ landscape timber to each line post at a slanting angle allowing the top end of each slant post to protrude outward from each line post so that top ends of slant posts were 5′ above ground (fig. 1). The bottom end of each slant post rests on the ground, is not placed in the ground. For field equipment and personnel access to plots inside the fence, we used non-conducting plastic electric fence handles and tensioners to provide an 8′ long access near one corner. We can take down each wire strand and move the strands to one side upon entering or exiting the plots.

    For under a dollar per running foot of fenced land perimeter for purchased supplies (not counting our labor) we believe this is the most economical, long-term solution to our horticultural deer damage control problem in Virginia. For more information and equipment to construct the slant fence please contact a Gallagher dealer in your area.
    Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension http://www.ext.vt.edu/
    Commercial Horticulture Newsletter, September-October 1997: Figure 1
    Slope Deer Fence
    7-Wire High-Tensile Electric
    fig. 1
    This wildlife control fence design uses flexible spring-loaded, 14-gauge high-tensile wire. The fence is designed to withstand the impact of deer, falling trees, thermal expansion and contraction, and snow/ice loading with minimal maintenance or repair.
    Minimal weed control is necessary with high-power electrical energizers specifically designed for the slant fence. Growers may elect to use an industrial strength fence-line or right-of-way herbicide application under the slant fence to provide multi-year vegetation control from one application. Do not use soil-persistent vegetation control herbicides near valuable shade trees or landscape plants. Heed and follow all instructions on product labels.
    Credit for the illustration is given to Gallagher Corporation.
    Note: Upright post in illustration above has been cut to 4′ height. Top out edge of slant post is at 5′ height. Deer are spooked from jumping the fence by the slant or slope, not by fence height. Too much height causes too steep (more than 45 degrees) a slope or slant which will be ineffective.
    

  18. Gloria W. says:

    We ended up with a short 41/2 foot slant fence, and used it as the dog run. Dog has access to the garden, as he does not dig unless asked, and we have the ‘double fence a single strand of wire, with a few very visible ‘ties’ on it. The dog is released to the run at non-predictable times of day and night, and the deer stopped even coming close to the garden area! We also have fed the dog raw venison at every opportunity.

  19. julianna says:

    hi margaret,

    i was wondering how the double fencing would work with snow – if there’s enough of it, won’t the deer just hop over? we also live in the hudson valley and are trying to figure out how to economically (and at least somewhat) attractively fence our 3/4s of an acre backyard. we’re limited financially, so can’t do a pretty picket fence around the whole thing. what we’re thinking is to have the picket fence around the front of the backyard – the more visible part – and do very sturdy fencing through the trees on the sides and across the back. i’m really tired of looking at the 27 or 28 penned in plants and planted areas that we have right now…

    where did you buy your fencing? thanks again for the article,

    julianna

    1. Margaret says:

      You are right, Julianna, that heavy, dense snow that they can get a bit of a height advantage because of is an issue. My fence was installed by a local person who does it for nurseries and tree farms and homeowners and so on — John Kading of North Breeze Fencing in Ancram. You will find him in the local book or a web search. I had installed plastic mesh in years prior myself, but it’s not as durable so when it was time to do the heavy stuff, the grid-like wire, I had to hire someone.

      As for jumping over the low fence in snow — we rarely get more than would cover, say a 4-foot fence, so they’d see that poking out a foot or two from even a deep cover, no? I think the key is you wouldn’t want to go too much shorter that than if your spot is level. My low double fence is on a bank where there is extra protection from the incline (from where they’d jump in off the road). Even last winter, when the snow was so deep and persistent, my picket fence showed plain and clear all winter above it.

  20. Judi Cabanaw says:

    Living in a small town the deer mostly meet up with traffic before they get to my garden,,,,my issue is the ground hogs. they were devouring my vegetables. I put a fence around it and burried it 2 feet out from the garden so they couldn t dig in. so the fence was 4 feet up and 1 foot out from the garden…they climbed in. so I had my hubby buy cattle fence and electrify the raised beds, each one separately….I have seen a few ground hogs running away from my garden but no one eats out of it but us.

  21. Marilyn says:

    I read your article on fencing to keep deer out about a year or two ago, and it has made all the difference in the world for me! I realized with all the money I’d spent on expensive sprays and so on over the years, I could have paid for some fencing and no more smelling like stinky eggs once a week! After experimenting with several kinds of fencing, I use black wrought iron panels from Lowe’s that are about 4 feet wide and about 3 1/2 feet tall. They are super easy to install and really not very expensive. You just poke a black pole into the ground through rings on the end of each panel. When you want to get inside yourself to weed, mulch, or plant, you pull up a pole and swing open a panel like a gate. Sure, deer can easily jump a 42″ fence, but if I install it 4 to 5 feet away from the house or deck, or in rectangles around my deer-favorite plantings in the yard, this whole year, they left those alone! For the first time in 10 years, my hosta went un-molested! I even grew impatiens again! My anemones have bloomed for the first time in years, and boy are they gorgeous! Margaret, thank you SO much for the push in the right direction! My friends think I installed the fencing around the front of the house for looks, so it’s not even ugly! And way cheaper and easier than fencing the entire yard — but Margaret, I’m saving up for that. I love what you did!

  22. Joye says:

    How timely that this post would come today when I was just wondering what would be an organic deer-repellent spray I could use. I have generally stayed away from any sprays and I removed the netting the previous owners covered all the shrubs in – it might keep the deer away but I feared it also could prove detrimental to the birds I was purposefully trying to create a habitat for in my yard. I put a fence up last year that encloses about half of 1 1/4 acre lot, It was amazing to see the difference it made to my yard. I discovered plants and blooms I’d never seen in the 4 prior years of living at the home. There is still plenty of wooded area around the house for deer to forage. However, there is one un-fenced area of the yard I am trying to naturalize from its former lawn status. In trying to give those new plantings a fighting chance, I’m debating the best way to protect them from the deer. Unfortunately, a fence in this area is not feasible.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Joye. If you do rely on sprays, buy several brands and alternate periodically, so that the animals don’t get accustomed to one scent/taste or another. I agree with you re: netting — can be hazardous to the birds (not to mention just plain ugly!

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