Deer are wonderful and beneficial wildlife but, especially in rural areas, they can be one of the most destructive garden pests. A single deer can decimate young growth in the garden over the course of a single feeding. In the fall, when you’re harvesting your garden, deer are also trying to gain weight for the winter and will eat virtually anything indiscriminately.
There are tons of DIY deer proofing tips all over the internet, and I think I’ve tried practically all of them. With their tenacity and amazing jumping capabilities, it’s almost impossible to keep deer out of somewhere that they want to be. Here’s how I finally got to keep some of my garden for myself.
Why deer are such a problem for our in-town garden
We live in the middle of town, so logically deer should not be an issue. Unfortunately, the deer that live in this small town are even more of a problem than country deer. They’ve seen everything, they’re not afraid of humans or the scents that humans leave, and they don’t even flinch at a barking dog. You can chase these deer away with shouts and waving arms, and they will be back before you can make it back to your front door.
Our greatest goal was to find a way to keep these deer away from the garden by encouraging them to settle for fallen crabapples. With a yard that’s not fully fenced in, that’s as close as we could come to a happy medium that would hopefully include eating produce from our own garden.
Deer fence shenanigans and captive cottontails
The most logical answer when you’re trying to keep an animal out is to build a fence. It makes sense, and there are dozens of types of deer fence currently on the market because it obviously makes sense to most people. This ended up being a hair-pulling exercise in futility.
We have tried several different types of deer fence, including snow fence and 8-foot-tall wire mesh. Anyone who has ever engaged in “garden ground wars” with deer knows that all of the effort of a fence is doomed to be wasted. After lugging three different types of fence in and out, the one that managed to keep deer away from the garden also made it very difficult for humans to get in and out.
The 8′ wire mesh fence effectively kept deer out, but unfortunately managed to trap a rabbit inside. In a relatively large garden there plenty of places for a rabbit to hide, but no food sources except those that us gardening humans hoped to keep for ourselves.
Simple deer proofing solution that worked
After days of switching out fence and several failed attempts at a garden, I found a little tip that suggested using wind chimes and a child’s whirligig toy to warn deer away from the garden. I didn’t hold out much hope with our deer used to living near humans and perfectly accustomed to the noise of the town, but it was worth a try.
Wind chimes, apparently, are too common in town to scare away seasoned town deer. However, the metallic shine and sporadic action of the whirligig toys did give the deer pause. While they didn’t run away from it, they chose to stay at a distance. Shiny streamers in the lower branches of the apple tree had a similar effect. Finally, after all the expense of searching out an effective deer solution, the answer came for less than $5 at the dollar store.
Overall, the DIY deer-proofing in my backyard was a frustrating and often tedious task. It’s more than a little aggravating that hundreds of dollars of deer fence could not protect the garden, yet a flimsy child’s toy could. The discovery of such an elegant and simple solution, however, made the oft-painful learning process worthwhile.