As gracious as they are, deer can be quite the garden pest. Eating produce, trampling over young plants, and breaking through fences are all in a day's work for these native animals. Needless to say, they are not a gardeners' best friend.
There are, however, numerous ways of deterring these unwanted visitors. Some of them might surprise you but our experts insist they are reliable and efficient methods for keeping deer out of your backyard.
How to keep deer out of your backyard
The key to creating a deer-free yard is layering up techniques. Check out these ideas and save your vegetable garden and prized peonies from being destroyed by wildlife.
A physical barrier may seem obvious, but there are a few mistakes you might be making that are preventing the fence from working at its full potential. Fear not, some simple alterations can increase their efficiency.
‘Deer are great jumpers,’ says expert gardener Tony O’Neill, ‘so a fence needs to be at least 8 feet tall to keep them out effectively.’ However, if a towering fence is not appropriate in your space there is an alternative solution. ‘A double fence, even if shorter, can deter them as deer lack depth perception and hesitate to jump into a confined space,’ he explains.
When erecting a fence for this purpose it is also important to consider materials. ‘Use materials such as metal or wire mesh with small openings to prevent deer from squeezing through,’ says animal experts Mustafa Tshash from How To Pets. equally, polypropylene (plastic) can be used additionally to maximize effectiveness.
As well as being great jumpers, deer are surprisingly agile and aren’t afraid to get down and dirty. Even if you have a fence topper they will attempt to squeeze through every possible gap in your fence. ‘Ensure that the fence is secured firmly in the ground to prevent deer from sneaking beneath it,’ says Mustafa.
Deer are cunning and clever animals, having a fence is no guarantee that they will not get into your yard. It is however one of many techniques to make it more difficult. Combined with a few other solutions, it can be an effective method in deterring beautiful pests. A fence can step one in deer protection and as part of a modern backyard update.
2. Motion detectors
‘Another solution that I've seen working is motion-activated noisemakers, sprinkler systems, and lights’ says wildlife expert Tommy Wylde, ‘which often is enough to scare off deer when they come near.’
Utilizing motion detectors connected to lights will deter deer from approaching your property from far away, depending on how sensitive the detector is. This is a great non-intrusive method of keeping deer out as it will not alter the look of your backyard.
This technology can be expensive but the principle can be replicated inexpensively. ‘Hang shiny objects like CDs, aluminum foil strips, or wind chimes to create noise and visual disturbances that can frighten deer,’ explains Mustafa. The noise and reflection should be enough to make deer too scared to approach.
3. Home made smell deterrents
Like many animals, deer are particularly sensitive to smells. Meaning they are put off by strong scents that they deem unpleasant. There are a few well-known scents you can utilize to dissuade deer from venturing into your yard. You may be discouraged by a few of these scents, all we can say is it depends how much you wish to get rid of deer.
‘Using scent deterrents can be an effective way to keep deer at bay’ says Tony, ‘commercial repellents are available, but homemade soap or garlic solutions can also work. However, these need to be reapplied regularly, especially after rain.’
Garlic and soap aren’t that bad right? Well these next ones might be where you draw the line. ‘natural deer repellents, such as solutions containing rotten eggs or predator urine, around the perimeter of your garden,’ says Mustafa. ‘Deer dislike the strong smells produced by these items and are less likely to venture into your yard’ he explains.
Rotten eggs and animal urine aren’t for everyone, particularly if you have a small backyard where this aroma may disturb you. However, assuming you have large grounds these drastic measures might be what it takes to keep out the deer.
4. A safe space
‘One method that has worked well for me has been to set up a "safe space" for deer in a clearing on the edge of my property’ says nature guide and wildlife expert Tommy. ‘By making this area more attractive for the deer by planting peanuts for them to eat, providing fresh drinking water, and planting low bushes and shrubs to keep the deer hidden, I've created a better alternative to the deer than my garden,’ he explains.
This technique is a great way to control the pest problem rather than deter them completely. If you enjoy the sight of the gentle beasts but hate how they destroy your crops, perhaps this one is for you.
5. Remove attractants
The simplest way to keep deer out of your backyard is to remove what attracts them in the first place. ‘Deer are creatures of habit, so once they find a food source, they will likely return. Therefore, prevention is vital,’ explains expert gardener Tony O’Neill.
‘Avoid feeding deer or leaving out food scraps that can attract them,’ says Mustafa, ‘deers are attracted to sources of food and water, so it's important to remove any attractants from your space.’
This is not to suggest you should rip out your vegetable garden or rethink your outdoor kitchen ideas. Instead, consider using netting or cages to protect them from being eaten by deer and ensure they don't view your backyard as their new favorite restaurant.
'Persistence and consistency are key here, and remember that a combination of methods often works best for long-term deer control,' says Tony.
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Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.
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