6 Ways To Keep Deer Out of Your Yard

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Foraging deer can quickly take the fun out of gardening. Fortunately, there are ways to keep those deer out of your garden.

When gardeners move to areas where deer are present, whether in the city, the suburbs or out in the country, they soon discover why I like to say whenever someone asks me about deer in their gardens, “A deer can cost you a lot of dough.”

Deer can and will eat many of your prized ornamental plants, including hostas, daylilies and more. But there are ways to keep that mama doe and her fawns out of your garden. Here’s how.

Signs of Deer

How do you know if deer are munching on your plants? Look for these tell-tale signs:

  • Deer tracks in bare areas or in your lawn;
  • Shrubs and trees with branches stripped of leaves up to about six feet;.
  • Plants like hostas and daylilies eaten down to the ground;
  • Deer droppings in the garden.

How To Keep Deer Out of Your Yard

There are several strategies to keep deer out of your yard and away from your garden. These range from fencing, which can be costly, to less expensive deterrents that may help for brief periods.

Install a fence

Fencing in your entire yard is one option. Pros say fencing should be at least seven feet tall, but that may be higher than allowed in some communities. Other options: Build two fences approximately four to five feet apart, or install the fence so it angles out by 45 degrees. In many situations, these fencing alternatives aren’t practical.

If you do decide to build a fence, check your neighborhood covenants to see if fences are allowed and, if so, what type. Also, find out if a building permit is required. If you plan to hire a professional fence company to install it, get several estimates and customer references.

You can save money by fencing off just the hosta garden or the vegetable garden, where deer do the most damage.

Plant a living barrier

If you have enough room, plant a swath of large ornamental grasses around the edges of your garden. According to Dee Nash, author of The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, deer dislike the sounds of large grasses rustling and blowing in the wind. They also don’t like barriers they can’t see through.

Of course, you’ll open yourself up to deer grazing if you cut down your grasses in the spring. During those times you may need other strategies to keep deer out until the grasses grow tall again.

Install motion-activated sprinklers

Deer are skittish animals. Installing motion-activated sprinklers will often keep them away. Many are solar-powered. When deer approach the sensor, the sprinkler activates and sprays water toward the source of the motion, startling them and hopefully causing them to run off.

Motion-activated sprinklers may also keep rabbits, your neighbor’s dogs and other unwanted animals out of your garden. Be sure to turn off the sprinklers when you’re heading to the garden so you don’t activate them yourself.

Install motion-activated ultrasonic animal repellers

Motion-activated ultrasound animal repellers work like motion-activated sprinklers, making high-pitched sounds humans can’t hear instead of spraying water. Deer and other animals do hear it and stay clear.

This is a good alternative if you or your family are frequently in your yard. Even if you trip the sensor, you won’t hear the sound, nor will it harm you.

Spray or sprinkle animal repellent products

Another popular option is periodically applying a deer repellent spray. Look for sprays that don’t wash off easily so you don’t have to reapply after every rain. Or sprinkle deer repellent granules around your garden. You may notice the smell for a day or so. But even after you can’t smell it, deer with more sensitive noses will, and they’ll stay away.

As with the motion-activated sprinklers, some sprays or granules also keep rabbits and other pests out of your garden. Follow the instructions on the packaging to ensure you get the best results. Because some of these products may be more toxic than others, consider other options if you have pets or kids who play in your yard.

Scatter dog fur or human hair in your garden

Having a dog out in the yard, or collecting dog fur or human hair and scattering it around your garden, may also keep deer away.

If your household doesn’t generate enough hair, ask a barber or hair stylist to save some for you. As with deer repellent sprays and granules, you may need to add more fur or hair periodically so the scent is always present.

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Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.