Growing Guides

Damage Defense


Keep deer and rodents out of your garden


The problem:

We believe there isn’t much better than watching new growth sprout; cultivating a garden and patiently waiting for dormant looking bulbs or tiny seeds develop. It can be heartbreaking when this gentle progress is destroyed quite literally overnight. An adult deer eats somewhere around 8 pounds of forage per day and even rodents can do some serious damage too.


There are a number of plant varieties that are naturally unsavory to deer and rodents. Planting these is probably the simplest and most proactive approach. Unfortunately, planting these varieties will not spare the neighboring plants. If you want a diverse garden or to grow your own food, you will need an action plan to keep these pests at bay and avoid disappointment.


For us, gardening is about doing something positive in and with nature. For that reason, we encourage you to use humane and environmentally conscious methods to control pests.




Build a fence:

This is likely the most effective way to keep animals out of your garden beds. It may be impractical to put up an eight foot fence around your landscaping but it may be the perfect solution to protect your vegetable garden.

If they are forced or determined to do so, deer can jump over any fence under 10 feet tall. However, if you are fencing in a smaller vegetable garden (one that deer can easily walk around and won’t block their path of travel), a 6 foot fence may be sufficient. If you want to enclose your entire property, the fence will need to be 7.5 to 8 feet high.

How effective your fence is depends on how it is constructed and how desperate your deer are. Keep in mind that deer are also clever enough to shimmy under a fence that is not tight to the ground. If you find the deer in your area to be persistent, consider electrifying your fence. An electric fence shouldn’t cause any real harm to the deer, only provide an unpleasant startle. It’s best to keep this as a last resort as electric fences can be expensive and more work to maintain.

If you are building a fence to deter rodents, your fence can be a lot lower. 2 feet will keep white tailed rabbits out and a three foot fence will do the trick for jack rabbits. If you are using wire mesh, make sure the gaps are less than one inch wide. To stop rabbits from digging under it, the fence should be flush to the ground or buried a few inches. If gophers are an issue in your garden, you may need to bury the fence 2 to 3 feet under the surface.


Install sprinklers:

There are a number of motion activated sprinklers on the market specifically designed to deter deer and other animal pests. These are also a good option if your neighborhood cats like to use your garden beds as a litter box. Once these special sprinklers are hooked up to your hose, they wait for the motion of any approaching animals then shoot out a startling blast of water(watch out, you count as an approaching animal!). Models with an infrared sensor work at night as well as in daylight.


We recommend that you don’t bother with lower-tech scare tactics. As animals become more and more comfortable in urban environments, it takes more to scare them away than rattling aluminum pie plates, or flapping streamers.


Use deterrent sprays:

Deer and rabbit repellents can be very effective but only if you use them consistently and according to their instructions. Typically, liquid deterrents should be reapplied weekly and every time after it rains. The best time to apply is in the morning after the dew has dried. Failure of these products is most often due to inconsistent application and sometimes because of the desperation of the deer.

Deterrent sprays work by coating your plants in an offensive smell. You will notice this smell while you are applying it but once it dries, only the animals will be able to detect it.

It is easy to find deterrent sprays with simple ingredient lists. However, if you want to know exactly what you are spraying on your vegetable garden, you can make your own deer and rabbit deterrent at home. The most effective recipes include eggs. Don’t bother with home remedies like bars of soap, dog hair or dryer sheets.

Coyote urine is a popular deterrent spray and may seem like a more natural solution. However, coyote urine is typically a byproduct of fur farms. If you have a problem with the treatment of animals raised for fur, this is probably not the product for you.

Start early, be consistent:

Deer form habits and rhythms. They move while they forage; this means that they typically don’t eat enough in any one area to kill plants completely, they move on, then return to their favorite reliable food sources once they have recovered. In nature this creates a beautiful rhythm, in your garden it is infuriating! Rodents can breed prolifically in comfortable conditions. It’s better to make a plan early than to first enable a population explosion.

Implement your deterrent measures early in the season. It is easier to keep deer away from the get-go than to deter them after they have made a habit of visiting your garden.

A note on squirrels and birds:

If birds are harvesting your berries faster than you can, the best solution is to cover your plants with netting. Make sure that the netting is taught. Birds can become more easily tangled in loose, drooping netting.


If you have a thriving squirrel population in your area, you may have noticed that they love bulbs. To prevent them from digging up your garden before it even sprouts you can plant your bulbs in homemade wire or especially designed cages. If you are planting a larger number of bulbs, you can simply bury wire mesh under the surface and over the bulbs. Make sure that the holes of the cages or mesh are large enough for the plant to sprout through.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *