How to Keep Deer Out of a Garden

Three Methods:Changing Your Planting PracticesUsing Active DeterrentsImplementing Other Measures

Deer are majestic creatures, but it can be a pain trying to keep them out of your garden. Nothing ruins the awe-inspiring beauty of these woodland animals like watching them take off with a mouthful of green beans you were saving for the dinner table, or seeing the begonias you’ve been tending since spring gnawed down to the stems. Luckily, there are some simple measures you can take to deer-proof your flourishing yard or garden. These range from erecting physical barriers and implementing scare tactics that use the element of surprise to raising plants and spraying repellents that are offensive enough to drive deer away.

Method 1
Changing Your Planting Practices

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    Cut down on the number of tasty plants in your garden. Deer favor rich, high-nutrient foods like lettuce, beans, peas and strawberries, as well as mild flowers like tulips and pansies. The fewer of these you keep in your garden at a given time, the less likely they are to provide a mouth-watering feast for a grazing deer herd. This will be more difficult if you maintain a farm or large vegetable garden, but you can still lower your chances of having your crops ravaged by keeping them in rotation and harvesting them as soon as they’re ripe.[1]
    • Keep your garden well manicured and maintained. Harvest fruits and vegetables as soon as they are ripe to cut down on the chances that they'll be devoured.
    • Do some research on the types of crops that deer prefer and only plant one or two of these at a time.[2]
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    Plant close to your home. Deer are cautious creatures and won’t venture any closer to your domicile than they have to. Take advantage of this and grow bright, attractive plants and plump fruits and vegetables close to your home, far away from the outer perimeter of your garden where deer are most likely to infiltrate. In order to get to them, the deer will have to risk getting close to the hub of all the noise and activity they fear.[3]
    • Lush rose and tulip bushes make excellent ornamentation for the outside of your home where they will conveniently be the safest.
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    Mask the smell of a deer’s favorite foods with pungent plants. Smell is a deer’s strongest sense, and the one they use to track down food sources. Confuse deer on the lookout for a free meal by covering up the scents of the plants they gravitate to with the more conspicuous odors of potent perennials and herbs. Garlic, onions, lavender and mint all make great choices for disguising the smell of vulnerable plants and driving away hungry deer.[4]
    • Deer are naturally repulsed by things with acrid odors and flavors.
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    Protect your crops with tomato cages. Place wire tomato cages over larger crops like tomatoes and beans to make it more difficult for deer to get to them. Ready-made tomato cages can be found at most lawn and garden stores, or you can put them together yourself at home using basic, inexpensive materials. The openings in the cage are too small for deer to reach the plants within, but are big enough to allow you to water, prune and pick fruits and vegetables by hand.
    • Cages are recommended for edible plants that grow tall on stalks or vines.[5]
    • Build simple tomato cages to your own specifications using concrete reinforcing wire. Make a Tomato Cage
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    Raise a hedge or fence. Though many people find them unsightly and difficult to maintain, a tall, sheer barrier such as a picket fence or dense hedge can make an effective deer defense. Just make sure the fence or hedge is tall enough to keep the deer from seeing what’s on the menu in your yard. Deer are prodigious jumpers, and a barrier shorter than about six feet won’t stand a chance.[6][7]
    • Growing a hedge to serve as a screen requires patience and upkeep, but is arguably the more aesthetic option than walling off your beautiful landscaping with a solid structure.
    • If space allows, consider erecting a double fence or hedge with an inner and outer barrier. This will make it harder for the deer to clear with a bound.

Method 2
Using Active Deterrents

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    Use a spray repellent. Spray your garden’s vulnerable plants regularly with a commercial or homemade deer repellent. These repellents typically contain components like sulfur, ammonia salts and capsaicin which deer find unpleasant. Even the store-bought varieties are concocted with natural ingredients and don’t make use of harsh chemicals that might damage your plants’ growth. Simply mist your garden every couple of days.[8]
    • If you’re not inclined to shell out the money for a commercial repellent, try mixing up your own with eggs, garlic, ammonia, and/or hot sauce blended with water.[9]
    • Be careful about using repellents on crops you plan to harvest and eat yourself. Compounds like capsaicin aren’t dangerous, but may influence the taste of edible plants.
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    Install motion-activated sprinklers. Deer are notoriously skittish creatures and are quite easy to scare off with the right stimulus. One particularly effective strategy is to put in a couple motion-activated sprinkler posts at the far ends of your garden or wherever deer tend to sneak in. When they get close, they’ll suddenly be doused with a unexpected jet of water from the sprinkler, which will send them running.[10]
    • Installing a motion-activated sprinkler system is a pricier option, but one that is guaranteed to have repeated success.
    • Along with its deterrent benefits, a sprinkler is also a convenient way of making sure your garden or yard is getting enough water.
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    Create noise to scare the deer off. Loud, spontaneous noises are a surefire way to get rid of inquisitive deer. Whether it’s an electronic noisemaker on a timer, a set of jarring wind chimes or a simple well-timed clap of your hands, a deer won’t take any chances with what’s generating the noise. Even leaving the back door open to let the sounds of household activity escape can be enough to dissuade a deer from coming any closer.[11]
    • Electronic noisemakers can be programmed to emit regular tones that will scare away deer but won’t disturb the neighbors.
    • Try fashioning a set of non-harmonic wind chimes from aluminum cans or hollow wood cuttings.[12]
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    Put in some automatic lights. Deer often travel in herds at night to forage, mate and play. That means that they might stumble upon the scrumptious treats in your garden in the small hours when no one is around to ward them off. Fortunately, mounting an automatic flood light on the outside of your house or some other structure near your garden can do the job for you while you sleep. When the deer begin to creep up to that squash vine or begonia bush, the flood light will activate and the intruders will run for cover.[13][14]
    • Most flood lights work at a particular range and angle. When installing a flood light, make sure it’s properly calibrated to come on when movement is detected in the area of your at-risk plants.

Method 3
Implementing Other Measures

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    Line your plants and crops with wire. If you’re really worried about deer getting into plants you’ve spent many long weeks cultivating, consider fencing the plot in with fishing line or plastic wire. Stick 3-4 posts in the ground around the crop and wrap the wire around the outside of the posts from top to bottom, leaving only a couple inches between each strand. It isn’t very attractive, but it will do what it’s supposed to do and is inexpensive. The idea is similar to keeping single plants off-limits with tomato cages, but will allow you to close off a larger area.[15]
    • Fishing line is thin enough not to be an eyesore or block your plants from view, but will be enough to dissuade deer from trying to push their way through.[16]
    • Despite being talented at runners and jumpers, deer are not very good at getting themselves in and out of tight spaces.
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    Get a dog. Deer are constantly wary of predators, and while the average house canine isn’t likely to make a meal of a passing doe, the sight and sound of one may be enough to keep troublesome deer at bay. Dog urine also doubles as a natural repellent, as deer can distinguish its odor from that of other harmless herbivores, and it signals that competition or predators may be nearby. Take your dog out to do its business in the general vicinity of your garden and let it run around, and watch incidents of mysterious vegetation disappearances decrease.[17]
    • Walk your dog around the perimeter of your yard or garden to mark the area with its scent.
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    Put up a statue as a scare tactic. Put up a scarecrow, statue or other large form as a new fixture in your garden. They may not move or make any noise, but the fear of the unknown will keep deer from making a move. The more lifelike the statue looks, the better chance it has of being convincing. Position the statue on the outer edge of your property to discourage deer from pushing in any further.[18]
    • Draping the statue in old clothes that billow in the breeze can mimic movement.
    • While deer are not especially clever, they learn from observing behavior. There’s no guarantee that a motionless garden fixture will frighten deer off for good.
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    Spent time in your garden. One of the best deterrents for deer ransacking is human presence. Simply spend some time out in your garden every day, and step out for a few minutes at night. Make yourself visible and audible. Deer are adaptable, reactive animals. When performing an instinctive risk-assessment of a place where food is available, your continued appearances can be enough to keep them away.[19]
    • Loud human voices are often enough to frighten away deer on their own.
    • Make sure to do a circuit of your garden nearest to where deer are getting in to maximize your chances of being detected.

Things You'll Need

  • Commercial or homemade spray repellent
  • Pungent perennials (to mask odors of sought-after plants)
  • Motion-activated sprinklers
  • Automatic flood lights
  • Noisemakers
  • Statues, scarecrows or other garden fixtures
  • Wire or fishing line to enclose plants
  • Human or animal urine
  • Physical presence


  • Some people claim they've had success leaving hair clippings or bars of soap or deodorant around their gardens. Deer associate these unfamiliar sights and smells with other creatures that may be nearby.
  • Try pinwheels, Japanese bamboo water spouts and other small garden fixtures as ways to chase off deer before committing financially to more elaborate solutions.
  • If you're not the modest type, consider relieving yourself outside near your garden every once and a while. Human urine is also off-putting to deer and will keep them away.


  • Don't spray flowers or edible crops with poisons in an attempt to stop deer from eating them. Not only are they generally bad for the plants, but you also run the risk of making yourself or your loved ones sick.

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Categories: Garden Pests and Weeds